Why are school meals so bad

School lunch: Well-finished parents

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The brochure sounds exemplary: sea fish must not come from overfished stocks; meat products should be muscle meat, not molded meat. Jacket potatoes, please without their peel, as the poisonous substance solanine can be found there. And if you want to use iodized salt with fluoride, you have to obtain an exemption from the Federal Office for Consumer Protection.
If you leaf through the quality standards for school meals of the Federal Ministry of Nutrition, you might think that German schoolchildren are among the best-nourished in the world.

That this is not the case is shown by the rush at the event "Catering at secondary schools" in Berlin. More than 50 parents, students and teachers gathered on this May evening in room 338 of the Red City Hall, the brochures sold out quickly. It is a special evening because for the first time representatives from school, parents and student representatives come together. The organizer is the network center for day care and school catering, which has been commissioned by the Berlin Senate to implement the federal government's initiative for healthy eating (inform).

That this project is pioneering work is shown by the results of a survey at the Berlin schools: "Not a single one of the 431 school menus submitted met all the criteria," says Michael J├Ąger from the networking center. Almost 40 percent of all schools do not offer any fish, almost a fifth no fresh fruit. "The knowledge is there, but it does not seem to be implemented."

The problem is: it doesn't have to be implemented either. The rules in the quality standards are all "should" regulations, so they are not legally binding. Even paragraph 19 of the new Berlin School Act, in which school meals are located, only says: A warm lunch should be offered.

This will be explosive from the coming school year when all secondary schools in Berlin and one grammar school per district are converted to all-day schools. Most of them want to offer their students a warm lunch.

The assembled parents, teachers and students want to know two things above all: Who is responsible for the choice of caterers and above all: Who should pay for all of this? While the state of Berlin supports all children in all-day elementary schools with an amount of 22 million euros per year, there is currently no budget for the secondary schools. In addition to state funding, parents currently pay 23 euros per month for school lunches if their children are in all-day primary schools. In the secondary schools, they have to reckon with food costs of 40 to 60 euros per month, says Sabine Schulz-Greve from the networking center.

Robert Giese, representative of the Berlin all-day school association, thinks this is extremely problematic: "Parents don't automatically have more money when their children leave elementary school." The headmaster is already observing a two-class system at his school: "Every day we see children in our canteen waiting to see if there is anything left for them from lunch."