Monday, February 13, 2012

Does a Healthy School Lunch Affect a Child's Behavior or Learning?

Tossed Salad anyone?
My daughter is 42. When she was in school I insisted on a boxed lunch. Why? I wanted to make sure she got a good meal. I did not trust what she would be fed in school. We did not qualify for free or reduced lunch and I could not see paying for the garbage they feed the children. She did not agree with me. She did not think it was cool to carry a lunch box, even if all the other kids wanted her lunch. She had a cool lunch box. I filled it with really good food that she traded for the lunches made in school. The other children really appreciated the food I made her. In the middle school, her principal even commented on how good her lunches looked and smelled. By middle school she was selling her carefully prepared meals for money. What can I say? She was very enterprising. 

The average American
school lunch?
When I attended Dwight Morrow high school in Englewood, New Jersey, there was a collection of round ladies wearing hair nets behind the petition separating the kitchen from the lunch pick up area. The smells that filled the cafeteria were very much like the ones from home. When one selected mashed potatoes, one knew they were going to eat mashed potatoes. Macaroni and cheese was made with real cheese, eggs and butter. It was good. Turkey squares were the favorite of all us all. I think they were served on Thursdays, especially near Thanksgiving. We looked forward to them. There were real green vegetables. Of course, we knew that some of the vegetables came from a can, but they were still palatable and made by ladies who waved to you from the kitchen. It was a balanced meal based on the FDA's basic food groups.

Spinach w/turkey bacon, mushrooms
There has been a lot of coverage given to school lunches in the news today. Perhaps it is because of the interest shown to the subject by our First Lady, Michelle Obama. She and Rachel Ray teamed up to visit schools and made an effort to revamp school lunch regulations.  Jane Black of All We Can Eat wrote, "More than 500 chefs gathered at the White House today to join Michelle Obama's newest effort to fight childhood obesity, Chefs Move To Schools."

Public domain image:
Across the country parents and communities are talking about school lunches. For years, educators and medical professionals have agreed that a lunch laden with carbohydrates do nothing to stimulate a child's brain activity. Included in this blog are Dr. Oz's Shopping suggestions. The human body turns everything on the school lunch plate above into sugar. The styrofoam plate is also a problem if the macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes are served hot. The tray is also not biodegradable. It will sit around on the landfill for 100 years, maybe even forever. Some schools are beginning to go green, but until the trays are piling up in front of our doors, some people will never listen. These trays have no recyclable value. Why are we continually giving students mixed messages? We can't talk Green Team in one breath and serve them unhealthy meals on styrofoam trays while we speak. No one wants the used trays. They are totally NOT recyclable. Why are companies still making them? If the schools stop using them, there would no longer be a market for them. So why, you ask are our children still being served globs of carbohydrates on them? Ask your local Board of Education.

From my garden
We must all become involved in keeping the earth green and clean. Every school should have an environmental club or class that focuses on the effort to save the planet. Every child should and every parent must protest the use of styrofoam lunch trays for school lunches. It is bad enough that the food served on them is processed to the point that it no longer has any nutritional value. What ever happened to the old adage, "you are what you eat." Think on that for a second or two. Is there no wonder that today's children seem to have more and varied behavioral problems. There are people all over the country who are making the effort to get it right. That is behavior that we should emulate. It is time the New Jersey State Department of Education started to understand why New Jersey has been nicknamed the "GARDEN STATE." More of that fresh produce must begin make its way into the daily lunches in our cafeterias. We must use every strategy at our disposal to support our children as they endeavor to close the Achievement GAP so prevalent in today's educational system.

 New Jersey Nutrition and Wellness
What are folks saying about School Lunches?
Success Stories: They got it right
STYRENE: Increase your knowledge of this potentially dangerous product on which your child's food is served daily.
Alternatives to Styrofoam

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