Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Would you volunteer to eat school lunch every day to prove a point? This teacher did.

Found this on the web.
* by Jessica Ashley, Shine staff, on Tue Mar 16, 2010 1:24pm PDT

I will be honest -- I do not love making my son's lunch. Every evening at about midnight, I do it. It's one more task to tick off my list before I fall into bed. I know that it would be easy and less expensive to have him eat the school lunches. For those reasons, I do not judge the parents who choose -- or have to, out of financial or other necessity -- to ensure that that their kids eat a midday meal by arranging for them to have the school lunch. As much as little cups of organic apple sauce cost and no matter how many soy butter and jam sandwiches I make, I just cannot bring myself to let my kid eat what the school is serving.

This is a privileged perspective, I know. Many families rely on school lunches and I am aware that these meals are sometimes the only ones or the healthiest ones some children eat. For that, I am grateful the system allows kids to eat one or several meals before and during school hours.

Still, the question of how to make this system work better, particularly during a time when obesity threatens so many children, stands. How can we feed our children healthfully and economically? And what in the world are we teaching our children when we put food in front of them that has little nutritional value or is high in fat and sodium or that we would not dare eat ourselves?

A teacher in Illinois is illustrating those concerns candidly on her own anonymous blog. I like to think of her as an undercover activist for the cause of feeding our children well -- or at least better. She is spending 2010 eating school lunch every day, documenting photos of the (let's be honest, sad-looking) food on her tray, providing some nutritional information, commenting on the taste, and detailing the not-so-pretty bellyaches she's had since beginning the project. It's all chronicled on her blog "Fed Up With Lunch" and through Tweets.

Mrs. Q, as she dubs herself on the site, writes that the timing of her project is critical because, "The Child Nutrition Act is being debated in Congress. It's important that people realize that funding for school lunches is vital to children's success in school and in life."

Why is she speaking out pretty loudly but still keeping her identity mum?

"I'm blogging anonymously because I like my job and getting a paycheck. But I'm still putting my livelihood on the line by speaking up. Why? Because I want to raise awareness about school lunch. It may not be what every child in this country eats, but I believe the meal that I am showing represents what most children eat at lunch in the US," she posted in February, just over a month after she launched the lunch project.

Mrs. Q also says that caring about what kids eat for lunch is an investment in their long-term health and the eventual well-being of our country.

"I am not a nutritionist. That being said, I became concerned about what the kids were eating because on the surface, the food doesn't appear to be very healthy. These are the kids who need the good nutrition. My students don't have good food models at home. These kids depend on the school for so much, including good nutrition. And if they don't get it, they will develop bad habits and increase our health-care costs in the future," she told AOL Health.

Mrs. Q's concerns are not centered solely on the food. She says that the time allotted to students for lunch encourages unhealthy eating habits. She reports that students often have only 13 minutes to eat, and that can easily be knocked down to five if the student has to wait in a long line, go to the bathroom, or hunt for a space at a table.

Only a few months into the year, she says she believes healthier meals -- namely stir fries, salads, soups, and casseroles -- could be made in bulk and served in better conscience to the kids. She says she'd also like tater tots to be replaced with roasted potatoes, yogurt and cottage cheese to be added as sides, and to banish hot dogs altogether.

Her blog is a fascinating -- and yes, disturbing -- read. It includes posts by guest bloggers, many of whom are teachers, all of whom have their own take on what is on the trays. Reading it and looking deeper into what she is doing in a very short lunch period every day this year, not only makes me more adamant about brown-bagging it for my own son, but it also makes me want to get more involved in changing the system for kids in schools across the country.

Still, Mrs. Q says she fears being found out, as she explained on her blog.

"I feel a lot of guilt and turmoil about what I'm doing here. I'm waiting for the moment I'm called to the principal's office and let go. I do believe it's a matter of 'when' not 'if' they find out and it's curtains for me and then of course the project.

"I want them to know that the project is not about individuals in one school but about a country full of children who need better food models."

1 comment:

Anastasia said...

most schools don't serve healthy stuff. if they do, the unhealthy stuff still outweighs the healthy stuff and kids tend to pick the unhealthy stuff.

i was reading a walnut/san gabriel valley (or something) newspaper. it said that a lot of teachers are losing their jobs. some of the classes being eliminated is P.E. so if the kids aren't exercising and they're eating junk at school, it's makes the parents' jobs harder to teach their kids good habits.