Monday, November 2, 2009

school lunches

I'm so glad I enjoy making home brought lunches for my kids. I cannot imagine making them buy lunch at school, or wasting the $3 or $4 or whatever it is for them to make themselves a pb&fluff sandwich at the sandwich bar.

Ryan's lunch: green beans; chocolate covered peanut butter ball; tofu spinach quiche; crescent roll sandwich w/lettuce, soy cheese & smoked Tofurky; a side of pretzels.

Looking at the school menu, it is obvious they are trying, offering whole grain products most of the time. But what always strikes me is the lack of vegetables. Many days the only "vegetable" offered is corn or tomato...corn is a grain, and tomato is a fruit (though for trade purposes was long ago classified as a vegetable). The tomato is otherwise still considered a fruit when not dealing specifically with United States tariffs. Very sad!

Now, to be fair, I have not witnessed what is actually served at the school cafeteria. But when "tossed salad" is on the menu, I cannot help but envision iceberg lettuce, unripe tomato wedges, and possibly a bit of shredded carrot before the inevitable avalanche of creamy dressing. Maybe that's not the case, but if not, I cannot imagine many kids choosing the salad, which would negate the purpose of offering it, right?

Oh, and potatoes. The starchy vegetable that unfortunately still counts as a vegetable serving, be they baked, or battered & deep-fried & served with sweetened ketchup or butter. Thankfully they are usually baked or roasted wedges, so another plus for our local school at least.

And "savory carrots"? Does that mean cooked with butter & sugar? I dunno. But really, how many times can you get away with serving carrots in a month? How about some variety, like squash or sweet potatoes (without the marshmallows, please!).

I still have scary daydreams about passing by the brownish "green peas" and "green beans" in the lunch line as a child (I only bought lunch on pizza days, but I liked buying the 15 cent ice pops). I wonder if they still look like that?

Is it really that helpful if you serve a whole wheat roll with the bacon cheese burger? (Yes, that's really on the school menu this week.) Or crispy fish & cheese? Ack. And American chop suey sounds so exotic, until the time I learned (when someone brought it to my mother after my father died, after asking if she liked Chinese food) that it's macaroni with ground beef, peppers and soy sauce?!

So what I'm saying is, at a glance, the menu actually looks "okay" in comparison to what my public school served when I was a kid. But I think the real issue lies not with what is being served at school, but what is being offered at home. Schools are ultimately faced with the challenge of working within government guidelines (as heavily weighted towards the dairy and beef industry lobbies as they are), while providing a meal that kids might actually eat. If suddenly offered healthier fare at school, I bet many kids would simply go home hungry, or start packing their own pb&fluff and Capri-Suns from home. In my opinion--because I know that's all it is--parents need to refuse to purchase excess processed, packaged & junk foods in the first place. But then, they may as well pack their kid a lunch...

Can they at least ditch the sweetened strawberry & chocolate milks?! That'd be a good start. Goodness forbid a child not drink their friggin' milk. Zoiks.
FYI, all this info is available to the general public on our school's website...I'm definitely not making it up!


Unknown said...

Yeah, I think school lunches are trying hard to look healthier but are in essence just the same. Whole wheat roll is useless served next to a bunch of crud.

Kidlet's school has 1 vegetarian option daily and it is a bagel, cream cheese, milk, and yogurt. No fruit, no veg! All dairy! I have no idea who thought that was an acceptable meal for anyone!

I'm glad that I am able to pack his lunch for him but there are so many kids relying on the school for their nutritious meal and they aren't getting what they need!

Alie said...

It is sad but for many kids, the cafeteria lunch is actually the healthiest food they eat all day. If the lunch was not offered the "food" they would bring from home would be much less nutritious.

I have seen the school lunches at my childrens school. I do think they have come a long way since my childhood but of course there is always room for improvement.