The Lunch Line Blues


Let’s take a quick break from the recipes…

School lunches in the US are pathetic.  For all the talk about this country as the richest in the world, you would never know it by looking at the garbage that we feed to our schoolchildren.  It’s a complicated issue to solve, I’m sure, and one that is compounded by several factors – lack of diet and nutrition education, funding from junk food companies (Coke and Pepsi, I’m looking at you), food contracts awarded to the lowest bidders, decrease in physical education, and an education system that is underfunded to begin with.

Adding to the problem is the undeniable fact that many kids don’t use their lunch money to purchase a well-balanced meal (if even possible).  At my high school, $2.50 would buy you a full lunch, complete with meat, veggies, fruits, bread, and milk.  OR it could buy a soda, french fries, and pack of cookies.  Guess what the kids choose?

Now, I left public education a while ago, but not much has changed since then.  Kids are still eating french fries by the handful, and those corn-syrup-infused fruit cups are still the closest thing to fresh produce that move in the lunch line.

School lunch collage

School lunch collage. Photo from NPR.com

NPR recently ran a brief article about school lunches across the world – the article isn’t very informative, but there’s an interesting slide show to look over.  Notice the French lunch comes with a full artichoke and a bowl of mussels – imagine giving that to a kid in the states!  In the collage above, the French lunch is top left corner.

While the NPR collage is cool, the article doesn’t provide much insight into the problems facing our school cafeterias.  But don’t fear, the renegade lunch lady is here.  Ann Cooper is the director of nutrition services for the Berkley, CA school district, and she is unbelievable passionate about feeding kids good, healthy food.

I encourage you to watch her talk below (it’s definitely entertaining and informative).  She rails against processed foods and pushes for food education and sustainable farming – she actually runs vegetable gardens at her schools, and students participate in the planting, tending, and harvesting of their veggies.  Cool, huh?

So, encourage the kids in your life to eat healthy lunches and not fall prey to the cherry coke and french fry diet.  It’s a hard habit to kick, and they’ll thank you later.

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