Lunchables School Scam

The Lempert Report
April 11, 2023

What we have is we have a new school lunch program that they're actually gonna be serving kids two versions of new improved nutrition Lunchables. What do you think about that? 

Sally: Well, I have mixed feelings about it. Phil, the Lunchables are really popular with kids. I have kids and my kids want want to eat them. So I can see this being, being something that the kids are really happy about. also, we know that there is a lot of waste going on in schools. we hear reports about big numbers of, of food being wasted, and so, maybe this is a way to keep, food from being wasted. And also there are staffing shortages, school cafeteria as well. And so this cuts down on being able to, on having to prep a lot for lunches for kids. However, the issue for me, Phil, is the nutritional content of these. Now, I will give them this. They have raised the amount of whole grains in one of these, they're gonna be serving the Turkey and cheddar cheese sliced Lunchables, and then the pizza Lunchable. And they have increased the whole grains to two ounces, which is great. But the problem is that the sodium content is still at 930 milligrams. So I am concerned about that. 

Phil: Yeah, I agree with you. Totally. So when we look at the Turkey and cheddar cheese stackers, and we don't have this product, we don't know what the nutritional information is on the product, but as it says, it contains 930 milligrams of sodium. And, to be honest with you, that's more than the regular Turkey and cheddar Lunchables are. We'll get to that in a minute. But the basic meal requirements for the school lunch program is fruits, vegetables, including grades K through 12 weekly requirements for vegetable variety with minimum requirements for each of the five vegetable subgroups, including dark green, red, orange, beans and peas, starchy and other vegetables, grains, meat and meat alternatives, and fluid milk. And just to give you some idea on a, and I'm just gonna take grades six through eight because there's different levels. 

Phil: Grades K through five, grades nine through 12, but I'm gonna focus on grades six through eight. The amount of food per week that they're supposed to get is two and a halfcups of fruits, three and three quarters cups of vegetables, grains eight to 10 ounces, meats and meat alternative nine to 10, fluid milk five, and sodium less than 1,360, per day. That's not per week. And if we take a look at the Lunchables, the back of the Turkey and cheddar stackers the nutritional information on this product, and now again, this is not the new one for schools. This is the one that you just buy at any supermarket, 14 grams of fat, seven grams of saturated fat, 740mg of sodium. And again, that's less than what they're saying is in the new improved one. 

Phil: So I don't understand where new and improved is three grams of added sugars, 13 grams of protein. And if you take a look at the ingredients, what's really interesting, roasted white Turkey cured flavor added, I'm not gonna read all the ingredients there, but you can read 'em yourself. Then cheddar pasteurized prepared cheese product. This is not cheddar cheese, it's not even American cheese. It's cheddar, pasteurized prepared cheese product. And then crackers. I'm assuming that the new one they've opted to whole wheat instead of just the enriched flour. And that's it. So I am equally as concerned about nutrition and also from a societal standpoint. What are we doing when we have kids, for lunch, building little crackers and little pizza things and stuff like that versus having like a real meal? Are we training these kids just to be snacking versus eating foods? 

Sally: Yes. That is a very good point, Phil. And I also wonder, if there are two options to these Lunchables, there's five days a week at school, so what are we gonna be serving these same items? And what about the kids that don't eat meat? And those deli meats, we've seen a lot of studies over the years linking, overprocessed meats to certain types of cancer. So, I mean, we eat deli meats here sometimes at our house, but it's not something that we want our kids eating every single day. 

Phil: Yeah. And, to your earlier point, according to the School Nutrition Association, 93% of school nutrition programs report challenges with staff shortages. So clearly, we've got two issues. One is there's no workers. And in fact, when we used to work with Michelle Obama on the Chefs Move to School program, what we found is most schools didn't even have kitchens. They couldn't prepare hot foods and so on. So it's a very big issue. But, oh, the last issue about labor. So the median weekly wage from 2014 to 2019, for the people who work in K through 12 cafeteria workers, $331 a week, versus the median weekly wage for the average US worker is $790 per week. So clearly one of the reasons that we don't have enough cafeteria workers is they're not being paid very well to be there. 

Phil: So they've got to, in order to sustain themselves and their families, they've gotta find other jobs, as well. So, we, we have a real big issue as it relates to labor.