More on School Lunches (and National Security)

It turns out that the U.S. military agrees with me. Or at least group of retired officers does. Nonprofit group Mission: Readiness, Military Leaders for Kids has released a report which says that one-fourth of young adults aged 17-24 are unfit for military service because of weight issues. Which makes obesity a national security issue. So now Mission: Readiness is interested in making school lunches healthier.

That’s not really what I was going for here — making school lunches healthier so that kids can grow up to be good soldiers? I was thinking more along the lines of doing it so they WON’T die. But at least they’re interested in better nutrition? I’m not sure what to think.

Here are some additional school lunch links for those who are interested:

Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project – Mrs. Q is a public school employee who is eating the school lunch right along with the kids every day in 2010 and reporting on it.

Tales from a D.C. School Kitchen is a blog series from January 2010 by Ed Bruske on The Slow Cook. He spent a week in a District of Columbia elementary school kitchen, observing how food is prepared and served.

Revolution Foods was profiled in the New York Times in January 2010; it’s a company that contracts with schools to provide healthy, freshly-cooked meals made with natural and organic foods. Sample menu: “All-natural honey-glazed chicken with roasted potatoes and garlic braised collard greens.” But the main problem with programs like this? Money.  Oakland Unified School District, for instance, where Revolution Foods is located, is unable to afford this service due to low government reimbursement rates. They have, however, made significant improvements to their meal programs over the past several years.

Berkeley Unified School District, on the other hand, has started a School Lunch Initiative, in partnership with the Chez Panisse Foundation and the Center for Ecoliteracy. They’ve made sweeping changes to their school lunch menus, including use of local and organic ingredients. Perhaps private philanthropy is part of the solution, if the government can’t afford to subsidize healthier food?

Finally, an answer to a Twitter question. @kitchenmage asked — as a serious question, not trying to get people mad – “How many of you parents who hate school lunches are letting your kids eat them? Why?”

Yes, my kids do eat the school lunch, and the school breakfast. We are on the free lunch program, and it does help financially.  They do get healthy food at home, and they’re smart enough to make good choices like white milk instead of chocolate at least some of the time.

But even if I were making lunches for my kids, I would still care about what all of the kids get to eat. I work in a school. I know they don’t all get to eat properly at home. I’ve seen the kids who bring a bag of cold food from McDonalds for lunch, or a donut, chips and a Capri Sun.

We need to do better for everyone.


Image: heebs lunch, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from crd’s photostream