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.
Mari, Lila, and Mazi know, too, when food sucks (taste-wise and health-wise). Take, for example, this:
Yup, that would be the school lunch served to my 17-year-old, 6 ft., 275-lb son last week: 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. Congress reimburses schools $2.68 per lunch, with only $1 going toward food, according to Slow Food USA, an educational non-profit working to make school lunches more healthy and clean for the 31 million children who eat them every day (check out Slow Food USA's TIME FOR LUNCH initiative HERE). How many fruits and vegetables can you buy with a dollar?
Which means that our kids are being plied with processed, high-fat, high-sugar food every day for every lunch if they’re eating the school version. 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, school lunch is it—the only meal 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?
Just last week, First Lady Michelle Obama met for the first time with 100 experts to study and report on ways to reduce obesity as part of her “Let’s Move” initiative (THIS STORY details her first day getting down to the nitty gritty of it all). They were charged with coming up with ideas on how to tackle America’s obesity and diabetes epidemic, which costs our nation $263 billion per year—half, according to Slow Food, coming from taxpayer dollars.
Here’s my two cents on how to put a dent in those numbers: How about we get the schools to stop serving our kids sugary cereal, chips, and juice for lunch? (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.)
My two cents.
Want to add yours to the collection? Ask your local legislators to pass a strong Child Nutrition Bill with more funding for healthy food, stronger nutrition standards for all the food sold at school (including the junk they sell in the vending machines!) and new support for Farm to School programs. CLICK HERE to learn how you can get more involved and join more than 110,000 parents, children, teachers and ordinary citizens in signing a petition to your local congressman asking they stop playing with our kids’ lunches. And CLICK HERE to add your name to the more than 300,000 people who've already signed Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution" petition, which he plans to present to the White House.
Together, we can make a difference!