For a long time now, public schools have fed children garbage and pretty much gotten away with it because parents have allowed it. Taken a look at your child’s lunch lately? It may not be quite as awful as when you were a kid, but it’s still pretty damn bad. National research agrees: Most school meals are high in fat, sodium, and high-calorie/low-nutrient desserts, and low on whole grain products and veggies. Fries are the preferred vegetable of choice, according to most school boards.
The good news is that educational institutions are starting to realize this. According to this report, fruit and whole grains have more appearances from 2006 to 2010 in cafeterias, while the number of salty snacks and baked goods offered has fallen over the same span. More political leaders are taking it upon themselves to offer their words, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has recently proposed that calories and sodium levels be limited, while whole grains, fruits and vegetables are phased-in to augment nutrition. Now, how do we get kids to eat the good stuff?
About 40 percent of students buy at least one snack while at school, and about 70 percent buy at least one sugary drink, so regardless of whether they know what they’re eating isn’t good for them, the challenge is getting them to stop. Laws preventing high-calorie snacks and sodas would help prevent schools from being as plainly responsible as they have been in the past, and at that point it would be up to the discretion of the parent to pack their child a snack or soda for lunch.
Perhaps potential loss of profit is a detriment to the promotion of healthier lunches, as losing out on revenues gained from vending machines may further squeeze a school’s already dry budget? This study suggests that schools are more concerned with “doing the right thing” than helping the bottom line, but that creating access to healthier foods while eliminating bad foods would not hurt budgets either. Let’s hope this is the case.