The most commonly cited cause for cafeteria food tasting bad, according to reports from several news magazines, is the increased effort to make school lunches healthier. Many favored items have been replaced with lower-calorie, reduced-sodium and whole-wheat alternatives. A greater emphasis has also been put on substituting fruit for high-sugar treats.
A further complicating factor for the quality of cafeteria food is the desire to maintain low costs. Vegetables and fruit must be included in school lunches, but providing these items comes at a premium. Therefore, school districts and other similar institutional food providers struggle to strike a balance between offering the healthier items and fitting the added cost into already tight budgets. This means that the vegetables most often chosen are canned and that the fruit purchased is of a lower grade.
Variations in individuals' flavor palates also play a role in cafeteria food's reception. People all have unique tastes and appetites. It is possible that some displeasure over cafeteria offerings is born from these slight permutations. Familiarity with a food also influences the taster. Studies have shown that the average person must consume a food between 10 and 12 times to fully integrate it into his diet. For many students, the school lunch may be their first introduction to certain foods.