Friday, September 25, 2009

If you serve it, will they eat it?

I was reading through the comments on my Tuesday post about school lunches. I admit that when K- started school, I was pretty excited since I read the menu from last year and it involved chef salads and whatnot. This year, there is chicken nugget day and pizza day, the rest are a hodge podge of funk.

My beloved cousin, Janeen, vows to change the school lunch offerings before they leave the school that her boys are enrolled in. My question is, if you serve it, will they eat it? More specifically, will kids eat healthy stuff, or is the school providing them the meal most likely to be eaten?

I've been blessed with a child that is by and large a good eater. There are only a few foods that she does not like. She's not a fan of spicy, though a little is okay. She has never liked peaches or green beans. She has discovered that mandarin oranges aren't quite her thing. However, she is in love with fresh fruit or vegetable plates. As she walks by the cherry tomato growing to gigantic heights in our herb garden, she'll go snacking. The collards in the garden for Spike? She pulls some for him and some for her. Meat is admittedly not a complete favorite, though she'll eat small portions of it.

I just don't think that we need to dumb down the food education that schools are giving our kids. I agree wholeheartedly with Janeen's comment about childhood obesity. I don't think that chicken nuggets are low on the caloric food chain.

So, what am I pulling for?
-Fresh fruit plate with yogurt and some granola. K- would dig that.
-Fresh salads with a choice of toppings.
-Fresh veggie plate with cheese wedges
-Baked, non-processed meat offerings. Not fried.
-Fresh sandwiches of quality lunch meat.

"Beef and macaroni casserole, crispy chicken leg, corn dog, nachos supreme, chicken fingers, hot dog, chicken nuggets and pizza" is currently on deck this month for the public school system where we are in. Yuck.

I had to laugh about the print at the bottom of the school lunch menu. It was stating how much healthier school lunches are than packed, since the children get a larger variety of dairy and more servings of fruit and vegetables offered than in traditional packed lunches.

I beg to differ. Just yesterday, my child took:
-Curly noodle soup
-Cherry tomatoes and crinkle cut carrots
-Goldfish crackers with a few chocolate animal crackers
-1/2 turkey sandwich on double fiber wheat bread

Really? I think that my lunch sounds healthier. (And yes, I packed far too much.) So, my question is, if you were to design the school lunch menu to feed the masses of children that eat it daily, what items would you want to offer? Many other places are revamping their school lunch programs. What can we do to change ours?

Smiles in my day:
- K-'s interim report card was FABULOUS! I'm excited to report that the supplemental reading course seems to have helped as K- scored in the highest level of reading. The teacher also reports that she is a delight. Hooray!
- Hubs has been transferring the home videos of K- over to DVD. We've been watching and some are hilarious. We are complete dorks and the video footage definitely confirmed that.
- My soup tonight turned out wonderful! I made far too much. Want some? :)


ChupieandJ'smama said...

Definitely a fruit plate with low fat yogurt. Broth based, low sodium soups. Sandwiches with low sodium, no nitrate (preferably organic but I know it's very expensive) lunch meat. Salads with grilled (real)chicken breast (and not a lot of cheese). Whole wheat pasta with turkey meat balls. Baked fish/baked fish sticks (cause only my kid eats baked fish I'm sure). Turkey tacos. Pizza made with whole wheat pizza crust and offer some slices with veggies once in a while - my son loves black olives and onions on his pizza. Chicken nuggets are a kid favorite so how about a baked version (instead of deep fried) but offer it with a salad made of fresh greens (not iceberg lettuce)or steam broccoli and fresh fruit (not canned in syrup). Whole wheat pancakes with turkey sausage/turkey bacon. Stir fry with chicken or lean beef and brown rice. Lasagna with low fat cheese served with a salad. Turkey meat loaf (or very lean beef) and mashed potatoes with green beans. Build your own turkey burger served with fresh fruit. No nitrate turkey dogs/all beef hot dogs. MILK WITHOUT HORMONES - this is huge with me.

Here's our lunch menu for this week:
Mac & cheese bites
Salad (iceberg lettuce and nothing else)
fruit (apple slices in a bag [good]/fruit cocktail in syrup[bad])
Tuesday Tenders
Potato chips
Waffle Stix
spiced apples
Chicken Pot Pie
Bosco Pizza (had cheese in the crust)

Now our kids can not take the salad or fruit (iceberg lettuce/fruit cocktail) and choose Doritos, chips, Cheetos, etc instead. Why they are given a choice I have no idea!! What 5 year old is going to say "Yes, please give me the syrupy fruit cocktail instead of Cheetos". It makes my head explode.
We are at a private school but I think most of my things would be suitable for public or private school budgets.

Bailey's Leaf said...

You thought of so many more things than even I thought of. Good idea not to completely ditch the chicken nugget and pizza option, but to health them up a bit. K- might not be for the fish option, but she'd eat everything else.

I'm just so tired of everyone complaining that kids are obese, but when the school that they go to teaches them that eating crap is okay, that's not helping! (No, I'm not blaming the schools for the obese children, but I don't know that some of the menus are helping much with it.)

I do have to admit that I just found out that K-'s school offers drinkable yogurt, white and chocolate milk or a bottle of water. There is a complete ban of soda in the schools.

Great ideas. Good things for me to compile to present to someone at sometime. Thanks for your input, girl!

Rach said...

Hi Ladies,

Coming at this from an educator's point of view, so don't shoot the messenger. :oP

I worked in public schools for 7 years and in that time I came to realize school lunches are as they are for a number of reasons.

One, they MUST be balanced according to the food pyramid/FDA guidelines. Sure, they provide utter CRAP, but they're "balanced".

Two, school lunch budgets are rather minuscule when compared to the number of children you are expected to feed (even if you *are* paying for lunch). What foodstuffs are you able to purchase relatively inexpensively? Crap! That's also why you find people in poverty (and those on food stamps) are often overweight/obese. You can get food that is filling and high in fat for very little money when compared to the costs of fresh fruits and veggies. Sad, but oh so true. The biggest strain on my weekly grocery budget is the fresh produce. It costs a good bit more to eat healthfully. :o(

If you all are able to affect a change, I'm ALL for it! I was tired of my babies eating crap for lunch and then being wiped-out by 1:30 because they were in a carb crash. The food is pitiful, I know it is, but from what I hear (and given the way school systems' budgets are going--I took a pay cut this year) change is pricey and not in the works. :o(

All of which is a shame since there are some WONDERFUL suggestions out there. I know Jamie Oliver of "Naked Chef" fame has been working wonders with schools in the UK. Maybe he'd like to come here and help out? :o)

Bailey's Leaf said...

Of course we wouldn't shoot the messenger! All of your points are true and well put. It's just that I know that I can provide my child the meal that I feel is most healthy, but I feel badly for the other kids.

Good point about obesity and poverty, as well.

As far as the pay cut, that's a good point, too. So sorry that you had to do that, but am certainly happy that you are gainfully employed rather than the other side of the fence.

Yes, fresh produce is quite an expense. Unfortunately, it doesn't keep quite as long as we would hope, either.

See, I know that I can count on you for the educator perspective! Thanks for giving us insight from the other side.

An Aquarian Mind said...

While reading your post I thought back to the things I ate for lunch when I was in school. In my younger days I had a phobia of buying because I was afraid I'd have to rush and end up wasting half of my food. I always packed - PB&J, a hoho, a fruit cup, cookies and a Hi-C box. Talk about sugar laden!! Of course this was before healthy became bandwagon. But I was always the skinniest kid in my class. When I graduated I was 90 pounds.

Anyhow... once I was a junior or senior, I started buying. You know what I bought every day for at least a whole school year? Fries and a carton of iced tea. That was it. Seriously unhealthy, huh?

My kids eat much healthier than I ever did, that's for sure.

To answer your question in the comment to my last post: I play Tetris almost all night. And I watch HGTV until 4am. I've been tempted to sew or clean, but I never do.