This is the last time I’ll be writing about the school lunch program for a while, I promise. I know it’s not the most cheerful of subjects, but it’s an important topic and, as you’ll see, a timely one: the School Lunch Program is up for renewal, and that’s why now’s the time to review and hopefully improve it.
I wanted to share with you Steven Greenstreet’s provocative video, “The Food Lobby Goes to School,” produced by the The American News Project. The video is of a hearing on school lunch nutrition regulations assembled at the Institute of Medicine. The institute will later this year advise the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on revisions to the School Lunch Program nutrition requirements.
I think that if videos of barfing people get hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, this video should be viewed by at least as many, just to prove there are thinking people out there too, so please pass this video on!
There are many people weighing in on the subject of school food. I agree with Greenstreet that the food industry’s not a good source for unbiased information in what’s supposed to be a scientific meeting.
Here are two voices that the USDA should be hearing: Alice Waters and Katrina Heron, who co-authored an op-ed in the New York Times last week. Waters—the legendary founder and co-owner of Chez Panisse—is credited with single-handedly creating an American culinary revolution and for developing “Californian Cuisine", which is famous for using locally-grown and fresh ingredients.
Waters is also the founder and president of the Chez Panisse Foundation; Heron is a director of the foundation and a co-producer of civileats.com. The foundation advocates a nationwide public school curriculum that gives kids a culinary education, including hands-on experiences in school kitchens, gardens and lunchrooms, and inspires students to choose healthy food that helps the community and the environment.
One of the foundation’s priorities is replacing the unhealthy offerings in the schools with healthier and tastier meals.
Waters and Heron call the School Lunch Program a “poor investment” of taxpayer’s money. They describe the commodity foods which the schools get as “fast food” and “essentially leftovers from big American food producers.” School meals are valued at a little over 20 cents per meal and include high-fat, low-grade meats and cheeses and processed foods like chicken nuggets and pizza.
Most of the schools have no kitchens and just heat and un-wrap those low-quality foods.
The authors say:
These are only two of the many voices that should to be heard on of the subject of our kids’ nutrition.
“Every public school child in America deserves a healthful and delicious lunch that is prepared with fresh ingredients. Cash-strapped parents should be able to rely on the government to contribute to their children’s physical well-being, not to the continued spread of youth obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other diet-related problems. Let’s prove that there is such a thing as a good, free lunch.”
Personally, I hope that the final standards don’t end up concentrating only on ranges of fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals the way previous standards did, and actually address the issue of what wholesome, healthy food should look like.
Otherwise the only change in the lunch menu might be ‘new and improved’ junk foods that technically fit the new standards of macro and micro-nutrient recipes to a tee, while defying the spirit of what every expert in nutrition—and I daresay anyone with a bit of common sense—knows about healthy eating: namely that fast food, even if lower in fat and sugars, is unhealthy.
The food lobbyists are listening intently, and are ready to make lower saturated-fat burgers and pizzas, and lower-carb sugary drinks. I’m afraid that won’t stop the health crisis our kids face.
Who would you like to see advising the government on school lunches?