School Lunches

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Nutrition and School
When I look back at my experience through elementary and secondary school, and think about school lunch my memories are not cherished. The gray messy masses that smell and jiggle in a nebulous blob while the lunch lady deposits it onto my tray. No, those were not fond memories at all. I do remember having to look at the month ahead with my mother, because she wanted me to at least eat one school prepared meal a week. These were tough decisions for an elementary student, with picky taste in food. I remember most of the students in my class eating the chocolate cake or the cookies as the main course of their meal. Now that I look back on this, I realize how foolish it was that teachers did not pay better attention to our diets.

American's "sweet tooth is tied to sour health" according to Jane Brody of The New York Times. We are "squeezing out nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products that can help to prevent disease." A nutritionally complete diet should involve no more than ten percent of its calories from added sugar; "American children now consume nearly twice that amount. The average teenager derives 19 percent of calories from added sugar, with the average boy consuming 34 teaspoons and the average girl consuming 24 teaspoons of added sugar daily, according to Federal surveys. Younger children, too, have diets far sweeter than desirable: 6- to 11-year-olds get 18 percent of their calories from added sugars" (Brody, 7). Yikes, these numbers do not look good when trying to promote nutrition, but how does one teach children to eat things like vegetables?

Some children do not like to eat the vegetables that are given to them because they are not quite sure what is in the mushroom surprise. A lot of children just do not like school lunches, while others really enjoy them. Some may think that they are fattening, rubber in them, too greasy and unhealthy. While others find them more convenient, taking some chaos out of their morning routine, since they do not need to pack a lunch, or worry about what to eat. Nancy Polk, for the New York Times, wrote why in the past 5 years, the regulations for the School Meals Initiative for Healthy Children needed to be put in effect. This drastically changed the way we feed American youth. They specifically looked at making the United States Dietary Guidelines mandatory in school meals. Prior to that they were only recommended. Many schools did a good job of complying, but since they were not required, many did not involve it into their system (Polk, 3).

The Dietary Guidelines include rules that keep fat to 30 percent or less of the total calories, saturated fat to less than 10 percent, and to eating more fruits vegetables and grain products . This also means more variety. They also look at sodium, fiber and cholesterol. "They have really revamped the whole system to make school meals healthy for kids" (Polk, 3).

Nancy Polk seems to believe that school lunch is headed in the right direction, while Robert Gottlieb for The Los Angeles Times, claims that "school lunches consist of high-sugar, high-caffeine and high-fat foods." Although, all of the types of foods that I just listed taste good, they can shorten attention spans and impede learning. More lasting problems can also arise if children consistently eat the wrong types of foods at school.

In New York it is claimed that the foods being served in schools is healthy, Los Angeles is claiming that too many foods consisting of high-sugar, caffeine and fat are being served. Maybe each state or district should be examined on the foods being served there. This way problems can be conquered as to which school districts need more money in order to serve better food. We might be able to hypothesize that the eastside of the nation has a better handle on school lunch than the westside. Congress created the National School Lunch Program 50 years ago as a...
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