Progress on School Lunches?
Let me start by saying that apparently, pizza still counts as a vegetable. Not kidding.
“Millions of schoolchildren in the United States will see more fruit and vegetables and less fat on their lunch plates under new U.S. Department of Agriculture standards unveiled Wednesday aimed at improving child nutrition and reducing childhood obesity”, begins a piece on yesterday’s US News on msnbc.com.
Under the new guidelines revealed yesterday, “schools will be required to offer fruits and vegetables every day, increase the amount of whole-grain foods and reduce the sodium and fats in the foods served.”
BUT…(and this is a big but):
“The new menus won’t entirely eliminate favorite food choices among kids, like pizza and french fries, but they will provide alternatives; instead of cheese pizza, students will receive whole wheat cheese pizza. Rather than tater tots, students will get baked sweet potato fries.”
Where does the responsibility lie? Is it completely up to the school to govern what kids are served on a daily basis? What role can parents and members of any given community play?
Yes, it’s a fact that cost is a huge factor and yes, it is cheap to serve processed, refined (pretend) food which may have been deep fried, then frozen, hundreds or thousands of miles away from the plate, (oh, sorry, Styrofoam tray) it ends up on. To add insult to injury, yes, many parents are on a tight budget and are pressed for time, and what goes into the mouths of their families often does not end up being a priority.
As I write this post, I’m listening to NPR do a piece on this topic, and a mom who was just interviewed commented that she simply doesn’t have time to prepare a healthy meal for her kids to take to school, nor does she always make dinner at home. So, she was glad that under the new guidelines, her child would be getting more vegetables (or, maybe just more pizza).
I’m going to go ahead and throw this out there: how much of this dilemma can we tack on to laziness?
Of course, there are millions of Americans for whom it truly is impossible, under current conditions, to buy enough fresh veggies, fruit and natural meat to feed their family when they can eat at McDonald’s for a fraction of the cost. (Need I say this must change!?)
However, there are also millions of people who could buy quality food and could allocate time to prepare it.
Is it fair to say that if healthy habits are implemented at home, kids are more likely to be used to eating healthy foods, and therefore more likely to choose the newer, possibly healthier options, presented to them at school?
If you’re reading this and you’re a parent whose eating habits leave a lot to be desired, think about what kind of example you’re setting for your kids.
If you’re reading this and you’re not a parent but you live in a community with kids and schools, think about what kind of an impact you might be able to make either by volunteering time or funds to head up a new healthy eating program on a local level.
Even if you’re reading this and you don’t give a hoot about the kids in your community, perhaps you’re interested in the sky rocketing health care costs that will ensue as kids as a whole become fatter and sicker?
Finally, if you’re reading this and you don’t have an extra cent to your name and you’re barely scraping by, you can still do something- don’t buy the crappy, processed foods. That sends a message in and of itself.
Yes, I’ve gone and done it again, gone off on a healthy eating diatribe, but I’m not sorry. Of course, I’d love it if I woke up tomorrow and the world were Paleo; I suppose beggars cannot be choosers, though. The school lunch changes are still progress and a step in the right direction, albeit a baby step.