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This Photo Has Sparked an Online Debate Over the State of School Lunches

Is this 'popcorn chicken po-boy' a plea for merciful reprieve from a desperate cafeteria worker? Or is this now considered an acceptable lunch?
Photo via Reddit user OneHotCoffee

Earlier this month, White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney was widely met with disbelief and derision when he defended the elimination of a federal after-school program that feeds low-income children by saying there was "no demonstrable evidence" that after-school programs improve school performance. Now, nearly two weeks after Mulvaney's inflammatory remarks, a photo of some muted chicken nuggets shoved into a limp hot dog bun is sparking yet another debate about the state of food in our nation's schools.


Five days ago, a Reddit user posted a photograph of a truly pathetic school lunch composed of a hot dog bun filled with breaded chicken nuggets. The internet did its part by erupting in equal parts glee, disgust, and recognition.

Believe it or not, there is a US law—the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010—that sets forth guidelines for schools to follow in school lunches. These include nutrition, portion, and service standards—and although not all schools follow them, about 90 percent do. Where white bread stuffed with fried and breaded chicken nuggets fits into that scheme, we may never know.

READ MORE: How Chicago Students Are Fighting Disgusting School Lunches

As it turns out, the offending meal was served at Pennsylvania's Hempfield Area High School and pawned off as a "Popcorn Chicken Po' Boy Sandwich." Kudos for naming creativity, but we have to assume that the people who write the school menu are not the ones doing the cooking. The meal—topped off by a sad-looking apple and a Hershey's Scooter Crunch ice cream bar—was allegedly being sold for $2.75.

Todd Rates was the senior high school student who posted the photo; his friend—who ordered it—said the bun-stuffed chicken "tasted pretty good."

Something gives us the sneaking suspicion that the cafeteria staff at the Hempfield Area High School are taking a page from Sean Spicer's book and the "popcorn chicken po' boy" is nothing more than a plea for merciful reprieve.