Wouldn’t a world be wonderful where every American school child ate everything the dieticians said was good for them and avoided all the things the dieticians said were bad for them?! And cleaned their plates every time while they were at it?! Some ivory tower types, aided and abetted by Washington politicians, think they know what is best for all of us, and have decreed that schools that don’t move in this direction will lose federal funds for school lunch programs. They especially have salt and non-whole-grain flour in their sights.
But then most of us actually live in the real world where kids prefer fruit loops and frosted pop tarts to bran cereal, French fries and pizza to mixed vegetables, and Gatorade and sugared pop to non-fat milk. We live in a world where getting kids to eat what we as parents and school lunch officials put in front of them, let alone clean their plates, is a daily challenge. While many children around the world, and even here in America, go hungry on a daily basis, most students deposit some, if not all, of their lunches into the trash instead of their stomachs. This goes for the students paying for their lunches as well as those on free or reduced-price lunches subsidized by the taxpayers. As a former teacher, I am glad I don’t have to try to get those hungry students to concentrate on the material I would be presenting in an after-lunch class!
So those of us concerned with public policy and the health and education of students are faced with the fundamental question of whether a student who eats a less than optimal lunch is better off academically and health wise than a student who tosses his unpalatable lunch. As Lynda Wheeler in an article in The Hill entitled “USDA Delays Healthy School Lunch Requirements” quoted United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue as saying, “It doesn’t do any good to serve nutritious meals if they end up in the trash can.” Obviously, the trick is to find that “magic midpoint” between appealing and nutritious that will get the students to eat the food that is better for them. Do you think that is most likely to be accomplished by local school cooks who know their students or by a “one size fits all edict” from Washington, D. C.?
Under the prodding of first lady Michelle Obama, the previous administration was pushing schools more towards the nutritious end of the spectrum and the result was more waste, less food consumed, and more students going off to class hungry. The Trump Administration has therefore released an interim final rule allowing schools more time to make the required changes. Again quoting Perdue from The Hill article, “Based on the feedback we’ve gotten from students, schools, and food service professionals in local schools across America, it’s clear that many still face challenges incorporating some of the meal pattern requirements.” The School Nutrition Association (SNA) commended the federal government for giving schools more time to comply. I agree with the SNA, and if you do also, I encourage you to let the politicians from your local school board to the White House know it.