This year, school lunches have been revamped. The Federal School lunch program has instituted new guidelines making school meals healthier. They need to contain fewer calories; be smaller portion sizes; and consist of more fruits and vegetables. WGRZ, Channel 2, visited a few local schools and chronicled their experience with the new guidelines, in their “You pay for it,” segment. In summary, they found a great deal of lunch waste. Many students were throwing out the healthier selections from their tray, a.k.a. fruit and vegetables. Some students were even throwing out the entire thing and buying food out of the vending machine. School officials from both schools discussed the growing pains of the new guidelines. One administrator discussed the school’s ever present search for more kid friendly healthy options. While another administrator felt there should be choice between the healthy option of, say whole grain bread, and the standard white bread option. Students who were interviewed just seemed dismayed and a little hungry. The segment spoke of how ultimately this waste is our tax dollars at waste, as students throw their lunches away, and the subsidy that is attached to them for all schools.
Where do you stand on the issue? For my family, it is more of a personal non-issue. My children brown bag it 99.9 percent of the time. They have bought an entire lunch once on pizza day and had no problem with eating the accompanying vegetable (older vegetable loving daughter) and fruit (younger fruit loving daughter). Would I feel differently if my children bought more or all of the time? Personally, I like what the new guidelines are trying to do. Obesity is an epidemic in our country, hitting young people particularly hard. Obesity rates have tripled among children in the last 30 years, with more than 20% of children ages 6-11, and 18% of 12-18 year olds being classified as obese according to the Center for Disease Control.
Current rates of obesity among children are startling! The smaller portions, whole grains, fruit and vegetable emphasis is our home’s emphasis too. We strive to be healthy eaters (while I will be the first to tell you I have a raging sweet tooth that puts chocolate as close to necessity in this household, as my extra-virgin olive oil). I am fortunate to be able to eat well. I am informed and choose to put our household money towards this type of food. What if you are not informed? What if you do not have the financial means to pack a healthy lunch? What if you are both? Anyone who shops regularly can tell you it is cheaper to not eat healthy than to buy healthier items. Or what if you are informed and have your child buy her lunch regularly, because it is easier and more convenient than making one every day?
Do you applaud the government’s move to enforce stricter guidelines or would you look at it as an infringement on your personal rights. There are some that would say this is another example of the nanny state. Yet would you say with all the evidence about cigarette smoking, the government should not tax and fund education against tobacco use. Does an obesity epidemic trump everything and mandate such a move? Should young people be involved in their school lunch program’s planning process when it comes to making a menu? Is this just too broad of a sweep to be realistic? Those who are not eating any lunch are not gaining anything out of this program. Does intense education need to occur both in the classroom and with outreach into the home? Does this just need to start at home? Let me know your thoughts. I am very interested in your feedback on this important issue.