Michelle Obama Hopes to Improve School LunchesJohn Cave Osborne
School lunches have been much maligned for generations. In my day, mystery meat alongside mashed potatoes that could literally adhere to a plate when held upside-down were hardly anything to get excited about. I doubt seriously that those meals were very nutritious ones, but even if they were, it wouldn’t have mattered — we never actually ate them.
But surely things are different nowadays, right? I mean, so much more is known about nutrition. And given that knowledge, as well as the growing childhood obesity epidemic, it would seem logical to assume that school lunches are now healthier and tastier than ever before. Right?
The New York Times ran a piece on Friday by Lesley Alderman that takes a closer look what our kids are eating during their learning hours.
“At many schools,” she writes, “lunches are neither tasty nor nutritious… Even cafeterias that serve up healthy choices like whole wheat pizza, salad and bean burritos may also offer nutritionally suspect items like chicken nuggets and fries that children can buy on their own. A study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2006 found that 23.5 percent of high schools offered fast food from places like Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
“If the White House has its way, school lunches will become universally healthier. The first lady, Michelle Obama, and the secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, have made child nutrition a priority for the current administration and worked with Congress to make changes to the Child Nutrition Act which was passed by the Senate and awaits approval by the House. The updated bill gives schools more money to spend per meal, and includes provisions to upgrade menus and ban junk food from vending machines and lunch lines.”
While it sounds promising that help might be on the way, updates to the Child Nutrition Act, alone, will not guarantee that your child is getting a healthy lunch. Just as the calibre of education varies from school to school, so, too, will the nutrition of their lunches. And the only way you’ll know how the meals at your kid’s school are stacking up is to get involved.
Thankfully, Alderman offers us some tips for doing just that. She encourages parents to go their kid’s school and see the lunches firsthand. How do they look? Are the ingredients fresh? Are there suitable alternatives for main entrees a child may not like? We should also coach our children to make the healthy selection when presented a choice. And if parents still aren’t satisfied with the lunches at a particular school, Alderman suggests investing in a lunchbox, thermos, and plastic containers.
Are the lunches at your child’s school nutritious ones? How do you know? If approved by the House, do you think updates in the Child Nutrition Act will help make school lunches healthier?
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