While there are a few model school lunch programs that show how tasty school food can be they aren’t the norm. In fact, if you talk to kids attending the neighborhood school you might find out that either a) the school isn’t following suggestions about healthy food or b) the food is inedible. Here are a few things to think about.
1) Cost of Quality: If you’ve been to the market recently you may have noted how expensive fresh meat and produce is. If paying $25 for a beef roast for your family is hard on the budget try buying quality meat for a school.
When our children were young we were told they had switched to healthy food. Sorry, when the lettuce in the salad bar is rusty and the other vegetables are hard to differentiate it doesn’t qualify to me as being healthy. Neither is the cheese pizza with a tablespoon of grease in the middle. Been there, ate that.
2) Taste: Three things bring a lot of flavor out in food in an inexpensive manner. Those are salt, sugar and fat. Strangely, that’s what we are supposed to reduce to have a healthy lunch. Some schools have cut them. Some haven’t. In the end both can lead to childhood obesity.
3) Wasted Food Equals After School Munchies: If a child is served healthy food that does not taste good the food isn’t going to be eaten. It will go in the trash and the child will wait till after school to handle the hunger.
Unless mom and dad only keep healthy food at home guess what the child is going to eat? If the child walks past a store that carries potato chips and candy bars, guess what will be purchased? Now we aren’t just wasting food we are promoting bad eating habits.
What to do: None of the above has to happen. There are ways to make inexpensive healthy food. I do it all the time and I’m not a professional chef. There are a few schools that grow their own veggies. This adds exercise and learning to the whole food experience.
Some schools buy locally, especially in areas of the country that can grow more than one crop a year. This cuts down on price, promotes the local economy and it hasn’t been sitting in a cooler somewhere for six weeks waiting on being needed.
This is something we parents and grandparents have to insist on. Talk to the school. Talk to the cooks to see what they need. Come up with a plan and present it. It can be done.