How are our children supposed to learn when their school lunches fill them with junk?
In 2009, the School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study, published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, evaluated the school meal program based on nearly 400 public schools.
The study found that:
- Only 39% offered green salad
- Only 29% offered orange or dark green vegetables
- Only 10% offered legumes
- More than 95% of grain products were made from refined white flour
One in three children in the US is overweight or obese, and a third of our nation’s kids are at risk for, or already have, type 2 diabetes. You don’t need to be a radical food activist to see a connection between childhood health and the food we give our kids.
The US’s national school lunch program serves an estimated 30 million lunches per day, and some kids growing up in poverty depend on the school lunch program for their survival.
Don’t Blame The Schools
Schools that want to serve healthy food face an uphill battle. One longstanding barrier is the USDA’s commodity foods program, which distributes large quantities of unhealthful “entitlement foods” and gives them to schools for free. Every year, the USDA purchases hundreds of millions of dollars worth of pork, beef, and other high-fat, high-cholesterol animal products, primarily as an economic benefit to American agribusiness. In 2005, for example, the USDA allocated close to 60 percent of food program procurement expenditures to meat, dairy, and egg products, while providing less than 5 percent to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. This is changing, but we still have a long ways to go.
Despite rising food costs and unhealthy government subsidies, many schools are working hard to move their menus in the right direction. School gardens are on the rise, and increasing numbers of schools are sourcing some fruits and vegetables locally.
For example, students in Omaha, NE, now have the option of choosing a vegetarian entrée each day, and all vegetarian items are clearly marked on the lunch menu. Fresh fruit is available daily, as is fruit juice at no extra cost to students. Low-fat vegetable side dishes are available daily.
What You Can Do
Whether you have kids in your life or not, there are steps you can take to build a healthier future for the next generation.
1) Make Good Food Fun
Research suggests eating habits are developed early on in a child’s life — often times before the age of 6. Super Sprowtz bridges the gap for parents and educators who are looking for tools and ways to engage their families and students to eat more vegetables and make healthier food choices. Their motto is Good Food Made Fun. Check out their amazing library of videos, curricula, and other resources by visiting supersprowtz.com/.
2) Take Action In Your School District
You can get excellent tools and resources to help inspire your school district to take healthy steps from healthyschoolfood.org. And Revolution Foods is now offering healthier options to more than 1,000 schools across the United States — providing more than 200,000 meals daily.
3) Join The Food Revolution
You teach best by example. Join the movement for healthy, sustainable, humane and delicious food and get tools, insights and inspiration from a community of peers at thaifoodboston.com.