After lots of discussion on yesterday’s post and previous questions I had asked on Facebook one thing about the new school lunch plan stood out to me. I kept waiting to see posts from moms and dads about the weird stuff the school was trying to get their kids to eat. I had figured that after looking at the sample menu the USDA posted this would be one of the first things to hit the social media world. The absence of complaints made me wonder exactly what was being served at school. I was curious enough about what kids were actually seeing and eating that I sent out a plea to parents to tell me what the kids were eating and a few let me send a little questionnaire out to their kids.
So this is what they had to say…..
First I asked them if they had noticed differences from last year’s lunch…
“Yes, you are required to take a veggie, no salt, serving sizes are smaller about half the size.” -Asaf, age 15
“Yes, portion cut in half, can’t ask for more, can’t have seconds, no salt, forced to take the veggies, no bread, whole wheat tortillas, food looks greasier.” -Joe, age 16
“Yes, they don’t give as much meat; whole wheat tortilla was yucky, dry and soft” -Ian, age 8
I am noticing a pattern here…
But school lunch can’t be all bad right? I asked the kids what meals they liked the best this year… And got lots of Pizza and Chicken Nugget answers as well as Nachos and even a salad bar lover. But wait? Where are the turkey subs, whole wheat spaghetti, oven baked fish and the like that was touted on the new sample menu I showed yesterday?
I went to our school district’s website and had a look at the menu.
I have to say I was pretty surprised that this was the menu. I mean there aren’t very many foods on here that are going to be foreign to kids. Sure some kids are still going to be picky eaters but over all this is a pretty kid friendly menu. Corn dogs, Pizza, Grilled Cheese, Uncrustables… Wait what!?!?! I thought this new menu was all about helping kids make healthier eating choices. This menu doesn’t exactly scream healthy eating to me. Maybe this menu is an example of how to market a product. Call it one thing but serve something different. I called in one of my favorite High School kids and had her take a picture of her lunch today.
This is what the menu says they had for lunch today.
Here is what was on her tray.
I asked her if there were other veggies available that she didn’t take? She said she passed on the iceberg lettuce. Seriously??? All of a sudden the comment I had from Amy, one of my in-law’s who is a teacher at an elementary school in Minnesota made sense. “To sum in up in one metaphor, we have gone from serving McDonald’s everyday, to serving Subway 4 days and McDonald’s one day a week. I don’t mind McDonald’s on the rare occasion, but we all know what McDonald’s every day does to a kid.”
So what does this new lunch program fix? Sure the whole wheat bun on the burger is better than the white bun. 1% Milk is lower in fat than 2%. And maybe those baked beans aren’t swimming in a sugar filled glaze. Overall I bet that this lunch is slightly more nutritious than what was served last year. And it’s smaller portions. So that’s good right? Let’s ask the kids….
How many days a week do you go home hungry at the end of the school day?
Everyday– Joe, 16.
1-2 Days– Ian, 8.
Everyday– Asaf, 15.
Most days– Kate, 12.
About 3 days– Will, 7.
Wow, that’s a lot of days where kids aren’t getting enough to eat at lunch to keep them full and focused at school. It seems like once the kids hit teen years they become more hungry. Wait… I am not a parent and I figured out that teenagers need to eat more than elementary school kids. Go figure!
So how much more food does a middle school kid get than a elementary school kid? The USDA guidelines show that they allow the same amount of fruits, vegetables and milk for the two groups and they increase the amount of protein and grains by 1oz….. per week. No really. See for yourself. What about the big kids at the High School? How much more do they get than the tweens at the middle school? They are allowed an additional 2.5 cups of fruit each week and 1.25 cups of veggies than the younger kids, they get the same serving of milk and lucky them they get two additional ounces of grain and protein…. per week.
No wonder these kids are getting off the school bus hungry!
Now let’s talk about the poor kids.
I don’t mean those poor kids that have to eat smaller portions of food that isn’t exactly what it’s cracked up to be. I mean the kids that get on the bus hungry and go home to empty cupboards. The actual poor kids. These are the kids that are most affected by these changes. For all of you that have read on this long and are thinking “wow, this sucks, glad I pack my kid’s lunch” it’s time to listen up. I am calling you out and issuing you a challenge. I am thrilled to death that you can provide for your kids. It’s time to step up for the kids who eat school lunch because it’s free and that’s all their family can afford. It’s up to you moms and dads that pack your kids lunch to fight for those kids because let me tell you, if their parents can’t fill the cupboards they probably can’t be the advocates their kids need them to be. With literally millions of school kids receiving free or reduced lunch there are a lot of kids that need your help.
What are you going to do to ensure the other kids in your kid’s class get enough to eat at school?
Stay tuned for part 3 tomorrow…. I have a lot to say about this….