Monday, April 5, 2010

Bashing School Meals is Bad for Kids' Health

I have had it with bashing schools meals. Everyone from Jamie Oliver to the Today Show has been busy blaming the nation's "lunch ladies" for the health problems facing the youth of America. In some cases, they are missing a few ingredients - and in others, they got the whole recipe wrong.

Seriously, there are so many good things going on in school meals that it would take me a month to write about them - which is exactly what I plan to do. (Quick disclaimer: There are some poorly performing school meal programs out there and I am not here to defend you. If you haven't taken advantage of what's available from Team Nutrition and your state office, you're on your own. I need this space to talk about folks - like the terrific Child Nutrition staff in Petal (MS) Elementary's Produce Hut - who go way above and beyond the regulations to help kids be well-nourished and ready to succeed.)

Why is blaming school food bad for kids' health? Here's the short list of reasons - and trust me, I'm just gettin' started!

  • Child nutrition programs in every state have created food revolutions in their kitchens and cafeterias – against all odds (minimal budgets, little district support, constant bashing by the media).
  • School meals matter the most to kids who have the least. For millions of at-risk children, school breakfast and lunch are the most nutritious foods they get all week – providing essential fuel for success at school.
  • Focusing on the worst-case scenarios for entertainment value makes everyone suspicious of their meals in their local school. (BTW - JO – I have a list of school districts who would love to work with you on enhancing their programs.)

So, school nutrition friends, think of the BEST example of what your program is doing right. Take a photo and write a sentence or two about it – because tomorrow I am launching SCHOOL MEALS THAT ROCK and I want everyone to hear what you got!

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