School Lunches

January 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

I was looking at the Facebook page for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and Food Revolution Community and thinking about what has changed about school lunches in my lifetime.  It is a completely different world.

First, the lunch ladies actually COOKED our meals.  I remember arriving at school really early (I was Jr. Police so I was a crossing guard) and you could already smell the homemade rolls in the cafeteria.  My favorite lunches were the beef stew, chicken fried steak, goulash, and beans and cornbread.  We always had homemade bread and lots of vegetables, and whole milk.  We had a “milk break” mid-morning, if you bought your tickets at 5 cents a piece.  At the milk break you did have the option of chocolate milk, but we were never allowed it for lunch.  Lunches were 25 cents a day.  (Now I can hear you questioning my age, but it wasn’t that many years ago.)

Fast forward to ten years ago.  Cafeteria workers in most school districts reheat frozen, processed, food-like things, or canned things.  I remember we had a “parent’s day” in the cafeteria when my son was in elementary school and all the parents were invited for lunch.  On the menu that day was canned chicken noodle soup, toasted cheese sandwiches (two slices of white bread, buttered, with a slice of processed American cheese, and baked in the oven.  I guess this was considered “cooking”) and some canned peaches.  The adult plate consisted of an extra 2 slices of peach and cost somewhere in the neighborhood or $3.50.  The child’s plate was about $2.25 at the time.  If the school was trying to impress the parents, they did a good job of convincing us it was time to start packing the kids lunches.

Now my youngest is a Junior in High School.  Lunches are $3.25 and he has a choice of a salad bar (brown, limp lettuce, and a few odd, limp vegetables, some processed cheese and pressed, formed, ham-like substance), a hamburger and fries, nachos… you get the idea.  It is no wonder American kids are fat, have diabetes and high blood pressure, and can’t pay attention in class.  Additionally, half the kids are on the free lunch program so you know that sometimes this is the only food they get all day.  Sad statement on a “wealthy society”.  We owe so much more to our kids.

If you do nothing else, take time to find out what they are serving your kids.  Then teach your kids what is wrong (or right) about it and how to make wise food choices.  Help them to make their own sack lunches and teach them to cook healthy meals at home so when they are older they will know how to feed themselves.  Additionally, if you have time, start working for change in the public school’s food programs so those who are limited to their offerings can have a decent diet as well.  Your grandchildren will thank you!


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