chapter  5
20 Pages

Contemporary Issues

ByJAMES MCWILLIAMS

In March 1902 students at the Robert A. Waller High School in Chicago signed a petition condemning the school’s lunch program. Food was scarce and what was offered – red hots and beef broth – was deemed disgusting beyond compromise. The Chicago Daily Tribune reported that the kids’ “digestive machinery is in rebellion.” The writer was explicit about what needed to happen. The students, he wrote, “want brain food.” Today, Waller High School is called Lincoln Park High School. A big cafeteria serves hot meals to hundreds of kids. Multilingual menus are marked with fashionable culinary emblems: “V” for vegetarian, “L” for local ingredients, “O” for organic, and “W” for “whole grain products.” But it would be a stretch to call Lincoln Park’s lunch brain food. Apples, carrots, and steamed broccoli are token choices among “Main Course” items such as a “BBQ meatball sub,” “popcorn chicken,” “cheesy breadsticks,” “BBQ chicken pizza slice,” corn dogs, and French fries. Today’s students would likely be too stuffed to initiate a food revolt. Plus, there isn’t even a cook to blame for the mess. All food arrives pre-packaged from Aramark, a foodservice giant that also supplies food in bulk to prisons.1