Kids don’t like school lunches | Letter

Aug 31, 2016

Editor, The Beacon:

What do you know about the meal programs at your local Title 1 government school? How well does it work? Do large amounts of food get wasted?

When the federal government builds a one-size-fits-all system, how effective do you suppose it becomes? It seems not so much.

Sometime ago, Michelle Obama, under a POTUS directive, championed the idea of rewriting the old school lunch menus so that they follow new and improved nutritional guidelines.

Typical of how the federal government works, bureaucrats in the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed choice at the local level and replaced it with menus that impose new federal government calorie, sodium, sugar and fat limits.

The USDA enforces these new limits with fines and other punishments when government schools choose not to comply.

Since then, we have learned some truths about the new nutritional guidelines: Kids do not like them.

Where the USDA requires menus to include fruits and vegetables, the kids either do not purchase these meals or a large portion of them end up in the garbage. Most would be surprised at just how much; at least I was.

Some government schools, prompted by student petitions, have opted out because the USDA rules have become so onerous. Add to this the reduction in reimbursements and the losses because the kids won’t buy the food being offered, and the program looks less and less attractive.

So what to do? One consideration is to teach the students how to make the right or healthier food choices, rather than requiring them to take fruits and vegetables they don’t want.

It comes down to education and trust. Making their own choices applies not only to school meals but also dinner and on the weekends.

Perhaps it is time for our local government schools to opt out of another very wasteful and counter productive federal program and trust their students to make healthier choices all the time.

That would be a good thing for kids, don’t you think?

Sincerely yours,

Terrill Cox,

Mukilteo

Comments (1)
Posted by: Patti McBride | Sep 07, 2016 11:20

The USDA's National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program was launched about three years ago and, as Mr. Cox expressed in his opinion piece, has been met with apprehension by schools and by students. School districts across the nation have been surveyed to determine where and if the mandates in the program can be revised to help with increasing costs that local schools have encountered in trying to meet the nutritional requirements, as well as alternative foods that may be more appealing to students at all grade levels, and which still fulfill the nutritional requirements. Google the topic federal guidelines for school lunches 2016 to read feedback on this topic. I believe this may be one federal program, if not abandoned and funded properly, that may have long-term benefits for the majority of school-aged youth in this country.

 

The overriding purpose of this program is to provide balanced, nutritional meals to students who buy breakfast or lunch at their schools. Regardless of income, everyone is offered the same food. Some of these students come from homes where balanced, nutritional meals are offered on a limited basis, if at all. So, in effect, this may be their first exposure to food that is good for their minds and bodies. As with so many aspects of child rearing, repetition is key to instilling good eating habits. Unfortunately, not every child is exposed to healthy eating habits through family education or through their local school. Financial hardships and access to nutritional foods can also be barriers. The National Lunch and School Breakfast Program was, in part, designed to help bridge these gaps. Unfortunately, this aspect of the program has been overshadowed by calls to toss out these requirements because students aren’t choosing to eat the foods being offered. Reports of waste and discarded food have “pundits” harking back to the days when students called the shots on what they wanted to eat and schools could make these foods cheaper.

 

Mr. Cox suggests that one remedy is to teach students how to make healthier food choices rather than requiring them to take fruits and vegetables they don’t want. In a perfect world, this makes absolute sense. Teachers and parents across the nation would jointly educate kids on the benefits of eating nutritional foods and, in theory, this would help eliminate protests from all sides. He also suggests that our local schools should consider opting out of another wasteful government program. One can certainly agree that from a historical viewpoint most government programs have produced waste in terms of money and resources. Does this mean that after three years we should call for scrapping the entire program and go back to what “kids like to eat” at the risk of continuing to be the most obese nation on earth? Or, should the program continue to receive input and the guidelines revised as needed? I believe this is a program that deserves time to be tweaked and hopefully produce better results each passing year.

 

Patti McBride

Mukilteo



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