Shark Meat In, Chicken Fingers Out for School Lunches

Cafeteria at Maine elementary school a paradise for pint-sized hipsters

• September 25, 2014 4:45 pm


Shark meat is in and chicken fingers are out for some schools abiding by First Lady Michelle Obama’s lunch rules.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture highlighted an elementary school in Maine on Wednesday that is taking the standards from the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act to a different level.

"The cafeteria is the biggest classroom in the school where students are taught to make healthy choices for themselves beginning in kindergarten," wrote Linda Mailhot, the head cook at Mount Desert Elementary School in Northeast Harbor Maine, in a blog post for the USDA.

Mailhot said that kids get to choose from "nutritious and appealing" foods, such as shark meat, kale salad, and broccoli slaw. The school also has a "walking club" and students do yoga before class.

"Students progress each day through a fruit-and-vegetable bar and an entrée station," said Mailhot. "Along this route they choose the nutritious and appealing foods they need to build a balanced meal according to the new school meal standards issued by USDA."

"Many of our entrée offerings are multinational, which is a great way to introduce students to nutritional foods from a variety of cultures," she said. "By empowering students in the cafeteria, they learn to make healthy choices for life."

"Farm to School is a large part of our program, for this reason we utilize foods from local farms and Maine’s largest farm, the ocean," Mailhot continued. "We have served lobster rolls, locally caught haddock and shark."

According to Men’s Fitness, shark meat can be "terribly unhealthy."

The magazine said mercury levels in sharks "can cause coordination loss, blindness, and even death," and cited a 2004 report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that warned, "Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury."

While Mount Desert Elementary is adding shark to the menu, other schools are dropping their portions of chicken fingers. reported on Thursday that schools in Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania are having trouble with the new lunch standards, forced to cut portions and offer "quinoa and jicama" that students refuse to eat.

The healthier food is "unflavored and tasteless," according to one school principal.

"The Bangor, Pennsylvania district has cut its chicken finger serving size from six to three," according to EAGnews, citing a report by WFMZ News in Eastern Pennsylvania.

"Rumblings about smaller lunch portions have been growing louder for weeks," according to the paper, which also noted that tacos have been reduced from three ounces to just one to abide by the new rules.

Mailhot’s article was featured as part of the USDA’s "Cafeteria Stories" series, which attempts to highlight schools’ successful implementation of the lunch standards.

Aside from shark, the menu at Mount Desert Elementary also serves whole grain pancakes, "cage free egg frittata," roasted local squash, and gluten-free items.

During the first week back from school kids were served "roasted Cod fish with lemon, kale, wg [whole grain] roll & sweet potato ‘fries,’" and "broccoli slaw" and kale were added to the salad bar.

Published under: Michelle Obama