No Longer Silent

This blog is normally all about living life gluten-free, but today I am going to stray a bit. Not much, though, as healthy eating has always been one of my main focuses whether it be gluten-free or not. I have been questioning for years the menus that are served by the schools to our children. I started to notice this problem when Jon was in preschool and the school made a big deal about lunches that were packed by parents. The lunches had to have the correct servings of meat, dairy, carbs, fruits & veggies, even if they came from home. I had no problems with that. My concerns started when Jon chose to start buying lunch a few days a week. Tater tots & potato chips were considered “veggies”. I was in disbelief that anyone could consider a tater tot a veggie. Not only that, but how dare the school question the quality of the food I was choosing to feed my child all while serving the types of lunches they were serving.

I noticed the trend continuing as Jon entered grade school and then Hannah later on. I always just shook my head and then chose to pack their lunches most days of the week and let them buy once a week, as a treat. I never spoke up before because I knew I was just one voice in a sea of thousands. However, after Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. I had lunch with Hannah at school yesterday (I ate before I went as I knew that eating gluten-free would be hard) and was so upset by what I saw. I decided that now was the time for a letter. Will it make any difference? I have no idea, but I will never find out if I don’t try, right? Here is the letter I sent:

To Whom it May Concern:

I had the pleasure of eating lunch with my 2nd grader at school today. I enjoyed her company, as well as the other children. However, I was appalled at the food served in the cafeteria.

Also having an 8th grade son in the district, I have questioned the menus over the years, but never bothered to speak up, until now. I have often wondered how fries, tater tots and hash browns are considered vegetables and how fruit flavored sherbet, juice bars and fruited gelatin are considered fruits. After watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, I can’t keep quiet any longer. This man went on a crusade that I have been preaching in my house for years. Kudos to him for doing what he is doing. What I wonder is why aren’t more schools across the country doing this already or making changes to implement healthier food in our schools?

While eating lunch today I observed a lot. Out of my daughter’s class, one child had white milk and the rest had chocolate & strawberry. The flavored milks have more sugar than a soda! Would you serve the children a soda for lunch in school? I think not. It is no wonder these kids can’t sit still in school! It is no wonder they can’t focus. I also caught sight of some red flavored, Kool-Aid like liquid being sold in a bottle. The meal consisted of fish shaped nuggets (processed & high in sodium, no doubt), “chips”/French fries, Goldfish crackers and lime flavored sherbet. There was no fruit or veggie in that meal. In addition, children who opted for the “meat-free” version received Trix yogurt (loaded with sugar), string cheese, graham crackers & lime flavored sherbet. There was no fruit and not even what the schools classify as a veggie in that meal. Several children ate the main course (fish nuggets), left the rest & then went back for seconds of the fish nuggets. There was no supervision over the eating. Nothing besides reminders to quiet down and get silverware, napkins or ketchup for the kids.

What saddens me most about this is that a lot of this children don’t have a choice. They eat what is served to them. Either mom or dad doesn’t pack their lunch for whatever reason and the children end up depending on the school to nourish them, and I use the term “nourish” loosely. The menus show pictures of whole apples, broccoli, carrots, corn & strawberries, yet they don’t seem to be a staple on the menus. The menu states “Students must select at least three of the meal components daily, but are not required to take all five”. So, what stops a child from taking the Hot Dog, Baked beans & Frito Lay Snack or the Waffle Sticks, Sausage & Donut Hole? I didn’t see anyone checking the children’s trays. It has been reported that children often have to try a food 10 – 12 times before they like it. If a switch were to be made to healthier choices, the children may balk at first, but they will adjust and most likely be a lot healthier in the long run.

I am sure that I am not the only parent that has brought this to your attention, but on the off chance that I am, think about this: “Our mission is to facilitate maximum learning for every student”. I am not sure how the district’s mission statement can be upheld when children aren’t being offered proper nutrition in the lunchroom.

I will make sure to share any follow-ups that I receive. I am not holding my breath, but rest assured, this will not be the last time I will address this. The health of my children, the children of the US, our future teachers, doctors and leaders are at stake.

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