School Lunches Even the Lunch Lady Wouldn’t Eat
Congress is preparing to take up reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, but the recipe for success is far from simple.
May 27, 2010 |
ol Lunches Even the Lunch Lady Wouldn’t Eat
Congress is preparing to take up reauthorization of the Child Nutrition
Act, but the recipe for success is far from simple.
May 27, 2010 |
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An anonymous Midwestern elementary school teacher has been filing daily
dispatches from the cafeteria, posting to her blog each day cell
phone-snapped photos of popcorn chicken and prepackaged meatloaf. She
has been documenting, every day, what the kids in her school are fed for
As Mrs. Q’s several thousand followers have found, however, the grub fed
American schoolchildren looks pretty disgusting when you put it up on
the Internet. (In fact, the images and accompanying commentary are so
unappetizing, Mrs. Q has to explain on her site that she stays anonymous
to protect her job.)
The blog — and similar photos other teachers have been prompted to send
in — puts a greasy, cellophane-wrapped face on the alarming research
about school lunch, a subject of growing interest in Washington as
Congress prepares to take up reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.
The topic is suddenly in vogue, from Mrs. Q’s viral website, to Jamie
Oliver’s Food Revolution (an ABC series that revealed, among other
things, that first-graders in Huntington, W.Va., couldn’t identify a
tomato from a potato) to Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign.
The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, an outgrowth of Obama’s
Let’s Move! initiative, last week presented its findings to the
president. The report suggests many of the answers to solving childhood
obesity within a generation lie at school, where the First Lady points
out many children consume as many as half their daily calories.
The report draws heavily on research from a 2007 U.S. Department of
Agriculture study of school nutrition. The federal government
establishes nutrition standards that schools must meet to receive
federal reimbursement for meals. That USDA report found that nearly 94
percent of meals served in schools failed to meet all of the nutritional
standards, even though most were meeting the required meal patterns
(eight servings of bread per week, a half-cup of fruit and vegetables a
During the 2004-05 school year, 100 percent of schools were serving kids
all of their required protein, and most of their calcium. But 49
percent met the appropriate targets for calories and only 30 percent for
Not surprisingly, while many offered healthier alternatives such as
low-fat lunches, students seldom picked up that option. And french fries
accounted disproportionately for the available vegetables.