Monday, September 21, 2009

Mystery Meat for Lunch

What is it about school lunches? I always thought that it was just public schools that had dreadful cafeteria options, but apparently, even private schools that cost an arm and a leg are still feeding our kids pseudo-foods. What happened to the national health-consciousness trend (think Michelle Obama's organic garden)? Where are all the parents who are buying organic foods in increasing numbers, and where do their children go to school? Are all the statistics wrong, or are parents just ignorant of what goes on outside their homes?

As you may know from my previous post about my daughter's nursery school, we provide our own snacks for her because what is provided there is often questionable, to say the least. I'm not completely happy with the nursery school for a variety of reasons, and I'd love to find something closer to home (it's a 20-30 minute commute), so I've been keeping my eyes open.

Today, after coming out of the grocery store, I noticed a pamphlet on my car's windshield. Of course, I began immediately muttering profanities. Then I realized that the pamphlet was for a Montessori school that will be opening up in our area next year. I read the pamphlet with interest, went home and checked out the website. I was thrilled to see all sorts of great things, like natural material toys, mixed age classes, botany as a core subject area ... what fun! And it's walking distance from home! Yay! I thought I'd found a home for my kids! Then I see the bad news - lunch and snacks are provided by the school, included in tuition. What is lunch? Here is a sampling from their lunch menu:

Chicken Nuggets
Macaroni and Cheese
Grilled Cheese
Ham & Cheese
Mozzarella Sticks
Baked Ziti
Corn Dogs
Hot Dogs
Beef and Macaroni

I can almost guarantee that these are all heavily processed, fatty, salty, sugary foods that are probably frozen or canned. Nevermind that this menu completely excludes vegan children, providing no options for them whatsoever. It's absurd for any child to eat a regular diet of these foods! All those great teaching methods will go to waste on children fed nothing but garbage. Kids need real, fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and wholesome proteins to sustain their energy, their growing bodies and their developing brains. And how will it affect our children if they regularly eat dairy foods full of hormones (known to cause early onset of puberty and reproductive cancers), meats full of antibiotics (which is how most antibiotics are consumed in this country, not by prescription), grain products stripped of their nutritional content (making them pure calories and nothing more), preservatives, stabilizers, artificial sweeteners, high glycemic sweeteners, and many other edible toxins? Will the Flintstones vitamin they took in the morning make up for everything lacking in their diets? For many of us, it matters what our kids eat. That needs to be the case even when our kids are in someone else's care.

Lunch is a part of every school day. In fact, for many kids, it's their favorite subject. That's no joke! What kids learn at the lunch table are life-long lessons, maybe ones that will ultimately affect them more than their ABCs will. A learning institution that doesn't see lunch as a learning opportunity, to teach kids how to get the most from their bodies and their lives, is failing its students, plain and simple.


Anonymous said...

Terrific and quite insightful comment....doesn't deserve to just sit dormant in a blog! Proud to know you, Ilana! --a fellow HMN Mom

Marcia said...

Boy do I hear you there! My son started preschool this year. Before, in daycare, I know that his provider fed him homemade soup for lunch daily. (I also know that he got chips and she wasn't perfect).

At school, they REALLY push the (optional) school lunch. My friends push it, the teachers push it. This being So. Cal., one would think that it's pretty healthy. The school is "going green" by having everything be recyclable or compostable "zero waste lunch". But the lunch menu looked JUST like yours. Exactly. Sure, some fruit or veggies, but I know of the lunch is mac and cheese and a hotdog and green beans, the green beans will go uneaten. AND it's $2.50. My food is cheaper and better.

Which is why I pack my son's lunch every day (well, I do let him eat the pizza on Fridays). They send home what he hasn't eaten so I KNOW when he doesn't eat his veggies.

From me, he gets fruit and veggies. Cheese. A peanut butter sandwich (organic natural peanut butter on whole wheat). Pasta with homemade tomato sauce (yes, he eats it cold).

There's a big push locally for locally grown foods, school gardens, etc. But I haven't seen that come into our lunch room.

Great blog post...

Amy B said...

I'm shocked a Montessori school would feed processed food to kids. That doesn't really fit my idea of their philosophy. I would contact them and have a conversation. It's possible they were trying not to scare away parents who expect mac and cheese and meatballs for their kids lunch. They may also practice the "sneak vegetables into the mac and cheese" philosophy. Hope it works out for you.

Ilana Kriegsman said...

I was very confused and disappointed by their choice, as well. I did contact them, and they were surprised that I considered their food choices unhealthy. They were quite proud of their "kid-friendly" "balanced" lunch menu. On the positive side, they did offer a small discount to me if I provide my own food.
Thanks for the comment!