Tag Archives: school lunches

The School Lunch Nanny State Rant

Schoolchildren eating hot school lunches made ...

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Let’s just say it like it is, and stop pussyfooting around, shall we?

This whole “Oh, no, the government setting up better nutrition standards for my kid’s lunches is a Nanny State!”  is complete crap. You want to know what a Nanny State is? It’s one where our schools provide any food to kids. Actually, it’s having public schools at all. Our schools spend 8 hours a day being nannies to our nation’s children: they teach them, they discipline them, they socialize them, and yes, they feed them. That is pretty much the definition of “nanny,” folks. (If you want to argue everyone should therefore home school, get your own blog and do it there.) Our country agreed to a “Nanny State” in this regard a long time ago, for the social good of having an educated populace. Our society also agreed that the schools would provide food to the children they were educating, for the same reason.

You can argue that our schools shouldn’t be providing food for kids at all. There’s an argument to be made for that (not one I necessarily agree with, but one that can at least can be logically made–just don’t make it here, that’s a whole different issue).  But, if you believe that it’s a public school’s job to provide children with food during the school day, you therefore cannot be against them “controlling” what your child can eat. Why not? Follow me here, because it can’t be any clearer:

THEY ALREADY DO THAT!

And they have to do that. There’s literally no way to not do it.  How do those people screaming that their rights as parents are being taken away because their kid no longer gets chocolate milk in the lunch line suppose food gets into those cafeterias? Someone, somewhere, in some form of public, governmental office, decides what company gets the food contracts and what the menus for schools will be. Ergo, that person or persons (or policies set by them) are controlling what’s in the cafeteria, and therefore what children are eating. This isn’t rocket science. Food has to be purchased, and someone has to decide what gets purchased. Anything not purchased is, by definition, excluded. Someone not the child’s parent is making that decision already.

So, following through, the government already controls what your kid is getting at school and “violating parent’s rights.” Somehow, offering chocolate milk and pizza makes this less of a violation? Does it really make sense that this control should be used to teach kids bad eating habits, to feed them food that is provably unhealthy and that puts them at risk for poorer learning and future disease? Really? A parent could just as easily yell and berate the system as a “Nanny State” that is violating their rights because the school doesn’t provide organic, dye-free, free-range scrambled eggs. Or not offering gluten-free or vegan meals.

As a society, we’ve also agreed that we have a responsibility to protect and nurture children, even if their parents do not, or cannot, do so. Again, there’s an argument to be made against this, but unless you’re also arguing against Social Services, police intervention in child abuse, etc., you’re cherry picking (and if you are arguing against all those things, it’s way outside the scope of this blog, so move along).  Doesn’t it follow that, since we believe (and have legislated as such) that the government does have a role in protecting and nurturing children, that it has the responsibility to make decisions about those children with their best interest in mind? It’s hard to find a reasonable argument that chocolate milk, processed,  and sugar-laden foods are in anyone’s best interest, especially children’s.

Let’s recap, just for those who haven’t gotten it yet:

1. School lunches are already government controlled.

2. Schools, meaning government, decides what food goes into those cafeterias for kids to eat simply be deciding what food will be purchased and what food will not.

3. There IS NO CHOICE for the government to provide food without proving control.Your choices are for schools to provide healthier options with higher nutrition value, lower sugar, and less processing, or unhealthy options low in nutrients and high in known problem substances like sugar.

Here’s the truth: either you fight against school lunches being provided at all because you believe governmental interference is violating parent’s rights by dictating what food is available to children, or you fight for better quality food. Fighting for the government to limit your child’s food options to junk is just irresponsible.

 

Side note: I read a comment recently that said “vote with your dollars! If you stop buying school lunches, then they’ll have to change them.” People are so very out of touch with reality.  Children who receive free or discounted lunches can’t exactly stop buying lunches and pack their own. They’re poor, which is why they’re getting the free or discounted lunches. They don’t have the money, and often don’t have the parental involvement, to pack their own lunches. A 7-year-old can’t go to the store with his mom’s food stamps and get healthy options to pack in his lunch, even if he understand what those might be. So, effectively, this commenter believes that wealthier kids should have good food available for the government, but if you’re too poor to protest financially, you’re screwed. Nice.


More Grist for the Mill

Schoolchildren eating hot school lunches made ...

Image via Wikipedia

If you enjoyed the article below about the Food Marketing Institute‘s idiocy with numbers, you should really check out Tom Phillpot’s article “Mythbusting: Cheap Food Does Not Equal Higher Quality of Life,” on Grist.org. Tom expands on some of the data I was able to dig up, and adds his own thoughts on food spending vs. quality of life. It’s worth the read.

One thing he addresses that I didn’t get into much in my article was income inequality, which is a huge part of what is wrong with our food system. About two years ago, I was asked to talk to an AP Psych class about food and psychology. It was fortunately a fairly progressive teacher that asked me, because the topic pretty quickly turned to school lunches, especially free school lunches. About half the kids in that class were on free lunch. It was difficult to watch the looks on those kids faces as we went over their menu, and they realized what they were being fed, and what it meant for their performance, their health, and their futures.

These kids face enough challenges in life, but as a nation we choose to compound those challenges with cheap food that has, as Milehimama is currently blogging, amounts of sugar, fat, and additives that can have profound impacts on our children. It makes them fat. It makes them tired. It increases their chances of all kinds of health-related issues like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. The shear amount of sugar is enough to give even the most focused kids a good shot at exhibiting symptoms of attention deficit disorders.

Until we, as a nation, understand that cheaper is not better when it comes to food, we will not conquer our health care crisis, our obesity epidemic, or our falling academic performance. We will not be helping our poor get out of the poverty cycle, we will be hindering them. It is, in a way, a form of unintentional (or at least, I hope it’s unintentional) discrimination that gives those already at a disadvantage an even bigger disadvantage.

I am proud to say that not only did one of the free lunch students invite me back as a guest speaker for a school project she decided to organize about nutrition, but many of those students also started bringing in their own (healthier) lunches.


The Kids Are Home, Hide the Veggies!

Schoolchildren eating hot school lunches made ...

Image via Wikipedia

Time for a mid-week rant.

NPR did a story about what a great idea it is to get kids to eat vegetables at school by adding vegetable puree to the school lunch cheese sauce at lunch time.  There’s a whole movement, including cookbooks, on how to get your child to eat vegetables by hiding them in brownies, cakes, cheese sauces, etc.  I can’t even begin to express how much I loathe this entire idea. It’s faulty from it’s toes to it’s nose, it’s destructive, and it’s just stupid.

What, exactly, does this teach children about healthy eating? Nothing. They don’t learn to make appropriate food choices, they don’t learn to like healthy food. In fact, they don’t even learn what “healthy food” actually is, because as far as they’re concerned, they’re not eating it. It does teach them, however, that they don’t have to ever eat anything green. It teaches them that yes, “healthy” foods must taste crappy or why would we have to hide them? It also teaches them that they are correct when they assume they should get everything they want, that they should be catered to.

Here’s a radical thought: don’t hide children’s vegetables. Instead, let’s serve them well-cooked, healthy vegetables and then, like adults, make sure they eat them.

This is going to get really controversial, and it’s not going to be sugar coated. I am tired of all the namby-pamby advice about how to get kids to eat well. It’s not that complicated.

-Be a parent. We need to stop pandering to children. Parents get to control your child’s diet, the child does not.  Do parents let kids control the finances simply because they want to? Do parents let kids skip school because “they don’t like it?” So why in the world do they let their children control their food. Look, kids are NOT going to starve themselves to death because they’re not fed their three favorite foods every night. They CAN go to bed without dinner and not wake up emaciated and ready to die, no matter how big a fit they throw to the contrary. No one should starve their child, obviously, but unless a child has an emotional or intellectual disability, they aren’t going to starve to death because they are only presented with healthy options for dinner every night.

-Children are smart, and will manipulate you if you let them. Most of the kids who are “picky eaters” have learned that if they say “I don’t like this food,” someone will get up and make them a favorite food instead.  They have adults trained. This is a great racket, right?  This has got to stop. It’s not appropriate parenting, and it’s not doing the child any favors in the long run.

-There is a difference in “don’t like” and “not favorite.” Everyone has things they don’t like. Most people have 3-5 general things they don’t like. A child who *only* likes 3-5 thing and “doesn’t like” everything else knows how to get what they want.  Most of the time, when a child says they don’t like something, what they actually mean is they prefer something else. Time for a valuable life lesson: Too Darn Bad. We Don’t Always Get What We Want In Life.

-Kids learn to like what they’re fed. As I’ve said a thousand times, children in India are not born liking curry, children in Japan do not come from the womb craving udon,  and kids from Louisiana aren’t genetically predisposed to loving jambalaya. Children like their ethnic/cultural cuisine because it’s what they’re fed when young (and, if a child of one ethnicity/culture is adopted as a baby someone from another culture, that child does not grow up craving it’s birth-parents home cooking). A child isn’t going to learn to like legumes if they never eat them.

-Kids eat what their parents eat. Simple as that.  Just like smoking or drinking, parents need to look at what they’re eating in front of their children.

There are other things, such as it’s been proven that children who help grow and cook vegetables are far more likely to choose to eat them. Or, that children who are taught to cook tend to eat a wider variety of healthy foods. But, the main point is this: Children are children. They do not get to make the decision on whether or not they eat their vegetables. That is what parents are for. Hiding healthy food in “unhealthy” food teaches children bad eating habits, poor decision making skills, and that they don’t have to do anything they’d rather not do.

2/3 of the children in the US are obese. Most of these children will grow up to be obese adults, with all the health issues and concerns that go along with that.  This problem will not be solved by hiding vegetables in cheese sauce.


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