Parents willing to pay for ‘better’ school food

The Mercer Island School District conducted an online survey to find out what Island parents think of the food served to their children at school.

Around 400 Islanders who have one or more children or teenagers enrolled at Island schools took the survey.

Just under half of the respondents had a child in an Island elementary school, one third at Islander Middle School and 20 percent at Mercer Island High School.

Twenty percent of all respondents said that their child did not ever buy a lunch at school while 25 percent said their child ate lunch at school every day. Of the remaining 55 percent, half of those indicated their child had lunch at school at least once a week.

Next, respondents indicated their level of satisfaction with the current lunches offered at their child’s school. Respondents were asked to choose from very dissatisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, somewhat satisfied or very satisfied.

Those who had children who did not eat lunch at school were to choose the ‘not applicable’ response.

By school, the majority of parents who answered indicated they were “somewhat satisfied” with the food offered at schools. Yet, a striking majority of Island Park parents were dissatisfied with the food.

Lakeridge Elementary School parents were split evenly between being dissatisfied or satisfied; West Mercer parents were also evenly split between being either satisfied or dissatisfied.

Islander Middle School parents were generally satisfied with the food offerings, while parents of Mercer Island High School students indicated that they, too, were generally satisfied with the food offered at the school.

The survey next asked all parents how they ranked the different factors that measure food quality. Answers in  this section indicated an average of 42 percent of all parents across all schools were somewhat dissatisfied with each of the seven factors listed to measure the quality of food at school. Those factors included: the amount of time set to eat lunch; the nutritional value of the menu; the appearance of the food; and the number of food choices.

Nearly 40 percent of respondents indicated that they were very dissatisfied with the amount of time allotted to the lunch period — believing it is too brief.

Beverage choices at all schools were viewed favorably, along with the current cost of lunches.

Eighty-three percent of parents indicated that they are satisfied or very satisfied with the current cost of school lunches. Yet, many of those still saw room for improvement by indicating they would be willing to pay more for food if it were improved. The types of improvement listed included: serving more nutritious food; having it be organic or hormone-free; adding more fresh fruits and vegetables; whole foods and grains or increasing the number of food choices.

Sixty percent said they would be willing to pay an extra $1 or more for the changes. A third of those respondents said they would be willing to pay up to an additional $2 per meal.

Learn more

To learn more about the survey and to see the questions asked, visit the MISD website at


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