Before I begin, let me just say that I in no way wish to condemn the excellent cafeteria staff at my daughter’s school. Those woman (they are in fact all women) bust their buns every day to make two meals a day for hundreds of kids; put up with a constant din of adolescent noise, clean up disgusting spills, and manage to get it all done each day with a smile on their faces.
But it is no secret that I am not thrilled with the quality of food served in schools, at my daughter’s school, and at schools around the country. For the most part, I have tried to work quietly behind the scenes to improve this nutritional fare. But an incident occurred yesterday that just has me spitting mad….and shouting out loud.
Here’s the scoop.
My 7 year old daughter, Emily, has recently become fascinated by the Nutrition Facts label on her food. She has always been a numbers girl, so the fact that different foods contain varying amounts of calories and fats is enthralling to her. She took it upon herself to start a food journal, writing down the calories in the food she eats each day.
Just to clarify…this project was never meant as a way for her to limit her caloric intake. I don’t think that my kid needs to start counting calories, nor does she need to be on a diet. She was merely interested in learning how many calories each different food has. So you can imagine my dismay when her own school blocked her efforts to learn more about nutrition.
Just for the record, my daughter packs her lunch 95% of the time. But yesterday was one of those rare days when she wanted to buy lunch at school. She was still trying to keep her food journal, so I suggested that she nicely ask the cafeteria staff about the nutritional content of the day’s lunch.
Turns out, when she asked, the cafeteria staff told her that they had “no idea and no way of finding out” how many calories and fat grams were in that day’s meal. Are you kidding me? I know my kid, and I know that she asked politely, so even if they had to tell her to wait until after lunch, they should have been able to find that info for her.
Again, I’ve never been thrilled with the never-ending rotation of hot dogs, pizza, and corn dogs fed to these kids each day at school. But my issue here was more that they didn’t know and didn’t seem to care to find out about the nutritional content of the food they were serving these kids.
Isn’t this the same school where I send my kids to learn each day? Why was it necessary to totally squash the interest of a first grader who was taking it upon herself to learn about healthy foods? It’s obviously not something they think is important for the kids to know and I couldn’t disagree more on that point. I do think that health and nutrition should be emphasized, even in the 1st grade.
Childhood obesity is in the news each day. It’s killing our kids. Everyone seems to agree that we should do something about it. Yet, the actual quality of the food that is served to kids in school each day (and marketed to kids at home) seems to be an afterthought.
There is quite a discussion going on via my page about this incident at Emily’s school and school lunch programs in general. One of the posters contends that we can’t make school lunches healthier without “ponying up the big bucks.” But I disagree. And as I said on Facebook, I think that’s just a cop-out for folks who are too scared to try new things (like Farm to School, school gardens, etc.)
What do you think? Care to rant (or brag!) about your own school’s lunch program? Do you know of a school district that is offering healthier lunches without breaking the school’s budget? Let’s hear it!