"Lunch Lessons" for Parents
In my last blog posting I was upset about fast-food philanthropy brought to us courtesy of our friends at NewsCorp, owners of Fox and American Idol. I had criticized the Idol Gives Back spectacle as a hollow "attempt to create a diet based on vitamin-fortified french fries."
Little did I know that this is the prevailing strategy in many school lunch programs. CNN.com reports that "Schools acquire taste for faux-junk food." I saw that headline and wondered what exactly was "faux junk food." I mean, if it is already junk, how can it be "faux?" Turns scools are adopting a strategy that cuts fat and calories by "furtively supplementing hamburgers with soy and subbing applesauce for shortening in cake." In West Virginia, deep fried breakfast donuts are "fortified with 5 grams of protein and 14 minerals and vitamins."
I was surprised to see that the director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest was quoted by CNN.com as supporting the faux-junk food offerings as "helpful" and "part of the solution."
Count me as appalled. We are barely feeding our kids food in this case. And what happens when they grow up with a taste for burgers and donuts and (non-fortified) "pancake on a stick." What will they eat once they make their own food choices?
I emailed this article to a friend and she told me that our neighboring-county schools are not allowed to have knives in the school kitchen, as it would pose a liability risk. So the cafeteria workers are only allowed to use box cutters to open the massive cardboard boxes full of frozen foods. We have local farms that could supply the schools with produce, but you'll need more than box cutters to prepare fresh food.
There are calls for sanity out there. Alice Waters of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley has started the Edible Schoolyard movement that aims to provide kids a real meal at school. Think about how important that is for the children who count on school breakfast and lunches as the most reliable meals of the day. When Alice Waters calls for a "Delicious Revolution" it makes my mouth water. I taught at a school in San Francisco that followed her advice and I can tell you that the excellent fresh food was a huge benefit. I taught until I was seven months pregnant and I am happy to report that my school lunches kept me going during a very energetically draining time.
As individual parents I can recommend that we look at our school cafeteria offerings and send our kids to school with a healthy packed lunch if necessary. The book Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children provides dozens of kid-friendly recipes, nutritional information, and resources.
I admit I am the first one to need to study a few lunch and dinner lessons. My 7-year-old has become very set in her ways and only likes a handful of meals. My strategy is to start cooking more as a family this summer. We do have one recent victory to declare. She has decided that she will eat broccoli, as long as I am not looking!