Leo Batali & Sanaj Naval's Proposal on School Lunch Nutrition


Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

Public Act No. 267 of 2014

Public act number 267 of 2014 was signed by Governor Snyder of Michigan. The act itself repealed Section 16246 as well as Part183A of the public health code, two key parts of the code itself. With signing this act there no longer are licensure requirements for dietitians as well as nutritionist, meaning there are no specific documents or studies required to become one of the two professions. This act also abolished the Board of Dietetics and Nutrition. This board was in charge of protecting the public by ensuring that all nutritionists and dietitians are licensed and meet educational and practitioner requirements to ensure the public is getting accurate and quality care.


Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

This proposal will make a difference for students of all ages and backgrounds in Michigan Public Schools because it will display the importance of good nutrition within school lunches. Obesity rates in Michigan have doubled in children, and quadrupled in adolescents within the past 30 years, schools playing a important role in this. That is that 32.8% of the youth ages 0-17 are overweight or obese.

Michigan needs to be more aware with what they are putting on the plates of their students and hold stricter standards within surrounding nutrition. This is truly a major issue involving many schools around the country, especially the state of Michigan. If Michigan can help apply stricter rules and sets of guidelines surrounding what is eaten while in school it can lead to a direct positive impact as well as a future positive impact regarding knowing how to eat well.

Having good nutrition, and a meal packed with the nutrients you need goes a long way as a student. It is proven that positive nutrition is directly linked with positive school performance. Helping Michigan schools achieve better nutritional standards within their meals could help boost school scores and academics within the schools areas as well.




How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

Growing up in New York City and Long Island public schools it wasn’t hard to tell that what we were being fed was not of good nutritional value. Although what we were given was presentable and recognizable (things such as chicken nuggets, and pasta) it was clear there were large gaps in the nutrition a growing child should be getting. Also through town hall meetings, made available through Michigan Student Caucus, we learned that Michigan's youth that are considered obese is higher than the national average. As well as the fact that Michigan ranks #13 among states for current high school obesity rate. We also participated in volunteering at Food Gatherers. This experience although articulated around hunger, also shed light upon lack of nutrition given to those of poverty, as well as their lack of knowledge on the topic. Although being supplied with meals to get them through their days, there was still a lack of great nutrition in what they were receiving. Through further research of poor nutrition in schools,  we found that Trump Administration is cutting back on the proactive move towards positive nutrition the Obama Administration made. Since we are back to moving backwards we felt the need to make this proposal.


How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Working at Food Gatherers opened our eyes to the greater food problems within the state of Michigan. While volunteering we talked to a representative who extensively told us of the lack of knowledge the youth has on good nutrition. We talked to this woman comprehensively about this issue regarding our school experiences as well. She talked of how students within the regional area didn’t even know how to assess the nutritional facts given on everyday food items let alone whether or not what they were putting in their system was good for them or not. This got us thinking that this was an issue we should address. Through volunteering separately at the Ann Arbor Arts Center we were able to talk to some local children attending public schools within the area about their lunches at school. The kids talked on about pizza, chicken nuggets, and juices and soda; never once mentioning a single green food nor water. This allowed us to gain insight from the students eating the food themselves.

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Our Podcast: Issues with the National School Lunch Program


Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Jennifer Kinne, Community Engagement Specialist at the Michigan League for Public Policy

Ms. Jennifer Kinne was a speaker at one of our Town Hall meetings at which we received her contact information to arrange a phone call regarding information about the nutritional state of Michigan.

Our first question for Ms. Kinne was about the problems she has noticed with National School Lunch Program within the state of Michigan. She mentioned that one of the primary concerns with the NSLP is funding and that we have seen a lack of prioritization at both the state and governmental level in providing nutritious food to students. She referenced the “10 Cents a Meal” Program which only operates in 3 regions in Michigan, but said that there is advocacy happening to try to get the program expanded state-wide or at least to more regions so that school can take advantage of cost saving to provide healthy lunches. Unfortunately, however, she said the priority in Michigan has not been in providing healthy food, but rather food in general.

The second question we had for Ms. Kinne was about the Commercial Free Schools Act passed in San Francisco, which “denied all schools from signing exclusive contracts with any snack or soft beverage company” (Commercial Free Schools Act, Institute for Local Self-Reliance). Our question was why has Michigan not adopted a similar policy, given the problems identified with the lack of milk consumption and increases in soda intake. Her response was that the state of Michigan feels as though the schools should retain control. She said schools should be able to decide where they use their funding, what programs they partake in, etc. She then went on to say that it is hard to have conversations about accountability with school outcomes, so it is even harder to regulate what types of snacks and beverages these schools have. It was clear that there is not much support for it right now with state legislature, but she thought it was a great idea and even wrote it down for her own further research in the future.

Lastly, Ms. Kinne was able to direct us to the “2017 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book” which included statewide numbers on free and reduced lunch. The data went right along with the rest of the research we have done, showing us that young people in the state of Michigan are not eating the way they should and this is detrimental to their long-term health. Thankfully, she was able to lead us into the right direction for our proposal, showing us that it would be difficult to focus on nutrition throughout the country as a whole, but that Michigan had many different areas to analyze regarding the issue.

CONSULTATION 2: Mario Batali, Restaurateur and CEO of Mario Batali Foundation

After speaking with Mr. Batali over the phone, we were able to attain some great insight to the nutritional aspects of school lunches and specify the major areas in need of improvement. When asked about his thoughts on the current nutritional state of school lunches, he stated that they are miserable and unacceptable for three reasons. Schools are very much worried about making food totally delicious and recognizable for the kids so that they are carbohydrate-rich, vegetable-low, and fat-rich. He said if you look at the snack machines at schools everywhere, that is what they are selling and all of these foods are super high in sodium. Schools are focused on the kids eating these foods but don’t know how they affect their health.

Our second question for Mr. Batali was if he knew about the National School Lunch Program and, if so, how he thinks we could change its nutrition standards. He suggested that we could make 30 percent of it fresh vegetable forward (being that schools currently use frozen or canned vegetables, which is totally unacceptable). This was followed up with the question of whether he thinks there should be stricter guidelines for nutrition standards in school lunch and what they could be. He said the basis of the protein use is almost way too fat and that they should guarantee a lower sodium count, a higher percentage of fresh vegetables and always include some kind of leafy green.

We then asked if he sees poor nutrition in school lunch as a major issue to which he responded, “Of course. People that are hungry or eating stuff that spikes their blood sugar cannot pay attention two hours after lunch. They should get rid of all sugar beverages in schools.” He then went on to say that the Commercial Free Schools Act in San Francisco (referenced before) is a “solid, smart idea.”

Our last question for Mr. Batali was about what future effects result from poor child nutrition. His response was that poor nutrition affects overall development as a student, study habits, retention of information while in school, and even ability to be a student-athlete. This information mirrors the research we have done on the impacts of poor nutrition, which we find to be incredibly alarming.

CONSULTATION 3: Jaxon Perlmutter, Senior at Bloomfield Hills High School

We were connected with Jaxon through a friend, from the Michigan area, met in a class. We thought it would be great to speak with someone who actually eats school lunch everyday and gets a firsthand look at the poor nutrition standards that exist within Michigan schools. When asked about a typical day’s school lunch, Jaxon mentioned that most students eat curly fries, fried chicken, or a Michigan-specific food known as Bosco sticks (cheese-filled breadsticks) with marinara sauce. He also mentioned that many students drink soda along with their meals and specified the availability of coke products and vending machines.

When asked about whether or not there is any requirement to eat vegetables or proteins, he said there is not. He said that students are allowed to go up and pick out whatever they want to eat and that it is not common to get greens from the salad bar. Jaxon also acknowledged the level of unhealthiness that exists with all of these foods mentioned and that he agrees the nutrition standards should be improved for the reasons we have outlined.


Describe the specific issue or problem, being sure to provide sufficient context so that someone less familiar with the issue has a sense of the bigger picture, but know that your focus here is on a more detailed spelling out of the specific problem or issue that you’ve identified. (250 words minimum)

Throughout the United States there are several problems regarding child nutrition. Young students in high schools across the nation are being disadvantaged on a daily basis by the foods they are receiving as their school lunches. This is problematic because it is playing into their eating habits; since they are not learning to eat well at school at a young age, their futures are impacted as they will likely have issues related to health or weight for the rest of their lives as a result. Not only does this hurt today’s youth but also the generations to come, which is why we are focusing on improving the nutrition standards at grade schools in Michigan going forward. Originally we were focusing on the National School Lunch Program, which was put in place nearly 50 years ago striving to provide food for many young students at little to not cost. The problem with it though is that due to poor regulations and lack of funding, students are not receiving the nutrition they need through this program. Data has shown that in Michigan specifically, only “19 percent of high school students report eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day (the recommended minimum). Milk consumption in Michigan has decreased by 36 percent, and this has been accompanied by an increase in consumption of soft drinks and non-citrus juices” (Michigan Department of Education, pg. 5). The list of poor health trends occurring amongst students in the state goes on and on, and it is largely due to the poor nutrition standards that exist in schools. Further research has shown us that students not receiving the proper nutrients they need in school results in deficits in attention, development and retention of information. This impacts performance as a school and also reflects on both the schools themselves and the state of Michigan. Although this is a nation-wide problem, studies have shown that Michigan is right in the middle of the issue and these standards must be improved to ensure long-term success and good health for these young students.

Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.


One of the main reason for students poor nutrition in the school environment has to do with a pure lack of education on the topic. Students need to understand what they put in and out of their body, and it should be a required topic. According to the National Center for Education Statistics only, “50 percent of all schools have district or state requirements for students to receive nutrition education. However only 40 percent of these requirements are for ninth and tenth grades; and about 20 percent for eleventh and twelfth grades.” This should be a requirement in all schools and all grades. Making sure you give your body what it needs is important for functioning in school and out of school. We believe the integration of nutrition education into all years of pre-college education is important for our youth.



Good nutrition is still a widely prevalent issue within the National School Lunch Program. Although there have been several changes throughout the years since its creation, students are still faced with unhealthy meals and obesity. One problem igniting this is the sale of soft drinks and schools and education facilities. Schools ridding themselves of the contracts they have with these soda and soft drink companies would be beneficial to the youth. In 2004 California  passed an act called the California Childhood Obesity Act. The act denied all schools from signing exclusive contract with any snack or soft beverage company, and to replace what was previously a soda with healthier options for drink and snack. Michigan Board of Education implementing something like such would be valuable and have a positive impact to the Michigan youth.




Although schools may supply students with an options of healthier foods with better nutrition, students can easily look past them. Schools provide a wide ranging menu of offered meals for lunches, some of which are high on sodium and carbohydrates, while others high in vitamins and minerals. It seems common that students tend to go for the unhealthy options whether they are more familiar with them, or they are not allowed to eat them at home. Schools should reorganize their cafeterias displaying salad bars, vegetables, and fruits in the front, as the first item a student will see. This has proven to work well in encouraging students to eat healthier. A study conducted by Arizona State University showed that when salad bars are more visible in cafeterias vegetable consumption is five times as high.


Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

Seth Goldstein

Seth was incredibly helpful to us throughout the entire process of drafting our proposal. We were able to meet with him a few times to sit down and talk about areas that we were lacking in and things to improve on. In the beginning, he told us that we had too many issues going on with our initial proposal. This led us to narrow down our problem to just the nutrition standards for students in the state of Michigan (when originally we were focusing on the NSLP and hunger relief issues). Rather than focusing on the nation as a whole, Seth helped us realize that our solutions were too broad and that the problem we refer to must be Michigan-specific. This led us to change our solutions from nationwide concepts to statewide ideas and put us on the right track for our proposal.

Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

Our initial proposal stemmed from our similar interests in food and nutrition, as well as interacting with the Michigan Student Caucus. As many of the discussions on the website started with topics of hunger yet as the threads developed would touch on themes of childhood obesity and lack of good nutrition provided for our youth. All of this got us thinking to what we could do to prevent childhood obesity and how we could help kids in school receive quality meals that provide them with the proper nutrition.

During our first volunteer experience at Food Gatherers we spent time sorting through food, keeping what was edible, and throwing away what was rotten. A women working at the facility directed us in our job and we had the chance to ask questions. We asked questions like, “What do you think of the nutrition in the foods served in public school in the area?” and “Do you think school lunches need to be more carefully regulated in terms of nutrition?” To our surprise she had a lot to say. She continued on to tell us about the obesity rates amongst youth within the are saying that “the percent of Michigan youth that are obese is higher than the national average.” This caught our eyes and helped us understand that Michigan youth is on average more obese than youth from other states. She went on to discuss the lack of nutrition in school as well as the lack of expertise in the field regarding the Public Act signed in 2014. She told us how there were no more requirements to become a “nutritionist” or “dietitian” in Michigan, and that has truly had an impact.

Initially we focused upon the NSLP, the National School Lunch Program. We quickly ran into some brick walls. Since the NSLP is indeed national we struggled on finding the differences each state and educational department was doing with the food and money received from the NSLP, making it seem uniform on a national scale, and having us change our scope. With our recent discussion at Food Gatherers we decided to focus directly on nutrition in public schools rather than the whole NSLP. We searched for ways that specific states were taking control of what was being served in their cafeterias comparing those to Michigan's current regulations and rules put in place. Hoping to find ways that Michigan could improv on its school nutrition.

We decided that we needed to obtain more research regarding Michigan’s lack of nutrition in school lunches, obesity of the youth, and what is being done in Michigan or outside to combat cases like such. We quickly found what we had expected. The Public Act 267 which stated no need for legitimacy to become a nutritionist or dietitian, allowing for amateurs to do the job, including in school environments. We also found several stats regarding youth obesity, such as rates have more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past thirty years. We also found information regarding what California is doing to combat such issues, such as implementing the California Childhood Obesity Act, which set a ban on the sale of unhealthy beverages in schools.

We decided to go talk to kids themselves at the Ann Arbor Arts Center where they were participating in an arts camp over their spring break. We talked to the kids (ages 6-16) asking them questions about their typical meals at schools, what was their favorite, what they didn’t like, what most kids ate, what was avoided by kids, etc. They had many things to say regarding school lunches, mostly stemming around what they typically ate on an average school day. They talked of how there were no requirements of what they had to eat and typically ventured towards what they knew they liked: pizza, chicken nuggets, soda, juice, hamburgers and more. Only one kid stated that he ate vegetables with every school meal out of the thirty-two that we talked to, and almost each kid stated they liked soda with their lunch.

Although this is what we expected, we still were in shock by the lack of nutrition standards the kids were held to at school meals. We decided to contact some reliable sources to gain further information on the lack of nutrition, meeting with a Michigan Community Engagement Specialist, someone involved in charity within the industry, and a student from Detroit suburbs public school. From each we were able to gather viable information regarding the issues, and possibly ways to improve from both an inside and outside perspective. All of whom thought the California idea was interesting, and all of who thought there is something that should be done to strengthen the rules on nutrition in school meals.

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

Leo Batali:

Leo was in charge on obtaining consultants and maintaining good relationships with them. Also spearheaded research on other states action on making school lunch higher in nutritional value. Spent most of his volunteer hours at the Ann Arbor Arts Center.

Sanaj Naval:

Sanaj researched information regarding Michigan specifically. Finding laws, acts and bills specific to the state regarding nutrition amongst youth, more specifically in the school cafeteria. He attended office hours with Jeff Stanzler where he was able to get a good idea of how to narrow down our proposal to the state of Michigan, and to identify the problem of nutrition standards instead of hunger relief. Additionally, he spent most of his volunteer hours at Food Gatherers.

Leo Batali & Sanaj Naval:

Both spent hours researching valuable information to help our proposal. We discussed and created our preambulatory clauses, operative clauses, counter-arguments, costs and funding. We did essentially all the work coincide each other, amounting to an equal amount of effort put towards our final proposal.


The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS....In Michigan there are no licensure law outlining restrictions and/or regulations for the field of nutrition.

WHEREAS....Michigan has no Board of Dietetic and Nutrition.

WHEREAS....Students at Michigan public schools are exposed to foods high in sodium and fat content, with no requirement to eat the recommended servings of greens and proteins.

WHEREAS.... In Michigan children 32.6% of children ages 0-17 are overweight, compared to the national average of 31.2%

WHEREAS.... In Michigan there is no restriction on sugary beverages sold in schools.

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).


1. Schools throughout the state will ban sales and distribution of all unhealthy beverages (healthy beverages include: water, milk, 100% fruit juices, and drinks no less than 50% fruit juice).

2. Nutrition education required to be implemented into all school curriculums from kindergarten to grade twelve.

3. Schools to be required to display salad bar, fruits and vegetables in open locations, preferably more noticeable than other food items.


What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. Schools may not have the space nor resources reorganize their cafeterias to comply with the changes required of their cafeteria.

2. Schools may argue that nutrition education isn’t necessary, and that it takes time away from core curriculum classes that are necessary to the success of the student.

3. It may take time for all schools in Michigan to cohesively adopt healthier school lunches with the enactment of higher nutrition standards. This could result in angst among students knowing that they will have to adhere to upcoming requirements that they are not used to.

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

The implementation of our proposal will not run up high costs. Yet this could add additional costs to schools, which in return requires government funding. Adding to the curriculum adds another course, more instructors, and possibly books. Luckily health classes run up the lowest cost out of any other subject, meaning this will require minimal funds from the government considering these are public schools. The funds provided to the school from the government will come taxes on people in the general region.

One group that may object to the proposal at hand is large corporations surrounding soft drinks. It is clear that large corporations and the U.S. government remain in close ties. Putting soft drinks in schools is great for getting your product into someones hands at a young age and creating brand awareness. Thus it is possible to see these large companies fighting the ban of their product from schools.


These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.

















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Total votes: 36