A Child-Free Opinion of School Nutrition Changes
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.