Friday the USDA announced more meats and grains will be allowed in school lunches. That’s a whole blog within itself. So, let’s not talk so much about what’s on the plate, but what actually makes it in the mouths of our students.
Have you enjoyed a lunch with your child in his/her school cafeteria?
I have, and while I love seeing my kids (both in elementary school) mid-day and saying hi to all their friends and helping the lunch room supervisors open milk, chip bags and fruit cups, which explode sticky juice every time, I leave the lunchroom in disgust. The amount of food that is thrown away is disgraceful and by no means a reflection of the school, the kitchen staff, the lunchroom supervisors, or even the students.
Schools are serving what they’ve been told to serve. On one particular day, lunch consisted of a thick slice of ham and cheese on a burger bun with a difficult to open mayo packet in tow. I think broccoli was on the plate and a half of orange, which promptly made it in to most children’s mouths creating those wonderful orange peel smiles. There may have been a Jell-O cup as well.
The oranges were eaten, partially, because everyone was flashing an orange peel smile. The ham and cheese slices were pulled from the buns, rolled and munched, and the bun picked apart. The poor broccoli wasn’t touched.
In addition, the kids get a carton of milk, the majority choosing chocolate, which we know is just as nutritious and provides just as much calcium as white. However, I was aghast as the students took their trays back to the counter and on the way stopped to empty their cartons in buckets. Carton after unfinished carton of milk was dumped into small wash buckets.
Here’s my humble, probably uniformed, mother-perspective observation:
The kids get 20 minutes to eat. These are elementary students. They’ve made it through the morning following the rules, being quiet in class, and working their little brains. Lunch equals freedom. There’s a lot to say and do. Eating is not high on the list. And of course, what comes after lunch? Recess! Who is not excited about that?!
I watch these tiny, growing kids attempt to eat a tray of food that would fill the stomach of a hungry adult sufficiently and have to think the whole concept of food consumption in our country is off a bit. We try to teach our children to be healthy eaters, but if that doesn’t start or is not reinforced at home, the school’s efforts are nothing but a drop in the proverbially bucket.
And I could go on, the experts could go on. Something is wrong at a level that I’m not sure we are prepared or know how to change.
But, for now, according to the government this is the school lunch. Just because it’s offered doesn’t mean it’s eaten.