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the enigma that is school lunch

February 26, 2014

For those of you who don’t know (hi new readers!!!) I’m an elementary school teacher. 2nd grade. I feel that I’m lucky because I can honestly say that I am one of those people who goes to work everyday and really enjoys her job. Some days more than others (ha) but as a whole I truly love what I do.

But.

Let me tell you for one stinkin minute what drives me crazy about my job. SCHOOL LUNCHES! For real, if you saw what comes out of the cafeteria and is passed off as a healthy balanced meal you would die. Or at least be very appalled. Here is what is listed on our school menu (written just as it is given to parents):

  • Chicken Fried Steak w/ Roll (WG)
  • Cheese Quesadilla (V)
  • Southwest Chicken Salad w/Crackers
  • Mashed Potatoes w/ Country Gravy
  • Mixed Peas & Carrots
  • Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Bar

Any guesses on what WG stands for? Um…it says the roll is Whole Grain and that V? Vegetarian. Let’s just say that if Trey is a vegetarian I sure hope he eats something better than a tortilla with a microwaved kraft cheese slice stuck between it.

Also, gone are the days where a cafeteria lady hands you a tray. No, now it’s about allowing the child to choose. Need I remind anyone that these children are 7. SEVEN!!!! They don’t need to be making those choices. Because let’s be real…what 7 year old chooses to put the peas and carrots on their plate. The “rule” is that the child can’t leave the lunch line without a main entree, a fruit, and vegetable on their plate. But they have a fruit and vegetable bar to choose from. So I’ve seen children  walk out of line with a piece of chicken fried steak with gravy, a roll, 2 cucumber slices and an apple juice.  The apple juice counts as the fruit and those 2 cucumber slices count as the vegetable.

Wait, Wait it gets even better!

We also now have something called snack privileges. Which means if your parents give you extra money in your lunch account you can buy snacks with your lunch. These include: full size ice cream treats (bomb pops, ice cream sandwiches, drumsticks, etc.), bags of chips, cookies, cinnamon rolls, fig newtons, etc. There is also no limit to how many snacks you can buy as long as you have the necessary funds.

So remember that lunch above? Now add a bag of Cheetos and an ice cream sandwich to it.

Disgusted yet? You should be.

It is awful what the kids eat for lunch every day. It makes me so angry. I feel like we have a responsibility to teach children good eating habits at a young age. Look at our society?! Does anyone really think the obesity crisis in this country is getting any better? We should be starting at the youngest of ages. Teaching it from the ground up when habits aren’t yet set in stone and hard to break. We aren’t doing these kids any favors by allowing them to choose their own nutritional needs at the age of 7. They aren’t mature enough to do that. We need to do it FOR them and that’s okay. These kids aren’t going to be scarred because they didn’t get to choose their own lunch in elementary school.

I know Michelle Obama has put a lot of effort into her Let’s Move Campaign and attacking childhood obesity has been a huge priority for her. But until we get the ridiculousness of school lunches under control and people really start taking the obesity crisis seriously in this country nothing is going to change.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2014 3:44 pm

    AMEN! Kids do not know how to make good choices and this might be the only nutritious meal they get all day. They do not need to be adding junk food and parents do not need to give them money for snacks. I loved the show Jamie Oliver did a few years back with some schools in the US. What a difference it makes. Yes it is more costly but think of the benefits to the children. I have a 19 yr old stepson and I have to not buy chips etc because that is all he will snack on. I can’t control what he buys with his money but he knows I will only get him healthy items like apples, yogurt, etc. I include him in choosing the items in the hopes that it will encourage him to eat better.

  2. February 26, 2014 4:01 pm

    amen woman! i worked on a nutrition grant way back in the day (in college) for this. Needless to say, no one really listened. Sad

  3. February 27, 2014 5:28 pm

    Amen, Amen, Amen!!! I teach 3rd grade and I was nodding my head at everything you wrote. Um, so today, wanna guess what the dairy was? An ice cream cup. Really?! And they can get by with a section (we have the sectioned off styrofoam trays) full of shredded cheese as a veggie. No clue why..maybe because it’s supposed to go on top of the “salad” (lettuce smothered in ranch dressing).

    But an equally big problem that I see is the kids who go hungry and don’t eat enough because they don’t want to brown apple halves, mushy broccoli, “brown” bread and noodles and throw it all away. I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, but something MUST be done. We’ve got to teach kids about nutrition, but I also think we’ve got to educate parents too.

    Awesome post!

  4. February 27, 2014 9:15 pm

    I am a counselor in a school and I agree! Good habits need to start YOUNG. We can’t control what they eat at home, but a school is a place to learn – including the cafeteria. A lot of schools have cut health classes too, which is a problem. We need better funding and more awareness.

  5. katiedid1976 permalink
    March 3, 2014 5:43 pm

    This is exactly why my kids (1st & 2nd graders) take their lunches!

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