Kelly: SNAP and school lunch


Since Tuesday, Max (our 11-year-old, 6th grade son) has been forced to eat school lunch. He feels like he’s won the lottery.

Our thinking was that if we were on SNAP assistance, he would qualify for free and reduced lunch. He’s happy because, as much as possible, we are a tried and true home lunch family. So, aside from his happiness and delight (“This challenge is a snap!”), it gives me an opportunity to look at lunch nutrition in the Minneapolis Public Schools.

Making A SNAP Decision To Live On $3.95 A Day

With more Minnesotans than ever before relying on food shelves and food stamps to alleviate hunger, Kevin Winge, executive director of Open of Arms of Minnesota, is taking the SNAP challenge-living on a one-week food budget of $27.65 – the approximate amount of money an individual receives in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) support, formerly known as food stamps. That comes to $3.95 a day-the cost of a single cappuccino. Kevin’s SNAP challenge goes from November 18 to Thanksgiving Day. Other community members joined in on slightly different schedules.

Community members can participate in this SNAP challenge by:

  1. Taking the challenge themselves and living on $27.65 for a week.
  2. Donating the money saved from grocery purchases and contributing those savings to nonprofit organizations addressing nutrition and hunger issues.
  3. Making a donation in the amount of $27.65 to Open Arms or a food shelf as an acknowledgment of the seriousness of food insecurity in Minnesota

Today Max had a choice between:

  • Beef Nacho Grande
  • Refried Beans & Cheese
  • Turkey Salami on a Kaiser
  • Italian Capo Wrap
  • Taco Salad

They also get to choose one(?) side of:

  • Grapes
  • Shredded Lettuce and Tomatoes
  • Craisins or Tortilla Chips

Not too bad at first glance. Nothing we haven’t seen at any number of restaurants around town, it even looks a bit … healthy. Surely, nothing we haven’t fed our kids now and again. That’s when I explore the nutritional content. For brevity, I won’t list the breakdowns on all the options, so I’ll just guess at what he chose today. If I know my son, he chose the Turkey Combo Sandwich on Kaiser, a side of Tortilla Chips, with Chocolate Milk — it’s a lottery windfall, after all.



Total Fat:

Saturated Fat:

Trans Fat:




Turkey Sandwich:

321.250 Kcal






28.091 g


Tortilla Chips:

150.000 Kcal

7.000 g

1.000 g



105.000 mg

18 g


Chocolate Milk:

129.999 Kcal

0 g

0 g

0 g

4.001 mg

125.001 mg

13 g


It wasn’t till I hit these totals (especially the sodium) that it made me wonder how it might compare to a McDonald’s meal. Here’s how it compares to a Happy Meal: Cheeseburger, Small Fries and 250ml Chocolate Milk (and I’m just doing the totals, instead of individual breakdowns):

Max will have consumed:


Total Fat:

Saturated Fat:

Trans Fat:




For school lunch

600 Kcal

22 g

8.477 g

.009 g

59 mg

1,433 mg

59 g


McDonalds Happy Meal

700 Kcal

25 g




1,120 mg

92 g


Hmm. I’m just not sure how to respond to that. Do you?

We have millions of children going to school hungry who are accessing free and reduced lunches (and breakfast). So, just what are we saying to these kids? That we care enough to underwrite their lunches, but only with this “high-quality” food?

There’s a lot more I could say, but too much for this one post. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. If you’re interested, here are a number of sites that provide actionable steps to ensure that our kids can be healthy:

You can review the new Child Nutrition Bill up for signing at the end of the year:

You can sign Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution petition:

You can watch Feeding America’s call to congress to help hungry kids in the US:

I know that some fabulous moms (and dads) are working hard at Max’s old elementary school (Dowling Urban Environmental) to see if we can look at school lunch in a different way. Want to figure out if there are ways to affect change at your school? Check out the LunchBox:

Max’s “lottery” will run out next week. Then it’s back to home lunch and green, leafy things. Think we’ll hear about it?