When USA Today investigated the state of our schools’ hot lunch programs, they discovered something alarming. Safety and quality standards held by public school hot lunch programs don’t meet the same standards held by popular fast food restaurants.
Take, for instance, spent hens. There are 100 million “old” hens killed each year because they’re past their egg-laying prime. Usually they’re used for compost or pet food, but the USDA bought 77 million pounds of spent hen meat over the last eight years and fed it to our school children. Campbell’s Soup and KFC refuse to use spent hens, citing “quality concerns.”
The lack of quality control concerns experts, who say that contamination with germs like salmonella and E. coli are especially dangerous to kids, and that cafeteria workers may not understand that meat needs to be cooked thoroughly to kill pathogens. So if the product is low quality and the cook is poorly trained, kids are at a higher risk of getting sick.
School lunches have been an area of concern for years, both because of safety concerns, but also because of nutritional quality. I once worked in a district that served my students one Poptart, one danish, and an apple juice every day for breakfast.
My older daughter loves getting hot lunch, and her school works hard to balance the menu with fresh fruits and vegetables. Still, we keep it to once a week, and I try to steer her toward the meatless entrees.
How is hot lunch handled in your child’s school? And do you ever worry about the safety of the food your kids are eating?