SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Mandy Berkhof couldn't keep her lunch to herself Tuesday.
The Sioux Falls, S.D., woman had joined her second-grade daughter for a meal at Robert Frost Elementary School. It was "Grandparents Day," and Berkhof, 29, joined her mother for a visit to the school cafeteria.
The meal was so unappealing, Berkhof decided to share a photo on Facebook. Within hours, the post had been shared more than 500 times with dozens of comments from parents both in and out of state. As of Wednesday morning, it has been shared more than 1,200 times.
"Everybody had green bananas," Berkhof said. "The refried beans had kind of like a burnt coating on top, like, you could peel the top of the beans off, and the chicken was really gristly. ... We tried the tortilla. It just tasted like cardboard."
But Berkhof, along with many of the commenters on her post, did not feel her lunch was adequate. It was her first time eating the school lunches with her daughter, and she was surprised by the poor quality of the food.
Berkhof was hoping to see a response from her post, but she was expecting a contact number for the school district, not 500-plus shares. A number of the shares and comments are from people sharing their own stories of being disappointed by school lunches.
"The variety of people that it's reached already and the fact that it happens all over the U.S. is crazy," Berkhof said. "Some people who have their kids that go to Robert Frost, they had no idea that's what their kids eat."
Seeing the outpouring of frustration from parents in Sioux Falls (and as far as Texas), she was inspired to take further action.
She's already reaching out to school board members, and she plans to bring her concerns to one of their upcoming meetings.
"I'm not trying to put blame on anybody or shame the school," Berkhof said. "I'm just trying to raise awareness that this is what our kids are eating. And I think something needs to be done about it."
Sioux Falls School District Superintendent Brian Maher addressed the photo with media outlets Wednesday morning.
"That's certainly not the kind of image we want to portray," Maher said. "If you’re going to judge our food service program by that picture, you’re going to get incomplete (information)."
The district, which serves over 15,500 lunches each day, has processes to ensure the kids get a nutritious meal every day, he said. A child nutrition services committee made of people from the district, nutrition services, student and parents meet to discuss what food should be served, but portion sizes are determined by the government through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Individual districts are responsible for adhering to strict guidelines on including whole grains, fruit, protein and vegetables with every meal.
As for the green banana, Maher said it was served on the wrong day.
"The fact we put it out on Tuesday was poor," he said. "Maybe we should have put it out on Thursday. We served a lot of green bananas yesterday. There's no good reason for that."
Follow Megan Raposa on Twitter: @mlraposa