We looked at a typical school lunch menu in yesterday’s post and at the nutritionist’s analysis of fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals in that food. From the nutrient point of view the school lunch is a high-fat, high-salt low-fiber diet. The protein and vitamin content aren’t an issue, since so much of the food is vitamin fortified, and protein is abundant in the meat and cheese rich foods our kids are fed.
I offer you a very different way to look at the subsidized school lunch. You don’t need to be a nutritionist, you don’t needs charts and a calculator, and you don’t even need to know the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to assess the quality of the offerings we’re serving our next generation.
Picture the food described in yesterday’s post and it’s easy recognize and name it: The school lunch is fast food! It’s salty, sweet and fatty, the meat is breaded and crunchy, it’s been highly processed—even the fruit and vegetables aren’t fresh for the most part.
Speaking of vegetables, I have nothing against potatoes; I think they’re nutritious and good to eat in many forms, but French fries aren’t a vegetable by any stretch of the imagination! (And neither is ketchup.)
Most of school lunches are not prepared in the school kitchen—the surplus commodities our food industry produces make their way to our schools as processed food and not as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Most of the schools have no kitchens and just heat and un-wrap low-grade foods.
For those who say that a better school menu would be too expensive, I want you to consider that treating a whole host of chronic diseases, ranging from diabetes to heart disease to cancer—which are the dangerous result of the childhood obesity epidemic and the current lack of healthy nutrition—will cost so much more. Forty percent of the public school kids in this study were overweight! We definitely can’t afford that!
There are a few schools that serve healthy, nutritious food, made from real ingredients. There are a few schools that teach kids how to cook healthy meals and even grow their own vegetables.
But what most kids learn from the institution that’s supposed to prepare them for life are really bad eating habits that will set them up for a lifetime of struggle with weight. What’s even worse is that kids from low income homes—who have less access to wholesome food out of school—get this low quality food at school for lunch and breakfast.
Please share your thoughts.