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RHODE MAP

Rhode Island kids really don’t like their school meals

Pizza is a staple of school lunches across the country.Alberto Mariani/Associated Press

It might be time for Rhode Island to start rethinking school meals.

With public schools back in session (as long as they have air conditioning), tens of thousands of students across the state are now eating at least one meal at school each day.

One problem: Many of them don’t find school food appetizing to eat -- or even look at.

A survey conducted last spring by the Rhode Island Department of Education found that just 23 percent of students in Grades 6 through 12 find that school meals are frequently or almost always appealing. Meanwhile, 51 percent said the meals are almost never appealing or appealing only once in a while.

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More than 50,000 students in those grades took in the survey, and there’s remarkable consistency across districts. The kids in Barrington dislike their school meals almost much as the kids in Providence. In Woonsocket, only 15 percent of students responded favorably to the school lunch question.

Younger students were slightly more optimistic about school meals, but I suspect they feared being banned from recess if they told us how they really feel.

According to the survey, 40 percent of those students in Grades 3 through 5 said they find school food frequently or almost always appealing, compared to 38 percent who said the meals are almost never appealing or appealing only once in a while.

Even the teachers have concerns about what their students are eating.

The same survey of more than 9,000 teachers found that 40 percent of educators consider the meals to be frequently or almost always appealing, compared to 30 percent who said the meals are rarely appealing.

The survey isn’t just food-focused. RIDE has been offering the comprehensive questionnaire to students and teachers since 2017, and it covers everything from mental health to the value of school. You can review all responses (right down to your child’s school) by clicking here.

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This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, links to interesting stories, and more. If you’d like to receive it via email Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him @danmcgowan.