Home > Food, Politics > A Child-Free Opinion of School Nutrition Changes

A Child-Free Opinion of School Nutrition Changes


Does this look familiar to you??

I try to keep up with what is happening in the government with the school nutrition changes. I don’t have any kids (and hopefully will not for a long time), but it still is something I find myself caring a lot about.

I ate a lot of school lunch. Elementary school was full of weird pizzas with two pepperoni, chicken nuggets, GROSS green beans. I talked before about the awesome choices I made as a middle-schooler. High school was a pop or two a day during school and lunch often consisted of popcorn chicken/shrimp or I would just skip lunch totally. Often times I wonder why I wasn’t a lot heavier back then. Chalk that up to metabolism and bike riding, I guess (it certainly wasn’t the non-existent mandatory gym classes!).

While I do believe that it is the parent’s responsibility feed their children healthy foods, I don’t think that the responsibility should be placed 100% in their hands. Most parents trust that when they send their children to school with money to buy a lunch that they are getting a healthy lunch… and unfortunately, that is not the case.

I also think, and can speak from my own experience, that our tastes and distastes for foods are created when we are really young and it is often hard to break out of that way of thinking. I was a very picky (and spoiled) eater when I was little and it took living in a foreign country and not having that choice to jolt me out of it. If we are able to expose children to a wide variety of foods, including those that they don’t normally get served at home (seriously, I’d never had asparagus until university), and teach them about proper nutrition, it would hopefully make them better prepared to make good choices as adults and then as parents themselves.

I whole-heartedly agree with Marion Nestle in her article about this. The federal reimbursement rate for school lunches is low. It stayed the same rate from the 1970s until now. No surprise though, it is still low. And what does a low food budget crossed with more strict nutritional standards get you?

But the foods are accompanied by strangely tasting miracles of food technology such as reduced-fat mayonnaise, low-fat salad dressings, and soft margarines. Why? To meet nutrient standards.

That. Food that is not really food.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that the school nutrition reform is amazing and awesome (and all sorts of adjectives). It is a huge leap forward, especially for families that depend on federally discounted or free school breakfasts and lunches.

Questions though, since I don’t remember too much from elementary lunch. Do they offer anything else besides milk? Even water? Are parents of child with special dietary needs just expected to pack lunches for them?

If you don’t know what I’ve been talking about, in this sort of long post, you should find out.

Marion Nestle and Michele Simon are great people to either follow on Twitter or read their blogs.

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  1. January 14, 2011 at 18:37 | #1

    agree completely that it’s important to offer kids lots of healthy choices when they’re young. I disagree when schools complain that the kids won’t eat healthy foods…they would if that were all that was available!

    • shortystylee
      January 14, 2011 at 18:45 | #2

      If that is all that is available of course they’ll eat it! It has to be somewhat appealing though… not all vegetables are supposed to be cooked to the point of mush.

      I’ve seen a lot of articles as well about school gardens helping out with ‘adventurous’ eating in lower elementary school children. If they have an active role in the planting and growing of a fruit or veggie, they are more likely to try to eat it.

  2. January 14, 2011 at 23:19 | #3

    My BF’s sister, Danielle, and her family live almost
    self-sustainably on an organic farm in rural Maine. With three kids
    and a farm to manage, she made things easier for herself by having
    her kids eat school lunches. Every September, after eating fresh,
    organic produce all Summer long, she’d notice that her kids would
    get “puffy.” One day, as part of a school event, parents were
    invented to eat school lunch with their kids. Danielle was appalled
    by what she ate- over-processed, very low grade non-food. She had
    no idea that school lunches were so unhealthy. No wonder her kids
    would get puffy when they went back to school! Now, even though its
    a bit of an inconvenience, she sends her school with packed
    lunches- fruits, vegetables, and leftovers from dinner. I guess the
    other kids at school even ask to trade their junk for the healthy
    stuff. P.S. I was a spoiled/picky eater growing up, too. And like
    you, it wasn’t until I lived abroad for a year that I started
    eating everything (and appreciating it).

    • shortystylee
      January 15, 2011 at 13:37 | #4

      I don’t think any of us realized how bad it was when we were actually eating it. The best day in middle school was the day-old pizza for half price day, heh. It just makes me sad/angry that we know that we have a generation of children that will have lower life expectancies than their parents, and it seems like the groups that have the ability to help aren’t doing so.

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