School Lunches, what should be done?

yea.... It hasn't changed much

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This week is Nation School Lunch Week.  Our schools have the job of feeding our children lunch during the school year.  This is a job that I cannot image being a small undertaking.  My children go to a small rural school, Kindergarten through sixth grade, there is about 630 children attending that the school system needs to feed 5 days a week.

I understand why schools serve the foods that they do.  Most kids are picky and they are trying to get them to eat what they know kids will eat.  I see no problem with that.  I myself have one child that is extremely picky, and know that it is a fight most nights to get her to even attempt to try anything that doesn’t look like a hot dog or mac n cheese.  I couldn’t imagine doing that with 600 kids.

Many in this country are trying to put the blame of childhood obesity on school lunches.  personally I am going to blame helicopter parenting, convince of fast food, busy lifestyles, and technology.  Children need to get up and get out to play, I have seen mothers on message boards saying that they won’t let their children outside by themselves even at 12.  I’m sure that these parents have their childs best interest at heart, but with all of the responsibilities that come with being an adult how much time can you really spend outside just watching your child play?  Our busy lifestyles have a lot of us reaching for prepackaged meals or stopping at one of the fast food restaurants that seem to be on every corner anymore.  Most of us don’t have time to cook, and in order to just get something in us and our kids we go for what is convent and not necessarily the healthiest.  Technology from the internet to the 798 channels on cable tv to video games keeps more children in the house than anything else.  Kids are happy to sit on the couch and hold virtual races rather than go outside and have an actual race with other kids, or to see what is going to happen in tonight’s episode of “Teen Mom” so they are in the loop at school the next day.  Today’s children eat the same amount of meals at school that previous generations did, you cannot say that school lunches are what is making them obese when for generations they didn’t.

Hungry kids are not going to learn as much as full children.  The government started the free/reduced lunch and breakfast programs for this reason.  I can understand the wanting to feed our children healthier meals at school, but at what cost is that going to come?  Our schools are already under funded in many places, the arts are being cut out of school days to save money.  What next can we cut so our children can eat the fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy foods that many are pushing for?  For many places in the United States fresh produce is not readily available year round.  It must be shipped in from other states and some time countries, this in turn raises the cost of that salad many are trying to get to be the main entrée on our children’s lunch menu.

As I look at my own children’s lunch menu this week I see a mixture of different foods that would cater to different taste buds.  Every day there is a vegetable and a fruit.  I know that these are probably going to be coming either from a can or frozen for a couple of different reasons. 1 the growing season in Indiana is over, in fact we’ve even had our first frost of the year.  2. The cost of these items fresh for that many students is going to be more than is allotted in any school budget.  Finally 3. Can you imagine how long it would take to snap green beans or shell peas for that many kids?

Many parents will tell me that I am letting my children eat “crap” at school and I should be packing their lunch.  To them I ask what is the difference between me putting an individual applesauce in their lunch box and the school putting it on their tray.  I’m realistic, there is no way for my kids to heat up a lunch that I send with them.  While I don’t mind sending a cold lunch on a day that they are having something that they don’t like at school, I do not want them eating cold lunch every day.  They would get bored with it, and it nutritionally would not be as diverse as what they are getting at school.

I know that something does need to be done about school lunches.  I’m not real sure at this moment what that is.  I am torn between wanting kids to eat healthy and the schools offering items that they will actually eat.  The cost of what it would cost for fresh items plus the extra personal to prepare those items and with our country already in the red.  The final thing is wanting my children to eat healthy, but at what cost is that going to be to me each week while handing out lunch money?

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