School lunches and nutrition

I recently discovered a blog titled Fed Up With Lunch. The anonymous author of this blog has been eating school lunches and sharing the menus and photos. I was horrified by these meals! Very little protein, a ton of carbs, very few healthy vegetables and fruits, and lots of processed foods.

Some examples:
Menu: chicken tenders, carrots, fruit jello, bread, milk
Protein: Processed and breaded chicken.
Vegetable: Raw carrots (good). A packet of ranch dressing to drown those carrots? (not so good).
Fruit: Fruit that is swimming in sugar-and-dye Jell-O.

Menu: cheese sandwich, tater tots, apple, pretzels, milk
Protein: Um? The processed cheese?
Vegetable: Tater tots (Seriously? Tater tots?)
(Bread, potatoes…and let’s throw more carbs on the menu with some pretzels.)
Fruit: Ok, an apple is great. But how many elementary students would only eat the apple if it was peeled and sliced for them? Probably most of those apples landed in the trash.

Menu: turkey, carrots, fruit cup, bread, milk
Protein: Processed (probably mechanically separated) turkey (with gravy and stuffing).
Vegetable: Cooked carrots. Not bad, but they’re a high carb veggie choice. And they were probably canned carrots, meaning all the nutrients were zapped out of them in processing and a ton of salt was added.
Fruit: Fruit cup = canned fruit swimming in sugar water.

Menu: cheeseburger, buns, baked beans, orange, milk
Protein: Cheeseburger. Not too bad.
Vegetable: Baked beans? High carb and loaded with sugar. Yeah, that’s a vegetable.
Fruit: Oranges are great, but what kid is going to peel an orange. Like the apple, I bet a bunch of these landed in the trash.

Menu: salisbury steak, bread, corn, apple, milk
Protein: Processed mystery meat that is more filler than protein. And that mystery meat is swimming in high-fat-high-sodium gravy.
Vegetable: Corn, which has so many carbs it’s more a starch than a vegetable.
Fruit: Again with those apples.

Menu: tex-mex (turkey meat over rice & corn), beans, tortilla chips, fruit jello, milk
Protein: Turkey “meat” with rice (carbs) & corn (carbs).
Vegetable: I guess it’s the refried beans? That’s not a vegetable, it’s carbs and fat.
Fruit: Once again, we have that fruit disguised in sugar-and-dye Jell-O

Menu: hamburger, buns, fruit bar, and tater tots
Protein: Hamburger. (Why didn’t the kids get the processed cheese this time?)
Vegetable: Again, those questionable tater tots.
Fruit: A popsicle. (Yes, that’s what “fruit bar” means.)

I think I’m starting to feel ill.

What’s crazy is that all these meals (supposedly) meet federal guidelines for school lunches. I honestly can’t believe these guidelines are considered healthy – very high carb, very low protein, and no recommendations to avoid processed foods. (For students in grades 7-12, the required amount of grains is 15 servings per week. That’s 3 a day…just at lunch! Good grief.) Of course, those guidelines allow some leniency: “Up to 1 grains/breads serving per day may be a dessert.” Wow.

    Children age 6 to 11 who are overweight: 18.8 percent
    Children age 12 to 19 who are overweight: 17.4 percent.

Childhood and teenage obesity increased by four times in the past 40 years.

Something has got to change. Chef Jamie Oliver has begun the Food Revolution, part of which is to change school lunches. You can read his ideas here. While you’re there, you can also sign the petition “to save cooking skills and improve school food.”


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