I told myself I was going to look into this school lunch thing. Its really important, I mean I would daresay at least 40% or the children at big sassy's school eat lunch program once a week, at least 1/3 eat it daily and a large number eat the breakfast provided. Its just so overwhelming. There is so much information, so much to slog through and everything points to the fact that these foods are NOT FOODS PEOPLE. But its a government funded program and that must mean that they are healthy foods, right? Right? Most people agree, all sorts of foundations and organizations are toting the belief that we need to cut out sugars, salts, trans fats and exercise more. Very few seem to be really addressing the heart of this issue though and figuring out what to do when your child is in school eating school lunch.
I have battled in my own home getting rid of processed foods and hearing from so many people with serious health problems (diabetes, severe asthma, serious weight problems, gluten intolerances etc.) saying to me that they grew up fine eating all this stuff so my kids should too. I want to scream from the roof tops that your not "fine", at what point do you stop perpetuating the cycle?
I literally still battle every single day to not allow junk food and highly processed foods in my cart at the store. I don't see why this shouldn't extend to the food at school. I mean not complicated involved menus, but simple, yummy, kid friendly food. Something to fuel their bodies and strengthen their minds. I don't need a lovely organic garden grown outside the kitchen doors with Jamie Oliver cooking the meals (we can all dream.) I really just want something healthy and simple. Something to be glad our kids our eating.
I started reading through Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution site and the very idea of what is involved scares the holy living crap out of me. I know that it takes one but the idea of being that one to want the change enough to speak up is terrifying. Especially being new to town I hate the idea of people thinking we are those strange people ranting on and on about healthy food. Its a small town, like super small. So as soon as I start opening my big mouth people are going to start pointing and staring. I mean I lived here less then 10 days before people were cornering me in the stores introducing themselves because they knew who we were.
HA! That's a hearting thought right? Really though the first part of this whole thing is easy. In all truth you might never need to go farther then this with the whole thing (lucky you!). My dear friend Shelly has a fantastic little sassy girl in school and she left some great feedback on my last school lunch post "Now that the school is making all fresh meal's in their own cafeteria they
aren't prepackaged and she loves the salad bar that they have." My challenge to you if this is whats going on in your school is to still do the first step of Jamie Oliver's pledge (outlined below). If this is your school they put a lot of care into their lunch program, they WANT feedback. Then go shake the hands of who is in charge and make SURE they know you are happy, because you never know if your voice is the balance keeping that healthy lunch going. Schools are always needing to cut corners and find money that doesn't exist so make sure to have your voice heard by the person in charge of school lunches. At the next PTA meeting make sure the other parents are aware of how good they have it so that if school lunch changes happen they are aware and support good change and stand against bad.
The first step of all this is easy, go to Jamie Oliver's site and sign the petition. Second step, go eat lunch at your child's school, every day, for a week. Or at least a few times in a month, enough to get a solid idea of the food and atmosphere. Read the lunch menu ahead of time and go see if the food lives up to how good or bad it sounds. Are the Sloppy Joes processed from a can or is it freshly cooked ground beef in a home made sauce? Take pictures, write down your observations. Are the kids all eating? Do they seem to be enjoying it? Which parts of the meal are most eaten/most thrown out? Take the print out from the food revolution tool kit to help simplify.
I know this is really outside the comfort zone of most people. I also understand big sassy is in kindergarten and would find the entire prospect of mom at lunch FANTASTIC. Your sixth grade son might not. If that's the case talk to the principal and find out if you can go at a different time then your child and eat off to the side, or just come in and observe at a different lunch hour. Go in before lunch and check out the setup. Still chicken to do it? Grab some of your children's classmates mothers or fathers and drag them with you.
I have this theory though that standing up for something you believe in is never comfortable and simple. Its really easy to join in with other like minded people, but it takes real bravery to do it first. So from this point forth until who knows when I am starting a School Lunch Challenge, follow this first step. See where it brings you, how do you feel about what you observe? Still a scaredy cat? Thats fine, the first steps a doozy (I haven't done it yet either!) so read Jamie Olivers Site HERE or Anne Coopers HERE. Don't have kids in school? Do you work somewhere that makes lunches for its employees like a hospital? Start there. Or share this on your facebook page for everyone you know who might have kids.
Leave me a comment below or on my facebook page and let me know what you discovered. Don't want to publish it out loud? Up in the top right corner of the page is a contact me link so you can email me directly. Send me pictures to put up, I want to know what you guys are seeing at your school!