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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.

13 comments to No Longer Silent

  • I totally agree with your letter. My sister used to cook at the high school in our district, she quit when it was no longer cooking but opening frozen food bags. there are alot of children who never eat anything that doesn't come from a package but the schools could be the start to something new to them, plus it is much cheaper usually to make food from scratch instead of prepared foods.

    I hope you get some answer. Johnita

  • Renee

    This is fantastic! I have felt the same way for so long and your letter states it perfectly. I can't wait to see the response you get!

  • Kim…that is a truly awesome letter. I think anyone who watched Jamie Oliver was probably disgusted by what is being served in school cafeterias. I know I was. To think that flavored jello is considered a fruit is beyond rediculous! Since that show, I have also been packing Amanda's lunch four days a week and letting her pick one day to buy school lunch. I think we all need to be "Real Food Warriors" in our own homes as well as reaching out to schools and further! I'm always amazed when we go out to a restaurant and see the same chicken tenders, hot dogs and mac n' cheese on the kid's menu! Maybe if more people speak up, something will be done.

    I hope you get an answer from your school district and will share it with all of us.

    Lisa

  • AWESOME letter! Good for you!

  • Vickie

    I had hoped that by now schools would have made a conscious decision to truly teach children how to eat and what to eat that will really help them to grow well. This is the same "garbage" kind of meal served to my children who now are 30 and 26! Back then I rarely allowed them to buy lunch for this very reason! I applaud your letter and challenge other parents around the country to do the same. Maybe it is time to pay a visit to a school board meeting?

    Wish you the very best!!!

  • Michelle

    Kim – Wasn't sure if you heard about another Central Ohio school district making changes in their menus. Growing up in the Huntington, WV area (where Jamie Oliver's show was shot) and having two young children with food restrictions, I was so happy to hear about Granville's school district switching from processed, frozen foods to locally grown fresh foods instead. Read more in the article entitled Tater Tots – I Think Not: http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/s

  • You go, girl!!

    Michelle – great article! Glad to know other people are stepping up to the plate!

  • Kim

    Thank you all!

    Michelle – I sent a follow up email this AM and included the link to that article! I am so impressed – the price is only going up $.10 per lunch next year for students? There is no reason not to do this. Kudos to the Granville school district for doing this for their children!

  • David A.

    Kim,

    Fantastic and eye opening letter. When I was in middle school in the early 90s I remember on "Curly Fry" day most kids would spend $4 dollars on two containers of the fries, that was their whole lunch. If you didn't go that route you got pizza or Sloppy Joes in a Fritos bag. Also, in the morning we had the option of buying raw cookie dough to snack on. It is amazing to think back on those days, it seems like no one knew any better. I am glad, for my future kid's sake, that things are changing.

  • Tiago

    Hi Kim,

    It's a shame that regular people don't have a clue of the damage a modern diet can wreck on their health. I blame this mostly on doctors, who are doing a very bad job of actually connecting many diseases with nutrition. Unfortunately, it's not all their fault but also our own.

    It has become so common to eat huge amounts of fast food and food in huge quantities, that people generally have no idea of what is good for them anymore.

    This is even worse because we now have not just tater tots and hamburgers but a huge pressure towards refined foods that are able to be kept in storage without degrading for longer periods of time.

    I saw Jamie Oliver's TED presentation a short while ago and I must say I admire what he's doing in the US. We certainly need more people like him, so thanks for sharing your thoughts! It will certainly help towards his goal.

    I had the luck of being introduced to most of Jamie's thoughts on nutrition before I became aware of his effort because of a personal quest of mine to improve my health and I found a book that was life changing:

    Healthy At 100 by John Robbins

    If you have the chance, have a look as this is an excellent book that thoroughly explains much about modern nutrition and it's downfalls, in an extraordinary amount of detail.

    Congratulations on your website and keep up the excellent work around here.

    Best regards

  • [...] district not too far from ours had adopted some very healthy practices in their schools. Here is my original post. ┬áThis is my follow up email: To Whom it May [...]

  • Kim

    Tiago,

    Thank you! I will see if I can check that book out from the library. :)

    Kim

  • This makes me want to cry. The food industry is all about the $$. You ask if they would serve soda- sure they would, and they do have machines- it's all about the money. The milk they serve- all about the money. :( The worst part for me is knowing that most kids don't go home to real food either.

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