Why Is School Food So Bad? (11 Reasons Why)

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Maisie Hughes

Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

Many excellent things come with school. You can learn new things, make friends, and play around during recess. One thing is not as ideal – the school food.

Why is school food so bad? What makes the meals so inedible, no matter what appears on a plate? The school-served food has a track record of being more bad than good.

Why Is School Food So Bad?

1. There Is A Limited Budget

With school food, there is a limited budget. You won’t find as much money funneled into the school meals as you will with other items, such as field trips. The budget is lacking.

A lower budget means school food has to change to fit the specified amount. This lack of money can lead to unhealthier ingredients and poorly constructed foods on a plate.

Kids might not notice that there is a limited budget for food, but parents certainly will. Student meals are lacking when you look at any school’s food.

2. Worse Ingredients

Despite the effort people have made toward healthy school meals, there are poor ingredients inside options. They are high in items like fat, cholesterol, and sugar.

The poor ingredients can contribute to unhealthy habits and children’s weight in school. If they eat this food every day, it can lead to damage later down the line in life.

There is even a risk of BPA in some foods, which can prove deadly in time. Little care goes into the ingredients that fill a meal at the elementary school.

3. Poor Reheating Process

As with any food made for many people, school food is created in bulk, shipped, stored, and reheated. The reheating process is done in haste and can ruin the taste and texture.

Anything eaten in a school comes to life with haste, sometimes at the wrong temperatures for an improper amount of time. The food might be too cold, too hot, or stale beyond belief.

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It seems like it would be an easy fix, but it’s tricky to cook for an entire school of children every day of the week. School cooks are just trying their best, and the food suffers.

4. Mass Preparation

School food comes to life for many kids, so a lot of it is prepared at once. Due to this mass preparation, the resulting meal might not be as good as it could be if made single-serve.

Some meals work well in mass preparation. Items like pasta, bread, and salads can withstand a mass prep process. Others, such as meat or pizza, won’t do as well when made in bulk.

The more intimate the creation of the meal, the better it will taste. Far too many meals come to life in a way that provides no standard for taste or quality in the preparation process.

5. Potential Bacteria Contamination

Unfortunately, bacteria outbreaks happen in school food. E.coli is the most common, running rampant in many schools. This factor can make food taste weird to a kid.

Not only do bacteria make food taste weird, but it also causes serious illness in children and adults. The sickness can be so bad that it turns deadly. Many schools have had this trouble.

To avoid bacteria contamination, schools must store food properly and cook it at the correct temperature. Bacteria contamination can be a massive issue.

6. Highly Processed Meals

Highly Processed Meals

The more processed a meal is, the worse it is for the person eating the meal. Unfortunately, school meals are highly processed. They are full of ingredients that do more harm than good.

Many negative effects come with highly-processed foods. Constipation, addiction, and cancer are a few of the most common.

The longer processed foods are eaten, the worse an individual will be in the future. School food tastes bad because it is processed.

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7. Portions Are Off

It’s difficult to get the portions right in a meal, and school lunches often miss the mark. There might be a large number of carbs and not enough greens to make the meal healthy.

There is a proper portion size that works for meals. Although many schools preach the food pyramid, the meals don’t follow the same effort. Few kids ingest veggies at school.

One of the most difficult parts of school meals is the choice. Kids will choose a meal with fewer veggies over one that is more balanced. These are worse for the child to ingest.

8. Kids Can Choose

Kids can choose the meal they eat at school, and they often choose wrong. When asked to pick between a salad and a burger, many kids will almost always pick the burger for their meal.

It might make more sense now to invest in a healthy salad over a slice of pizza, but kids aren’t as aware of the difference. They might eat pizza every day for as long as they are in school.

The food might taste good to them, but it’s not healthy. This school food is not as good for you.

9. Menus Are Planned In Haste

The menus for a school season are often planned in haste so preparation can happen in time for the upcoming school year. The speed can lead to some odd menu choices for kids.

A few common menu items include things like pizza, burgers, and peanut butter sandwiches. These provide some nutrition – but not enough to be sustainable in the long run.

There are healthy options, but they aren’t as prominent. Kids will choose one over the other, and it’s rarely the healthier selection.

10. Storage Measures Are Ignored

There is a way that food should be stored, and many schools don’t have a lot of room to work with in their kitchens. This can lead to poor storage measures for the meals available.

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Refrigeration and room temperature storage areas are critical when it comes to keeping food at the proper temperature. Ignored storage measures can be an issue.

Unfortunately, many schools lack these areas. The food tastes bad and may have bacteria because of this fault.

11. Poor Eating Environment

Schools are loud. The tables and floors are dirty, and kids are running around, screaming at the top of their lungs. It’s enough to make any meal taste less than ideal.

It’s difficult to enjoy a meal when you only have half an hour to eat and have no place to sit. Friends can cause distractions that take away from the taste of the offered meal.

Tables and floors are often dirty, despite the best effort of custodians and other cleaning staff. It’s tricky to enjoy a tasty meal if you don’t have an ideal environment to chow down in.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why hospital food is so bad, why jail food is so bad, and why Portuguese food is so bad.


School food isn’t great, and many factors contribute to the taste. The portions are off, menus come to life in haste, and storage measures go left untouched.

There should be more measures for school food, as it’s the best meal some kids get all day. From proper storage to fresher food, there’s a lot of room to grow.


  • Maisie Hughes

    Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

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