School Lunch. We either love it or hate it.
I recently read an article about how the New Nutrition Standards May Make Students Healthier but Hurt the Bottom Line. It was the second paragraph that grabbed my attention:
“We don’t really buy school food because it’s disgusting, but the snack food is good,” Hannah said.
Hannah is an 8th Grader.
As you may know, I recently attended the School Nutrition Association’s conference in Kansas City. Before that I served two terms as PTA President, and even before that, I am the mom to five children, who have all eaten school cafeteria lunch.
As the mom I was the parent who was outspoken when Smuckers Uncrustables came up at the dinner table with my children. I could not believe schools were serving it! Turns out, I didn’t have enough information to voice that complaint. Smuckers Uncrustables have a K-12 line that offers offers 10 grams of Protein vs. the Consumer Smuckers Uncrustable‘s 6 grams of protein. Fiber on the school version is 3 grams while the home version is 2 grams.
As the PTA President, I can tell you so many situations where “Johnny” came to school Monday morning for breakfast–the first meal he had had since school lunch on Friday. Stories where a teacher or janitor paid for a child’s SECOND lunch because they were so hungry.
Balancing it all falls on the School Nutrition Association.
New national nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast program are, like the article says, bringing healthy changes to school cafeterias.
It’s going to take more than an 8th grader saying “school lunch is disgusting”. It’s going to take more than me calling the principal in a tizzy because I don’t think Smuckers Uncrustables are acceptable. Schools need the support of PARENTS and their communities to make positive changes. Here’s where I direct you to www.TrayTalk.org to find details and examples of successful initiatives.
But what I really want to say is it begins with US–the grown-ups. It is going to take more than us just bagging a lunch for our kiddos.
I met Marilyn Moody, senior director of child nutrition services for the Wake County school system, and we had honest-heart-to-heart discussions about what is happening in school cafeterias. She has a $50 million yearly budget, which $10 million of the comes from snack food sales. This is a la carte, the Federal Government’s regulations don’t impact a la carte until July 1, 2014. In Wake County, the 16th largest school district in the nation, K-5 is currently meeting the regulations, however “our specialty entrees at middle and high will have too much sodium to stand alone as an a la carte purchase. (As part of the complete meal, they are fine.)”
- Students must take at least one fruit or vegetable serving per meal
- Schools must offer dark green vegetables, orange/red vegetables and legumes at least once a week.
Transition to Whole Grains:
- At least half of all grains served at lunch must be whole grain rich
- By the start of the 2014-2015 school year, all grains must be whole grain rich
Requires milk to be 1% or nonfat.
- Flavored milk must be nonfat
Limits on fat:
- No more than 10% of calories can come from saturated fat and schools must eliminate added trans-fat
Establishes maximum calorie and sodium limits for meals (sodium limits are phased in over ten years).
Weekly limits on the amount of grains and proteins served with school meals have been temporarily lifted. Congress is currently considering legislation to permanently repeal these weekly grain and protein limits. This legislation would protect calorie maximums, but provide schools more flexibility in menu planning.
Schools receive an additional six cents per lunch (not breakfast) to meet these new standards.
To help ease the financial burden of meeting these new standards, schools were given additional time to meet meal pattern requirements for school breakfast.
- Starting in July 2013, school breakfasts must meet limits on calories and trans-fat and half of all grains offered with breakfast must be whole grain rich.
Think about all of that. Could you create a meal, that includes all of these items, meet the regulations and do it for $1.15 per family member (not including the cost of milk)?
I encourage each of us to have lunch at least once this upcoming school year. Taste the food. If you don’t like the taste, let someone know. I can tell you walking the SNA convention floor, there are many options. I joined Doug Davis and we were on a quest to find a grab-n-go breakfast–the options were many and there was a huge difference in taste (and in the end, cost).
Seek to be the change that creates a lunch menu at your school that works with your school’s budget and your child’s palate.