It is said that there will always be a teacher who you will forever recall, who ‘stood out’. Well, there was Mr. Rossi who was dreamy (to an 8 year old), but there was also a wonderful English teacher (who happened to have been from India) who always stated ‘ to only write about subjects you know of’. That has always stayed in my mind, and so I am going to apologize here and step away from her sage advice, and comment on the school lunch program.
The school lunch program : “The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946.”
I think we can all recoil when tomato paste (for pizza) was termed a vegetable in that program (or was), and the much beloved ketchup is 24% sugar. Yes, children love ketchup but surely it is what they are used to, and if they were given healthier and nicer tasting choices, they would ‘relish’ the food? I know that Michelle Obama’s heart was in the right place with her healthier lunch choices, but many children hated the lunches, and data stated that many lunches were not eaten and thrown out, and yet another study cited that the lunch program made the children overweight.
I rather like the school lunch program I read about taking place in the Penn-Trafford High School in Pennsylvania where they have a food court set up with many healthy choices, and it is a big success. There is a deli and panini station, a grill, pizza station, and a main course station. Their sales are up, the students are happy, and those who are eligible for free lunches are still receiving them.
It makes me think when I was a child, back in England. We were all given a small bottle of milk at snack time which of course would be frowned upon today with so many allergies, but back then it worked. Lunch consisted of our neighborhood aunts, moms, who made the lunches, and we were greeted with warm, smiley faces at lunch-time from people who happily served nutritious home made style food in the cafeteria setting. It was something to look forward to. IN reading about the Penn Trafford High School which lost approx. $40,000 of reimbursement funds from the government by opting out of the school lunch program, the school has actually sold $50,000 in their cafeteria. More importantly, the children are happy, and surely healthier too?
I greatly enjoyed Jamie Oliver’s television show the other year when he traveled around California, and elsewhere in the U.S. trying to revamp the school lunch program. He not only taught the children better food habits, but showed (where allowed) the children how to prepare better foods, and in turn the schools how to prepare the foods on a budget and how delicious they could be. Unfortunately, many schools did not even allow him in. Sad.
Our children are our future, and nutrition is so important. Fresh vegetables and fruits are important, but I guess seeing a lone apple on a plate wasn’t attractive. But, how about a baked apple ? Banana bread (made with fruit juices and not sugar, carrot cake. How about spaghetti squash? Spinach lasagna? Nutritional soups? Shepherd’s pie (an old English favorite but it can be layered with carrots, onions, and the spices can be chile or plain, and the top layer could be sweet potatoes !). A stuffed pepper? A cucumber and onion salad with grilled chicken? A chickpea salad ? An orzo and vegetable salad? Couscous with fresh vegetables? Have you ever had shredded carrots with lime and cilantro ? How about International week highlighting foods from around the world and incorporating that into our children’s learning curriculum? Another way for us to appreciate different cultures and to appreciate and learn from each other.
I can recall making a vegetable plate for each of my child’s classmates when it was my turn to bring in the ‘snack’. How I made it edible was to fashion a person’s face with the vegetables; shredded carrots for the hair, a cherry tomato for the nose, peppers for the ears, and so forth… rather like a Mister Potato head but with veggies! Of course schools do not have the time to do anything like that, but surely a little creativity would go a long way to make the children healthier, happier, and achieve those great grades!
I also came across a wonderful website featuring some quite creative and nourishing lunch suggestions. http://homesthetics.net/school-lunch-ideas/
So while some can lament on losing Michelle’s program effort, I think this would be the perfect time in which to revamp the program which she initiated and just make it better..
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