Let me be the first to raise my hand and cop to it: I don't always feed my family the healthiest meals. I mean, we gets down on my 11-cheese macaroni and cheese and Nick's melt-in-your-mouth smoked pork ribs, and we've yet to meet a piece of fried fish or chicken we don't like.
Still, I do take great care to balance out the fingerlickin' with the better-for-us balanced breakfasts (grains and protein, fruits, and dairy for calcium) and dinner plates stacked with lots of colorful vegetables and fruits. For sure, Jamie Oliver, the chef trying to conquer obesity one school lunch at a time with his hit show, Food Revolution, could wave a potato, okra, broccoli, radicchio, tomatoes, cabbage and collards in my kids' faces, and they'd not only know what they are, but how delicious they taste.
Yup, that would be the school lunch served to my 6 ft., 275-lb son one afternoon not too long ago: a small serving of Cinnamon Toast Crunch; a warm little jug of chocolate milk; a swallow of warm apple juice, and; a bag of sun chips. This is what they served the entire school after the first lunch period ended in a raucous food fight; as punishment and to prevent more messy lunchroom brawls, the rest of the students were put on lockdown for several hours and served a bag lunch in their classrooms.
Um, I think prisoners in solitary have finer dining than this.
Mazi had sense enough not only to know that lunch was dead wrong, but to take a picture of it for proof, probably because he knew I wouldn't have believed him otherwise. Like, who feeds this crap to kids?
Apparently, more schools than you'd think.
And earlier this week, Congress assured that the food our kids get in school lunch won’t be changing anytime soon when it refused to approve U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines that would have put more fruit and vegetables and less sodium, processed foods and stomach-busting carbs on school lunch trays. That means that the nutritional guidelines for the National School Lunch Program, which haven’t been updated in 15 years, will stay the same, with unlimited French fries for the babies and stuff like pizza with two tablespoons of tomato sauce still being considered… wait for it… a vegetable.
*insert an image of Denene slow-clapping for Congress.*
Mind you, Congress’s refusal to approve critical changes to the nation’s school lunch program comes as rates for obesity, diabetes, and a lethal cocktail of preventable adult diseases are soaring amongst kids. Now, my kids are lucky: They get at least two balanced meals at home and they generally pick healthy food when given the choice at school. But for some kids, that processed, high-fat, high-sugar school lunch counts for 40 percent of their calories—one of the most important meals they get during the course of the day as their parents struggle to keep the lights on and roofs over their heads.
I'm not suggesting that it's solely the school's responsibility to feed our kids properly; bad eating habits start at home. But dang, can we at least try to gain some kind of standards for the babies when they do eat at school? Kids learn everything else there; why not teach them how to eat better? I mean, even McDonald’s changed the Happy Meal to make it healthier for kids.
But, you know, who in Congress cares? So long as that food industry lobby money keeps pouring into re-election coffers, everybody’s happy, right?
It’s our taxpayer dollars that are paying for school lunch. When do we parents get to spend our money the way we see fit—for the benefit of our kids?
Here's my two cents: How about we raise our voices and tell Congress to put down their steak knives at that fancy lobbyist luncheons and start thinking about our babies? (And while we're at it, maybe we can restore recess so kids can get some unstructured downtime during the day and a bit of exercise on the swings and monkey bars, too.) Then maybe we won’t have to pay all the healthcare costs that’ll surely come from feeding our babies crap at school.
My two cents.