There's lots of talk about school lunch these days. Good things, bad things, in between things. At the root we all know that what our kids put in their bodies is important for so many reasons. We all know that lunch provided at school may be a child's only meal of the day. Yet, so many school districts in this country aren't providing the very best for the kids. I know, there are many reasons. The one I hear the most is 'this is all we can afford to serve to the kids'. Luckily, many schools are creating school gardens or partnering with local farms and restaurants in order to feed the kids. Unfortunately, my daughter's school district is not one of them. Fortunately, we are not in the position that she needs to eat the school provided meal each day. I make her lunch most days and think I make it healthy but fun. But let's take a look at what our school district is serving this week for lunch
Breaded Baked Chicken and 'crinkle' fries
Chicken Parmesan Sandwich
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Chili Cheese Dog
Breakfast for lunch (usually french toast sticks & a sausage patty)
In addition to these 'special entrees' as they are called, the following is available each day: Chicken patty sandwich, Hamburger, Ham & Cheese sandwich, Turkey & Cheese sandwich, Tuna Sandwich & PB&J sandwich.
The children select one of the above and 2 or 3 'side dishes' - Milk(chocolate and white) is considered a side dish. As are: carrots(bagged, baby), animal crackers, yogurt, grapes(bagged), lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli & juice boxes. Note that you cannot really make a salad unless you don't want a drink (or your salad consists of lettuce & one vegetable).
Our school district has nutritional information on their website and most of these lunches, amazingly, fall within the 'guidelines' - I haven't researched where the guidelines are from but I assume they are USDA guidelines. Most days the menus go over the calorie guideline by about 10% but fat appears to be under 30% each day.
No cooking is done in the 'kitchens' at our elementary school, only heating up in a microwave when needed. We recently went from styrofoam lunch trays (oh, the landfills) to red plastic, reusable baskets.
I think these meals are disgraceful (breakfast is no better) but from talking to people at school and other parents nobody seems terribly concerned. Mostly because their children don't have to eat this food; they can pick and choose the days they do (we have a 'Dominos pizza day' once a month or so). Imagine though that this is the one 'hot' meal your child gets all day. There are kids at our school that are in that situation.
Imagine also, that we lived in France where the lunches offered at school were things we would serve at dinnertime in our homes. Please look at Karen Le Billon's website and see the French school lunch menu project she talks about. I look forward to those posts every week. Karen also just wrote a fabulous book called 'French Kids Eat Everything' which I am reading (and loving) right now.
What kind of lunches does the cafeteria at your child's school serve?