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.
Just a little blurb to say that the Child Nutrition Bill passed in the House yesterday, and will shortly be sent to President Obama for his signature. The vote was 264 to 157.
From the article:
“The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act gives schools critical resources to reach more children with healthy school meals and to serve more fresh produce, whole grains and low-fat dairy products in cafeterias. By establishing nutrition standards for all foods served or sold in schools, the legislation ensures that students will receive a consistent message about healthy choices.”
The legislation will also raise the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches by 6 cents.
With the Child Nutrition Bill passing the House as well as the Food Safety Bill in the Senate, it certainly has been an active week for food politics 🙂
My Twitter feed has been taken over by food politics lately, both from the Food Safety Bill and the School Nutrition Bill. I’m okay with that. I can’t believe that the government reimbursement for school lunches hasn’t changed since 1973…. and it’s only going up 6 cents per student! I know everything is bought in bulk, but I can’t imagine that the extra 6 cents is going to help very much, the the extra money even gets to the lunches or is consumed somewhere else along the line in overhead, bonuses, whatever.
The last time I was in an elementary school it was to vote, and before that it was probably 12 years ago, so it is difficult to really remember lunch. This blog might help, if you’ve forgotten too. I was lucky enough to have my lunch packed for me by my Gramma, everyday, as long as I wanted it. It might not have always been healthy (I was really picky), but at least it was “real” food. The real problem is that not all families can afford to send their kids to school with a lunch and often depend on the school for discounted or free breakfasts and lunches. Hopefully they’ll be able to pass a version of the School Lunch Reform that doesn’t take away from the food stamps program, either.
If you want to follow this on Twitter, @Appetite4Profit is a good person to start with.
Update, 12/2/2010: Republicans block child nutrition bill — The first paragraph makes them sound like mean, old men. Oh wait, that is because they are mean, old men.