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Healthful School Lunches: How Do We Get Kids to Eat Them?

globocity Dec 18, 2011 12:59 PM

An article in the LA Times today describes the recent unsuccessful transition in the area schools to healthful foods. The recent changes to the menu included vegetable curry, quinoa salads, and black bean burgers. Not surprisingly, the kids found these foods, which were completely new to many of them, revolting and tasteless. The healthful food being thrown out in droves and junk food being sneaked back in, district officials are making some necessary changes to the new menus. Some kid-popular foods are making their way back onto school menus, such as hamburgers and pizza (modified to make them less unhealthy) although flavored milk and sodas will probably stay off.

This makes me think of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, where he had some students in charge of cooking the healthful foods and talking to their fellow students about what was being served.

What I found funny was the mention of staff supposedly selling junk food on the "black market" to starving kids.

How do you in the CH community think we can get buy in from students at school to eat whole grains, fresh vegetables, lean meats, and the like? This is assuming the parents/families with whom these kids reside are not likely to take part.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-...

Cheers.

  1. ipsedixit Dec 18, 2011 01:02 PM

    How do you in the CH community think we can get buy in from students at school to eat whole grains, fresh vegetables, lean meats, and the like?
    ___________________________________________________

    We shouldn't.

    Childhood obesity has less to do with diet than it does with lack of exercise.

    Jamie Oliver failed in his endeavors to reform school lunches, and the LAUSD failed experiment is just another further confirmation of what Oliver learned.

    What was it that Einstein said about insanity? Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results?

    36 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit
      l
      Lady_Tenar Dec 18, 2011 02:27 PM

      Obesity is not the only concern. The problem with school food isn't just that it's too calorie-dense, it's also too nutrient-poor. There are kids popping up in inner city clinics with old-time deficiency diseases, despite the fact that many of them are obese. Not too mention all the attention and behavior problems in school and later-life diseases that are associated with inadequate nutrition. Exercise is an important piece of the puzzle, but food is too.

      I don't know what the solutions are, but it does seem that giving kids black bean burgers and quinoa salads when they've never seen such things before is throwing them into the the deep end. Perhaps more attention should be paid to what demographics various schools are serving and focusing on healthier versions of foods that are going to be culturally familiar to the kids there, or healthier dishes within those cuisines. I don't know that much about L.A. but I have a feeling that quinoa salads are not in the repetoire of a lot of inner city families.

      Also fruit. Lots of fruit. It's usually an easier sell with kids than a lot of vegetables and you have to start somewhere.

      1. re: Lady_Tenar
        mcf Dec 19, 2011 07:03 AM

        "Obesity is not the only concern. The problem with school food isn't just that it's too calorie-dense, it's also too nutrient-poor. :

        Absolutely; starches are calorie dense and nutrient impoverished for the calorie buck compared to colorful, leafy veggies.

        I disagree about "lots" of fruit. It should be very moderated, it's sugar, and fructose promotes insulin resistance and obesity. Some fruits are more healthful than others, like berries.

        1. re: mcf
          l
          Lady_Tenar Dec 19, 2011 10:23 AM

          Yeah, but it's much better sugar than pop and candy. Again, you have to start somewhere.

          1. re: Lady_Tenar
            mcf Dec 19, 2011 01:44 PM

            sure it's better than pop and candy, and some fruits have significant nutrient value. I just don't think "lots" of anything that gets almost all its calories from sugar is wise.

        2. re: Lady_Tenar
          ericthered Dec 21, 2011 07:36 AM

          How are you going to change these habits if on the weekends mom or pop still pull up to the McDonalds drive through. Or mom is too self absorbed to actually stop texting and cook something that didn't come in a box. Get real folks, we are the problem.

          1. re: ericthered
            DiningDiva Dec 21, 2011 08:23 AM

            Or mom is abusive, homeless, has substance abuse issues....

            1. re: DiningDiva
              mcf Dec 21, 2011 10:36 AM

              Hey, you guys, enough with the mom bashing! Maybe she's driving 2-4 kids to that many activities, doc and dental appts., working, going to teacher conferences, volunteering. Just sayinzall. Carry on. :-)

              1. re: mcf
                l
                Lady_Tenar Dec 21, 2011 12:40 PM

                Thank you, mcf! Or maybe she's busting her ass working two low-paying jobs to support her kids all by herself and doesn't have time for family meals! All this judgment, so easily dished out, just screams of privilege, with a heaping side of sexist double standards. Guess what? In a two-parent family, a dad can cook too. Maybe HE should "stop texting and cook something that didn't come in a box." Sheesh!

                1. re: Lady_Tenar
                  mcf Dec 21, 2011 01:57 PM

                  You're welcome!

                  1. re: Lady_Tenar
                    DiningDiva Dec 21, 2011 02:09 PM

                    Judgemental? I think you are the one reading judgement into comments. Fora such as this one are a flat medium with no body language or nuance to guide the reader.

                    There are a gazillion reasons why kids eat the way they eat and why parents feed them the way they do. It's also true that every child in school does not live in a nuclear family with 2 parents. Teachers and school administrators see and deal with everything from well-to-do parents with plenty of resources to kids living in dire poverty and barely scraping by. They deal with the kids that over achieve because they're motivated to those with serious behavioral problems.

                    There are as many dysfunctional families with kids enrolled in public schools these days as there are from functional families. There is no judgement, just the fact that students these days are coming from all sorts of families and all sorts of backgrounds.

                    1. re: DiningDiva
                      l
                      Lady_Tenar Dec 21, 2011 03:08 PM

                      That's exactly what I'm trying to point out--that there are all different circumstances and a lot of families are doing their best but simply don't have the time or resources to give their kids what they need health-wise. I was just trying to combat the idea that all parents who don't feed their kids well are lazy and selfish.

                      And, yeah, I couldn't help but bristle at a reference to "Mom and Pop" taking the kids to McDonald's but then some how the onus is completely on Mom to not be "too self-absorbed" to cook for her family. Where's Pop in all this? This is not the 50s, folks.

          2. re: ipsedixit
            mcf Dec 19, 2011 07:01 AM

            Sorry, but that's just not true. With or without exercise, diet changes make huge changes in metabolism, body composition, blood glucose control and obesity. Studies find that if you eat a carby breakfast, you eat more at later meals, for instance, than if you eat a satiating protein meal. Studies in pediatric obesity find that kids who eat low carb lose twice the weight on 50% more calories than kids on a low fat/high carb diet. Funny how the implementation of the starch based food pyramid transformed "adult onset diabetes" to a pediatric disease within mere years.

            Feeding kids quinoa and beans for lunch isn't healthy, though it's better than pizza and juice. Giving them protieins with non starchy veggies and salads would be more expensive (a huge roadblock here) but healthier.

            1. re: mcf
              s
              sueatmo Dec 19, 2011 07:11 AM

              Agreed. Kids need protein to grow and develop. Diet and exercise of some sort work together. There is no one simple answer.

              1. re: sueatmo
                mcf Dec 19, 2011 08:26 AM

                Exercise is definitely always desirable and helpful. It's just not the answer to the problem here as posited. But as Gary Taubes points out, exercise works up appetite and raises cortisol, which encourages fat storage, which is why a lot of bonehead bodybuilders inject insulin to prevent it. Exercise produces better health, but not necessarily weight loss when used to compensate for a bad diet.

                1. re: mcf
                  s
                  sueatmo Dec 19, 2011 08:49 AM

                  I agree. But building muscle mass is supposed to, long term, lead to more efficient burning of calories. I don't know if this if diet folklore, or a real observable effect though.

                  I suspect that some of the ADD and ADHD problems of kids is because they don't get enough exercise. But I am not claiming expertise in this field. I also know a family member has attention probs that are not due to no exercise.

                  So many physical effects, and so many possible interrelated causes. But poor nutrition is preventable in schools. I think the problems implementing nutritious meals are probably systemic, and probably not undoable except by extreme effort from the top down.

                  1. re: sueatmo
                    mcf Dec 19, 2011 09:50 AM

                    It's true that muscle at rest keeps metabolizing more than fat does, but Gary Taubes, IIRC, is the one who calculated that this amounts to a very small difference in calories burned per day. But exercise is great for bone mass if it's weight training, balance, stamina, all sorts of good things that are as important to the elderly as to the young.

              2. re: mcf
                ipsedixit Dec 19, 2011 07:17 PM

                Obesity -- and to some extent "health" (whatever that term may mean) -- for teenagers and grade school children is more about how much they are eating, as opposed to what they are eating.

                Moderate the portions they are eating and couple that with sufficient activity, and our obesity problems, including related health issues associated with obesity, will diminish significantly.

                I don't care if you are feeding quinoa burgers and fresh vegetables every meal to these kids, it won't make a difference if they are ingesting more calories than they are expending.

                Look at high school athletes -- outside of many football linemen -- how many are obese? And trust me, when I was in high school none of my teammates nor I ever gave a second thought about what we were eating, unless we were trying to make weight for wrestling. And all of us were trying to eat as much as possible to put on weight.

                Kids eat too much. Kids don't move enough.

                That's the problem right there.

                1. re: ipsedixit
                  l
                  Lady_Tenar Dec 19, 2011 07:24 PM

                  I agree that controlling portion size is an important part of eating a healthy diet but I don't think that portion control belongs in schools. As another poster pointed out, lots of kids don't have enough to eat at home and really rely on school lunches to get enough to eat. I'd rather they be able to eat as much as they want. Even if it means that some kids will overeat, it's still better to overeat healthy food than it is to overeat unhealthy food. Plus, exposure to healthy foods can help instill tastes for them at a young age which is helpful later. I don't think we should be telling kids how much they should eat at school.

                  1. re: ipsedixit
                    mcf Dec 20, 2011 06:07 AM

                    What they are eating, studies show, determines how much they are eating; more carbs = bigger hunger afterward along with more fat storage.. And here's an interesting new finding... now just imagine if it were expanded to 5-7 days:

                    "Low Carbs for Just Two Days a Week Spurs Weight Loss
                    Adhering to a strict, low-carbohydrate diet two days per week led to greater reductions in weight and insulin levels when compared with standard daily dieting....

                    Can you diet for just two days a week? You might be able to drop more weight if you cut back on carbs just two days a week.

                    British researchers found that women who essentially gave up carbs for two days and ate normally the rest of the time dropped about 9 pounds on average, as compared to the 5 pounds lost by women who cut back to around 1,500 calories every day, according to a new report presented at the CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium."

                    1. re: mcf
                      w
                      wyogal Dec 20, 2011 06:10 AM

                      Growing brains need carbohydrates. Fad, low carb diets have no place in schools.

                      1. re: wyogal
                        mcf Dec 20, 2011 07:04 AM

                        No one needs dietary carbs, only fat and protein are essential in human biochemistry. All brains need a small amount of glucose daily, which they get from protein without all the damage done by fast metabolizing carbs. The fad is the grain based pyramid, completely out of synch with human evolutionary history. I just want to end this with the observation that everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but no one is entitled to her own facts.

                        1. re: mcf
                          l
                          Lady_Tenar Dec 20, 2011 06:10 PM

                          Not all carbs are created equal. Whole grains have a lot of protein and fiber in them that slows their metabolism. I definitely agree that lots of refined carbs are bad news but nothing wrong with some brown rice.

                          1. re: Lady_Tenar
                            mcf Dec 20, 2011 08:04 PM

                            No, grains do not have a lot of protein. They have extremely small amounts and no matter how high the fiber is, any diabetic using a blood glucose meter can tell you that they are rapidly and completely digested and produce a predictable and high blood glucose spike. Even plain wheat or oat bran or steel cut oatmeal produce spikes. There's almost no difference in the result between whole grain (by the way, a grain is not a whole grain once it's been cracked or ground) or processed gr ain. I've been testing every single food I've eaten both alone and as part of high protein mixed meals for over a decade... there is no grain that does not produce a big spike when added to even a substantial amount of quality (meaning animal) protein.

                            Since we're speaking about obesity, check out how many calories of quinoa you have to eat to get as much protein as a lean 4 oz of beef or chicken. That's not even addressing how much excess glucose and fat storage the grain induces compared to the meat. That's why they feed it to feedlot animals, to fatten them fast. It works, just look at the kids and others around you.

                            1. re: mcf
                              l
                              Lady_Tenar Dec 20, 2011 08:16 PM

                              So what do you suggest, that we feed kids (and everybody else) on an animal protein-based diet? That got it's own health problems and is completely environmentally unsustainable. I've had issues with hypoglycemia my whole life so I know a thing or two about keeping my blood sugar steady. There is a right way to eat a diet that includes a lot of carbs (and I'm not overweight). Vegetables are wonderful and we should eat lots of them but it's nearly impossible to get enough calories from them. They need to be bulked out with something, either protein or carbs, and, except for legumes, high-quality whole-foold carbs are a better choice for our bodies and the planet.

                              1. re: Lady_Tenar
                                mcf Dec 20, 2011 08:34 PM

                                There are no health problems associated with animal proteins, not once you read the studies instead of misleading headlines and corporate driven health authorities. I used to be severely hypoglycemic until I ate low carb. Instead of feeling shakes, clamminess and disoriented an hour after eating, I quickly was able to go 5-6 hours between meals and to reverse my kidney, nerve and neuropathic diabetic damage. Reactive hypoglycemia is caused by post meal hyperinsulinemia. If you've had issues with hypoglycemia your whole life, then by definition, you haven't learned anything about how to keep your blood sugar steady! I'm sorry, I used to believe what you believe, and accidentally found out the opposite was true by researching the hypoglycemia and the PCOS I developed on such a diet, and diabetes. The hg and PCOS disappeared overnight on low carb, and I use no meds after many years diabetic, just diet to keep my bg level all day and night, in normal, non diabetic numbers. No one gets less healthy by giving up calorie laden, nutrient impoverished starches for lots of colorful, fiber laden veggies, healthy proteins and fats. For example, our dinner tonight was a huge spinach salad with olive oil, walnuts, onion, celery apple and pork tenderloin. A ginormous serving of veggies, with non feedlot meat and healthy fats. And delicious! My post meal glucose is rarely budged ten points by such meals and I don't get a glucose low later because there's no insulin gusher causing a hypo.

                                1. re: mcf
                                  l
                                  Lady_Tenar Dec 24, 2011 12:36 AM

                                  I would think that, since I'm on this site, you might not assume that I am NOT taken in by every pop-science headline that anyone puts in front of my face. I've done my own research, thanks. My hypoglycemia has been controlled for years now, mostly from eating a lot of vegetables, whole grains, and vegetarian proteins with a little meat thrown in. Isn't it just maybe possible that what works for you is not necessarily what works for everyone else?

                                  Your eating habits could never work on a large scale. Your salad sounds delicious but it's also expensive. We shouldn't be feeding kids cheap staples but it's simply not feasible to be feeding kids gourmet salads all the time either. And while you can individually choose not to eat feed lot meat, feed lots are the only thing that allow us as a society to stuff our faces with animal protein at the rate we do. Pastoral, sustainable, healthier agriculture could never support the meat habit that we have in this country. If we were to return to it, we would all have to eat less meat--unless we were pretty well-heeled. Personally, I can't afford to eat ethically produced pork tenderloin all the time. Neither can most people. And school systems, definitely not, even if they were funded the way they should be.

                                  Everybody eating meat all the time is not environmentally sustainable. It's irresponsible to give kids that habit--for them and for the planet. And we have to think about that too.

                                  1. re: Lady_Tenar
                                    mcf Dec 24, 2011 09:16 AM

                                    Clearly, we are working from very different information. Everyone's entitled to an opinion, but no one is entitled to their own facts.

                                    1. re: mcf
                                      l
                                      Lady_Tenar Dec 24, 2011 11:50 PM

                                      Very true--and I really don't know where who're getting your information. I don't know of any serious person that denies that America's meat habit is unhealthy and unsustainable.

                                      1. re: Lady_Tenar
                                        mcf Dec 25, 2011 09:37 AM

                                        I get my information from biomedical research mostly and not from advocacy groups. While I agree that feedlot beef practices are unsustainable, that there are numerous much more sustainable and humane ways of producing quality animal proteins and vegetables. My job one is to survive and be healthy enough not to be a burden to my community in any way so I can contribute for as long as I live.

                                        1. re: Lady_Tenar
                                          t
                                          tastesgoodwhatisit Dec 26, 2011 07:18 PM

                                          But it's cheap.

                                          If we want to feed children healthy meals from quality ingredients, it's going to cost money to do so, compared to the abysmal but cheap ingredients and preparation methods that are used now.

                                          If we want to feed kids healthy meals made from sustainable, organic, locally produced, fresh foods, it's going to take even more money and a complete rearrangement of the food purchase, production, distribution and preparation system over the entire country.

                                          At some level you get what you pay for. If you want to do things as cheaply as possible you either need a great deal of skill and a willingness to adapt you eating habits to what is cheap and available (the frugal home cook, for example), or you get what the current school food system tends to be - low quality for a low price.

                          2. re: wyogal
                            mcf Dec 20, 2011 07:53 AM

                            Edit.

                            1. re: wyogal
                              MandalayVA Dec 20, 2011 01:28 PM

                              Sorry, not a fad diet. If you went to your doctor before the food pyramid came out and told him you wanted to lose weight, his first words would be "cut out starches and sugar." This low fat, whole grain stuff is the fad and it's obviously not working. Growing brains need fat and protein. Take two kids, give one bacon and eggs for breakfast and give the other one cereal and toast (and make sure both are "healthy whole grain") and see which one is going to have ants in their pants and be starving by lunchtime.

                          3. re: ipsedixit
                            s
                            sueatmo Dec 20, 2011 12:19 PM

                            I almost never think answers to systemic problems are simple. I am sure kids (in general) eat too much; I am sure that kids (in general) sit too much; but I am also sure that from the cradle to adulthood, they are eating the wrong things, unless their mothers are cooking nutritious meals, and insisting they eat them at home all through HS. When you were an athlete in HS, you probably didn't have a history of eating frozen pizza, hot dogs, and pizza rolls from the time you stopped taking the bottle. Modern kids do. And you probably hadn't been drinking soda from the age of three, either. And you probably didn't watch your dad do this when you were growing up. This is a systemic problem, or if you prefer, a societal problem. And then, there is the 24 hour availability of processed snack foods, most of which are over salted and over sweetened. If the problem is complex, the answer will probably be complex. But I don't think there is an overarching answer.

                            And I also want to mention the fact that most kids aren't athletes.

                            1. re: sueatmo
                              ipsedixit Dec 20, 2011 07:14 PM

                              When you were an athlete in HS, you probably didn't have a history of eating frozen pizza, hot dogs, and pizza rolls from the time you stopped taking the bottle.
                              _____________________________________________________________

                              In fact, I did. And then chased it all down with a quick run to our nearest Taco Bell or Winchells (if there were Krispy Kremes near us back then I might have gone broke).

                              And I still had problems keeping on weight, most of us did.

                        2. re: ipsedixit
                          c
                          Chatsworth Dec 20, 2011 07:53 PM

                          Jamie Oliver failed in the US. He was successful in the UK, where (a) he is recognized and admired and (b) it is much easier to have a grassroots led movement to effect such changes as came about in the school lunch programme.

                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            ericthered Dec 21, 2011 12:32 PM

                            I agree here. The problem is wrestling the iphone, ipad, video game controller out of their greasy, pudgy little fingers and kicking their overstuffed asses outside to get some exercise. This is the place to start.

                          2. f
                            Fromageball Dec 18, 2011 01:51 PM

                            I think healthy eating needs to be made a part of the curriculum. Not sure exactly how, especially on a larger scale, but just throwing these healthy items at students is not going to make the skeptical ones eat them. From what I remember high school offers plenty of electives - a mandatory elective each year could have something to do with learning about food and cooking. I was actually the type of high school student who ate a few bags of chips for lunch(when I didn't buy pizza or fries which were served every day), but since then I did a 180 and mostly do my own cooking and eat a lot of veggies and other healthy stuff. In other countries like France or Japan, lunch time is also much more of an occasion than it is here. So I think our whole food culture/attitude towards food needs to change in order to get the kids to eat better. Concentrate on the math/science/english, but also devote a decent part of the curriculum to cuisine. I think kids would be interested - I remember trying to get into the home ec cooking classes but they were always full. Expand the program and have every kid learn the basics at least.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Fromageball
                              l
                              Lady_Tenar Dec 18, 2011 02:49 PM

                              Agreed. Home ec in America has become a joke class and it shouldn't be that way, considering how much important knowledge could be potentially transmitted there. When I had home ec in public school, we sewed stuffed animals (yeah, so practical and useful) and made "pizza sticks"--canned dough, canned sauce, pre-shredded cheese and pre-sliced pepperoni. Hardly "economical" and certainly not healthy. What a wasted opportunity that was. A class like that should teach actual basic cooking skills--cooking a pot of beans, making a basic tomato sauce, peeling and prepping different kinds of vegetables, etc. And once in a while, sure, have the kids bake cookies on a Friday to keep them into it and to show them that being healthy doesn't mean being totally ascetic all the time.

                            2. c
                              Cathy Dec 18, 2011 02:21 PM

                              "Andre Jahchan, a 16-year-old sophomore at Esteban Torres High School, said the food was "super good" at the summer tasting at L.A. Unified's central kitchen. But on campus, he said, the chicken pozole was watery, the vegetable tamale was burned and hard, and noodles were soggy."

                              "Among other complaints, Vanderbok said salads dated Oct. 7 were served Oct. 17."

                              "In class recently, students complained about mold on noodles, undercooked meat and hard rice."
                              ////////////////////////////////

                              These statements stand out to me showing that the kitchen staff is incorrectly preparing, storing and presenting the food for the students.

                              The article is not saying the students have not tried the food; they have and it isn't fresh. I won't eat watery, soggy, burned, moldy, dried up, undercooked, ten days past the expiration date food either.

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: Cathy
                                l
                                Lady_Tenar Dec 18, 2011 02:52 PM

                                Yeah, that's another issue. Make the food actually GOOD. That's extra important when you don't have the crutch of covering everything with processed cheese to lean on. If we're going to get serious about serving healthy food at school, we also need to get serious about cooking it well--hiring people who really know what they're doing, training staff well, and paying them better too.

                                1. re: Lady_Tenar
                                  t
                                  tastesgoodwhatisit Dec 20, 2011 10:49 PM

                                  I think that's an important but often neglected step.

                                  If you've got poor quality food, poorly trained staff, and little money, the easiest way of making it palatable is to do what schools are doing now - coat it in batter and deep fry it.

                                  The other way to turn poor quality food into palatable food is to have someone who is a really good cook in charge of making it, which is practical on a family level, but not on a school system level.

                                  I like good healthy food - I'll eat quinoa, I love salads and vegetables of all sorts, I eat whole grains and happily chow down on the weirder parts of the animal, and I generally prefer the home-made version to the store bought. However, if you dumped me back in my university cafeteria and told me to buy lunch, I'd make a beeline for the fries and gravy, as the only item that was affordable, identifiable, and edible.

                                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                    DiningDiva Dec 20, 2011 11:22 PM

                                    Most schools do not have deep fryers.

                                    1. re: DiningDiva
                                      MandalayVA Dec 21, 2011 10:23 AM

                                      A lot of newer schools don't have kitchens, hence the importation of pre-packaged foods.

                                      1. re: MandalayVA
                                        DiningDiva Dec 21, 2011 10:56 AM

                                        Buiding a functional kitchen is expensive, hence school districts have cut corners in building new schools. Additionally, new schools are often not designed in collaboration with the end user(s) and many school administrators do not feel it is their - or the district's - responsibility to feed children, hence the care of and feeding of children in a school setting is a very low priority.

                                        What gets built also depends upon how the existing food service program is formatted and how it delivers services to the campuses. Is it a central kitchen operation? Do middle and high schools do the prep that is then delivered to elementary schools? Do the large elementaries do their own cooking? If a district builds a school with a full kitchen it then means they have to staff it, which they may not be able to afford to do.

                                        Not having a kitchen is certainly undesirable tho' not necessarily a travesty.

                                  2. re: Lady_Tenar
                                    DiningDiva Dec 20, 2011 11:25 PM

                                    How do you propose to pay for the staff you're suggesting schools hire?

                                    1. re: DiningDiva
                                      l
                                      Lady_Tenar Dec 21, 2011 12:44 PM

                                      There's really not money enough in the wealthiest country in the world to properly pay service workers who are responsible for feeding children? Give me a break. It would take a re-organization of priorities but the money is there. It'll just never happen, not any time soon anyway. I never said this wasn't a pipe dream. :-P

                                      1. re: Lady_Tenar
                                        mcf Dec 21, 2011 02:00 PM

                                        I don't think DD was necessarily referring to the pay scale of existing workers so much as the need for additional workers needed to do the labor involved in using fresher whole foods and prepping/cooking.

                                        1. re: mcf
                                          l
                                          Lady_Tenar Dec 24, 2011 12:38 AM

                                          I think both need to happen--more staff and better-paid staff. More staff to do the work, better pay to fairly compensate them for what they are doing and to give some actual prestige to the job, so it's not just attracting the dregs of the workforce.

                                        2. re: Lady_Tenar
                                          DiningDiva Dec 21, 2011 02:12 PM

                                          The money *isn't* there. Where is it?

                                          The French do a fabulous job of feeding their children in public school and doing it well. They also spend substantially more than $2.50 (or thereabouts, I think the NSLP reimbursement is actually a little higher). A lot of it stems from the fact that the French understand the "pleasure of the table" and have a far different relationship with food than Americans do, and they place a higer value on good food than we do.

                                          1. re: DiningDiva
                                            l
                                            Lady_Tenar Dec 24, 2011 12:39 AM

                                            Um, I said it IS there. It's just being spent on kids...

                                            1. re: Lady_Tenar
                                              DiningDiva Dec 24, 2011 07:23 AM

                                              Show me the money. WHERE is it? Where are school districts going to findadditional funding to pay higher wages to their Food Service staff? Yes, you did say the money was there to do it, I'm simply asking you where. You also said no countey on Earth had the resources to adequately provide for their students and I suggested that the French did (which is pretty well documented)

                                              1. re: Lady_Tenar
                                                mcf Dec 24, 2011 09:18 AM

                                                Where I live, it's being spent on pensions that are guaranteeing annual returns that cannot be met without plundering the school budget, not on kids, they're last in line in U.S. public schools.

                                    2. bagelman01 Dec 18, 2011 02:32 PM

                                      Start by making sure junk food and soda are not sold in the school building.

                                      It is against the law here for schools to sell soda nd other junk items, BUT the school store is operated by an organization, NOT the school. So, if my 14 year old has cash she will buy soda, gum, chips, chocolate and spend nothing in the cafeteria,

                                      Next, make the food available at a reasonable price. a simple wrap or salad in our local high school costs $6 without a drink. This is beyond the lunch budget of most families with multgiple school aged kids. So we brown bag it, and our kids are unlikely to try any healthy items offered at the school cafeteria. Even a bottle of water ias $1.10, while a soda in the school store is 75 cents!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: bagelman01
                                        w
                                        wyogal Dec 19, 2011 06:12 AM

                                        Our lunches cost adults $3.50, and at the high schools that gets you a full salad bar, choices of sandwiches, soups, main dishes, drinks. You get one meal, but the add on prices for extra drinks, other entrees, are reasonable. I've joked about wearing my district substitute teacher ID card and going there for lunch on my days off.

                                        1. re: bagelman01
                                          EWSflash Dec 19, 2011 08:43 AM

                                          Is this a private school? It sounds like highway robbery, considering the kids are probably mostly a captive audience

                                          1. re: EWSflash
                                            bagelman01 Dec 19, 2011 08:50 AM

                                            no, it's a public high school in CT

                                            This is what I get with 15K in property taxes, pay to play for high school sports, no sidewalks, no garbage pickup and lunches kids can't afford

                                        2. mrbigshotno.1 Dec 18, 2011 02:38 PM

                                          It has to start in the home as soon as the little tykes start taking solid food. Personally I think it's too late and won't happen. I think and beleive 80% of the population could care less, They'll talk a good story how they are moving to more healthy eating but it's all talk, the kitchens in their homes are just used as another storage area for empty pizza & KFC boxes before they go out to the trash. We CH'ders are passionate about food and are a minority, 20 years ago when our kid's were little we had their friends over all the time and had nice meals bbq's etc. It was amazing (if not shocking) how many of them had never had a real meal or sat down at the table to eat with the family. When our kid's went over to other kid's homes the parents were rarely around and would leave $20 on the counter with a note for the kid's to call Pizza Hut.
                                          Everybody claims they are just too busy, BS! Tyson foods, Hostess and Yum Brands etc. are going strong and will continue to do so. The little ones can't be expected to know how or what to do unless it starts in the home, everything starts in the home. There, that's my preaching for today!

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: mrbigshotno.1
                                            w
                                            wyogal Dec 19, 2011 06:14 AM

                                            Exactly. It's not about making kids take a required class in high school. It's about the home.

                                            1. re: wyogal
                                              l
                                              Lady_Tenar Dec 19, 2011 10:30 AM

                                              But we can't control what goes on in people's homes. We can grouse all we want about how people don't bring up their kids right (and many of them ARE too busy for family meals), it won't change anything for those kids. We can, at least in theory, control what goes on in the public sphere, like in school. If the kids aren't getting this knowledge at home, they should get it at school instead.

                                          2. m
                                            mpjmph Dec 19, 2011 06:04 AM

                                            Make healthier versions of pizza and hamburgers, but only offer them a few times a week. Transition to new foods slowly - i.e. offer quinoa salad as a side dish instead of french fries on hamburger day. When introducing a new dish, make a big deal out of it - offer small samples to kids who don't want a full serving. Let kids vote on which items to introduce first. Hold a recipe contest for the students - they can submit recipes or ideas to be tested a judged by district officials and a local chef, the winner gets a modest prize and picture in the paper, and the dish is served at least once district wide. Finally, make sure the healthy food is fresh and well prepared (the comments on quality are scary - of course kids aren't going to eat moldy, watery, or burnt food).

                                            1. w
                                              wyogal Dec 19, 2011 06:28 AM

                                              As another poster has commented, it starts in the home. It's not about the school picking up the responsibility of teaching one's children how to eat. Schools have enough on their plate, so to speak. Improve the education and economic stability of the community, of the parents.
                                              Our schools introduce a variety of fruits and vegetables as snacks during the day and after school. Our community also provides food for students over the weekend, given out on Friday afternoons. I would like to see more community involvement in reaching out to those that need the boost up in our towns. They have children to feed.
                                              But then, sadly, many times, it's hard to give the boost when some choose a large carbonated beverage, cigarettes, and other junk over their children's needs.
                                              So, yes, we need to improve school lunches, but in the context of your community. I feel our community does a good job offering healthy lunches, breakfasts, at schools and various food pantries (with concerns for well-balanced meals) around town are available to those in need. We have also developed many low-cost or free healthy activities/areas in our community so it is within reach to go for a walk on a parkway, hike, enjoy the outdoors.
                                              But, there will always be those that choose to do otherwise. and that is the dilemma. One can lead a horse to water...

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: wyogal
                                                l
                                                Lady_Tenar Dec 19, 2011 10:44 AM

                                                I'm glad your town is so enlightened but that's an exception, not a rule. Neither the city I grew up in, nor the city I live in now has such services for kids. You are right that improving things at school alone will not fix the problem. The problem is multi-faceted and measures that would help are as diverse as raising the minimum wage, improving housing in poor areas (lots of homes don't even have decent cooking facilities), and getting more supermarkets into poor neighborhoods, as well as community gardening projects. But schools are an important fighter in the battle and I don't think they have "enough on their plate"--not if they were funded and run better. And the idea of teaching skills in school isn't anything that hasn't been done before. That's would home ec used to be. Those classes still exist in many schools, they're just not being used well. Make it a real class, a better class that teaches kids real skills about cooking and meal-planning, not an opportunity for a teacher to sit on their butt and do nothing while kids open cans and expensive packages of junk and assemble more junk for an easy A. (I'm sorry, I don't want that comment to be interpreted as anti-teacher. I'm really not. There are many wonderful teachers out there but there are also many that are taking up space.)

                                                1. re: Lady_Tenar
                                                  w
                                                  wyogal Dec 19, 2011 02:58 PM

                                                  How many days did you spend in a school this month?

                                                  1. re: wyogal
                                                    l
                                                    Lady_Tenar Dec 19, 2011 06:56 PM

                                                    I work with public school kids in after-school programs. I may not be physically in the schools but know what goes in the schools where I live. I have to.

                                                    And, as I am in my twenties, it was not so very long ago that I was a public school student myself. I still know people that I grew up with who now work in the school system of my hometown. Not a whole lot has changed. I don't know exactly what part of my post you take issue with, but I assure you that I am not speaking from a place of ignorance.

                                                    1. re: Lady_Tenar
                                                      w
                                                      wyogal Dec 20, 2011 06:15 AM

                                                      Just about everything.....
                                                      but, not going there, as our realities are so different that I don't think you would take anything I have to say about our schools seriously.
                                                      Go into the schools. Change it if it needs change.
                                                      good luck.

                                                      1. re: wyogal
                                                        l
                                                        Lady_Tenar Dec 20, 2011 06:23 PM

                                                        Yes, our realities are very different. I wish the kids I work with were as fortunate as the kids in your school system!

                                                        "Our schools" is not an actual category. The conditions of schools diverge wildly. I've seen schools that are like palaces. Other schools are so poor, they can barely afford to heat the building. At my middle school, we didn't even have a cafeteria. Those children who were on the school lunch program were served warmed over floppy containers of slop. An under-ripe banana now and then was the closest they ever came to including healthy food. My high school had a cafeteria but was not much better. These are fairly typical urban school conditions. The school system here I live now isn't much better.

                                                        And out-door activities are often difficult because lots of inner city neighborhoods are not safe. Transportation elsewhere is expensive. Organized out-door activity is a worthy goal but it's not so easy for everyone to achieve.

                                                        Your knowledge does not trump mine. You have different knowledge. But if you think that schools already do everything they can do to get healthy food into kids, you're dreaming. I agree with your whole-community approach but you should recognize that not all communities are like yours.

                                                        1. re: Lady_Tenar
                                                          DiningDiva Dec 20, 2011 08:31 PM

                                                          "An under-ripe banana now and then was the closest they ever came to including healthy food. My high school had a cafeteria but was not much better. These are fairly typical urban school conditions"

                                                          No...this is NOT typical urban school conditions. I am a former K-12 director of food service and was in the trenchs for 15 years. Fruit - and multiple varieties including fresh - was served daily, the bananas were not green or underripe. Salads and salad bars were offered daily at all grade levels.

                                                          In my State - California - schools are grossly underfunded and will take another hit this January in excess of $100 million in additional cuts. What was once the absolute best public school system in the U.S. is horribly broken and close to non-funtional. Part of it is a result of an Ed. Code that is out of control, unfunded mandates, excessive mandated spending on special education at the expense of mainstream education, exceptionally strong and restrictive union agreements, Prop 13 (passed in 1968, restricts property taxes for schools) and a State economy that is limping by on fumes. In the 4 school district in which I worked, none of the food was horrible and fresh fruit and vegetables were routinely offered and served...and thrown away by kids who either wouldn't or didn't want to eat it.

                                                          "But if you think that schools already do everything they can do to get healthy food into kids, you're dreaming."

                                                          Schools do what they are mandated to do by the USDA or risk losing their Federal meal reimbursement. It's as simple as that. They follow the USDA guidelines, nothing more, nothing less. And they do it on about $2.50/day which has to cover all costs, including labor and benefits. The mantra for every K-12 director in this State is "thou shalt not infringe on the General Fund". Few districts in CA have the resources left to facilitate sweeping change to their school lunch programs, nor do they want to.

                                                          1. re: DiningDiva
                                                            ipsedixit Dec 20, 2011 08:34 PM

                                                            Few districts in CA have the resources left to facilitate sweeping change to their school lunch programs, nor do they want to.
                                                            ____________________________________

                                                            Nor should they.

                                                            1. re: DiningDiva
                                                              l
                                                              Lady_Tenar Dec 20, 2011 08:45 PM

                                                              I apologize if I made it sound as if I blame individual schools and their kitchen staff or even entire districts for bad school lunches. I know that a lot of them are doing their best. I'm the first to say the problem is a lack of funding and resources, which you'd expect, given the low priority given to schools, education, and child welfare in general in this society. When I say that schools are not doing all they can, I mean schools are not doing all they could be doing if they had they had the means to do so. Although I do think some more innovative minds would help and I do strongly believe that cooking and food should be built into curriculums like it used to be.

                                                              The public schools I grew up with are quite likely on the lower end. I grew up in one of the poorest major cities in the country and the property values just aren't high enough to get the schools even close to what they need (schools funded from property taxes, not there's a great idea--not!) My high school was the best-funded school in the district and a salad bar? Forget it!

                                                              But cities like this are not all that uncommon. Maybe there AREN'T really typical urban school conditions because cities are just so different, but what i grew up with was certainly not uncommon. There are a lot of cities like my hometown.

                                                              At any rate, my main point was is that a person can't generalize about all school conditions because of what goes in their own community. If you live in a community that serves lots of healthy food and has a lot of organized outdoor activity for school-age kids, consider yourself lucky.

                                                2. MandalayVA Dec 19, 2011 06:31 AM

                                                  The LAUSD should have done things the other way around and gradually introduce a salad here, a hamburger without a roll there and get rid of some junk until the menu's relatively healthy.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: MandalayVA
                                                    mcf Dec 19, 2011 07:06 AM

                                                    Definitely, while getting feedback and noticing which items were taken and eaten when added.

                                                  2. s
                                                    sueatmo Dec 19, 2011 06:52 AM

                                                    If the kids are eating frozen pizza, hot dogs and instant mashed potatoes at home as regular parts of their diets, then they aren't going to go for quinoa salad at school. They may go hungry at lunch, but they will grab snacks when they get home. In other words, there is nothing forcing them to eat the 'good' food, so they don't have to. If the school cooks or the central kitchen don't really believe in the food, it won't be prepared well, and so the food is unfamiliar and awful. Making familiar food healthier sounds like a good middle ground to me. But isn't much school food made from cheap US commodities? Government cheese and the like? (Although I understand much of this food has gone away.) The poor nutrition in school cafeterias is probably a product of many interrelated factors. The fact that it exists, wherever it does exist, is, however, a scandal.

                                                    15 Replies
                                                    1. re: sueatmo
                                                      s
                                                      smartie Dec 19, 2011 07:36 AM

                                                      I totally agree that all vending machines should be banned from schools and the water fountains reinstated.

                                                      School lunches should be mandatory with no opt outs. Flat fee per child lunch, the old fashioned soup, meat and potatoes and vegetables and a dessert, a vegetarian option if necessary but has to be signed up for in advance. A lunch teacher on duty making sure you finish your lunch whether you like it or not. We did it and survived. I barely remember any obese or fat kids at my schools it just didn't happen. Mandatory PE classes at least 3 times a week in all weathers like we did, freezing to death on the hockey field, tennis in the rain we did it, freezing showers after gym in the changing rooms none of which were heated.
                                                      Finally, bring back a mandatory year of learning to cook the basics in high school. At 14 we had learned pastry crust, scones, cookies, soups, salads, stews, how to cut and slice vegetables, how to use a stove, bake, and clean up. We then also had one year of needlework (not food related I know).

                                                      1. re: smartie
                                                        mcf Dec 19, 2011 08:27 AM

                                                        Why should lunch include a dessert? Why should any meal, on a routine basis?

                                                        1. re: mcf
                                                          s
                                                          smartie Dec 19, 2011 08:41 AM

                                                          why not? It was filling and compared to our rotten meat dishes was the thing to look forward to, 'if you don't eat your meat you don't get any pudding - how can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat' - courtesy of Floyd's The Wall.

                                                          1. re: smartie
                                                            mcf Dec 19, 2011 09:51 AM

                                                            I think teaching kids to eat dessert at every meal, especially when those meals are so starch laden, too, is very bad policy.

                                                          2. re: mcf
                                                            EWSflash Dec 19, 2011 08:48 AM

                                                            Excellent point. I never (well, very rarely) kept dessert around the house when my son was growing up, and nearly always made something nutritious from scratch for dinner and his lunch. He used to say he was ice cream-deprived, but early in college he took a nutrition class and actually thanked me once for the homemade nutritious food and lack of desserts.

                                                            1. re: EWSflash
                                                              mcf Dec 19, 2011 09:56 AM

                                                              I went a different way, because I grew up in a home without desserts or sweets in general, and grew up craving it as a result. I always had ice cream in the house but it wasn't made a big deal, and we didn't regularly serve dessert after dinner or any meal.
                                                              We rarely ordered desserts in restaurants, either. I rarely ate the ice cream, my child didn't pound it, it was just an occasional thing. And moderate servings. We never had cakes and cookies sitting around except if we'd baked or had company.

                                                          3. re: smartie
                                                            s
                                                            sueatmo Dec 19, 2011 08:51 AM

                                                            Your description of a solution is horrifying to me. Forcing kids to finish their lunch. And requiring a teacher to do lunchroom duty. Why don't we just go back to the 1920s?

                                                            1. re: sueatmo
                                                              s
                                                              smartie Dec 19, 2011 08:55 AM

                                                              well I'm not that old! This was the 60s and 70s in London and they certainly had teachers on duty to make sure we ate it all.

                                                              1. re: smartie
                                                                s
                                                                sueatmo Dec 19, 2011 09:04 AM

                                                                It just sounds like stuff they might have done in the '20s. I went to public school in the fifties, and I imagine there was a teacher doing lunchroom duty, but I don't remember if there was. I can't remember anyone insisting that we finish our meals either. Why would the school care? Our food was never wonderful, ever. But it was prepared in house, and not in a central kitchen in the school district. I can't remember that it was ever particularly high quality or 'balanced.' We should be able to do so much better than then, or what passes for 'balanced' meals now.

                                                                1. re: sueatmo
                                                                  m
                                                                  mpjmph Dec 19, 2011 10:49 AM

                                                                  I started kindergarten in 1987. In elementary school, the teacher did sit with the class during lunch, and had some control over our eating. We did not have dessert at every meal, maybe 1-2 times a month. On days we did have dessert, we weren't allowed to eat it until the teacher gave permission. Kids who did not eat enough of their meal did not get to eat dessert.

                                                                2. re: smartie
                                                                  MandalayVA Dec 19, 2011 10:49 AM

                                                                  And no one's quoting Pink Floyd?

                                                                  "If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?!"

                                                                  Oops, sorry, Smartie, didn't see your entry. (slinks away)

                                                                3. re: sueatmo
                                                                  mcf Dec 19, 2011 09:52 AM

                                                                  Yeah, sounded awful to me, too.

                                                                4. re: smartie
                                                                  t
                                                                  thomas64 Dec 20, 2011 11:50 PM

                                                                  Hey Smartie, I'll bet you walked five miles to school in the snow uphill both ways barefoot didn't you?

                                                                  1. re: thomas64
                                                                    s
                                                                    smartie Dec 21, 2011 05:50 AM

                                                                    not barefoot!

                                                                  2. re: smartie
                                                                    RealMenJulienne Dec 21, 2011 11:37 PM

                                                                    Smartie, I like your style.

                                                                    Does anyone else remember a children's book about a magic lunch box that would transform healthy food into burgers and pizza? I read the shit out of that book when I was a kid because it was total wish fulfillment. Kids are dumb and should not be responsible for what they put into their bodies, that's the job of the authority figure.

                                                                5. m
                                                                  mikey031 Dec 19, 2011 08:03 AM

                                                                  The education system in the U.S. has a very founded, established and strong way of conveying their message on a variety of unhealthy activities such as smoking, chewing tabacco,sex, booze, drugs, driving intoxicated, ect. And that would be horribly graphic gross-out pictures! Why not give it a try?

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: mikey031
                                                                    EWSflash Dec 19, 2011 08:49 AM

                                                                    Because kids, especially teenagers, are fully capable of knowing when they're being fed scare tactics, and being kids, will reject it out of hand.

                                                                    1. re: mikey031
                                                                      l
                                                                      Lady_Tenar Dec 19, 2011 10:49 AM

                                                                      Yeah, because that tactic works so well for all the things you mentioned!

                                                                    2. a
                                                                      Avalondaughter Dec 19, 2011 11:07 AM

                                                                      Quinoa salad and black bean burgers? No wonder kids won't eat the lunches! I wouldn't eat them either when I was a teen and I was a decent eater. You're shoving things at them that probably don't taste too good.

                                                                      How about a leaner burger on a ww bun with some non-mayo cole slaw on the side? How about mini pizzas on a pita? How about a grilled chicken breast with brown rice studded with peppers and onions and tomato? Houw about spaghetti bolognese with turkey? How about baked chicken nuggets and carrot sticks?

                                                                      You don't have to be so radical in order for kids to eat better. That's why I never liked those "Honey We're Killing the Kids" shows. They made the families go from pizza and burgers to tofu and fish all at once. Yes, it will make positive changes in health sooner, but will also be much harder to stick to than doing small changes at once.

                                                                      1. paulj Dec 19, 2011 11:09 AM

                                                                        At the end of this weekends The Splendid Table there's an interview with a NYC teacher who has been blogging her school lunch experience.

                                                                        1. c
                                                                          cgarner Dec 19, 2011 01:33 PM

                                                                          I am on the wellness counsel of the school district where my child attends school…I became a member of the counsel, because I wanted to make changes in the food we were serving.
                                                                          (funnel cake for breakfast… corn dogs for lunch, it was like State Fair Food every week!)

                                                                          The sad fact is that there are children in our district who receive their only sustenance Monday through Friday from the breakfast and lunch they get at the school. When you put this into perspective, it’s a really sad state of affairs.

                                                                          The kids who come from better socio-economic back grounds CAN go home and get a snack if they don’t eat lunch at school… some kids don’t eat again till they get back to school, or the family splits a bucket of KFC because it’s cheap

                                                                          I don’t mean to paint this “poor people” picture, it’s not snobbery, it’s what my experience is, at least where I live and I don’t condemn people for feeding their kids like this… but I do want them to have a healthier option at least ten meals in a week.

                                                                          What I have observed is that some things work, some don’t:

                                                                          Our Food services administrator abruptly took flavored milk off the menu, and the kids in the district went “on strike” from school lunches (which is a revenue generator in our district)
                                                                          Flavored milk went BACK on the menu.

                                                                          Some things that are working:

                                                                          Starting a community garden at the elementary schools
                                                                          It costs very little, and while there isn’t really enough to prepare food for the entire school, it will get kids involved and interested in where their food comes from.

                                                                          Make small changes with no fanfare… don’t announce it, just do it. (okay it didn’t work with the milk)
                                                                          Take canned fruits off the menu and put out fresh fruit salad or add cut up fresh fruits to the salad bar

                                                                          HAVE a salad bar

                                                                          Change your breads, pastas and such over to whole grains, brown rice etc…

                                                                          Stop serving anything fried, or pre-fried.

                                                                          Keep the food familiar, and let the kids participate in adding anything ‘exotic’ to the menu with ballots and contests.

                                                                          Make sure your “lunch ladies” know how to cook. I know, that sounds ridiculous, but many don’t! They heat stuff up… they don’t “cook”. If they know how to cook, you’ll have less chance of underdone meats and over done pastas!

                                                                          Eliminate junk food from the school… easier said than done. Our high school has a ‘school store’ which is run separately from Food Services. Kids can get cookies, pretzels and ice cream from the school store at lunch… the money goes to band and football!

                                                                          Get teachers involved with getting kids moving around in the classroom. Kids sitting on their collective butts for 8 hours a day stinks! Gym is once every 6 days. Not once a school week, we have a 6 day cycle, so we ask the teachers to help out by getting kids out of their seats during class, and even make it part of the classroom learning activity.

                                                                          The German teacher plays a game he made up called splat… he uses the overhead projector and fly swatters… kids answer questions by swatting the right answer on the screen. It’s a fun way to learn and 4 kids at a time are out of their seats.

                                                                          At the elementary level, have recess every day!

                                                                          1. raytamsgv Dec 19, 2011 02:51 PM

                                                                            Healthy eating starts at home. Kids will eat stuff that they learn to like at home. If you feed them pizza and chicken nuggets at home, you can be sure that won't be eating stir-fried tofu at school. Also, many types of dishes are difficult to cook correctly in large amounts.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: raytamsgv
                                                                              paulj Dec 19, 2011 03:41 PM

                                                                              Conversely, does serving stir fried tofu at home guarantee that they will choose that at school?? :)

                                                                              1. re: paulj
                                                                                mcf Dec 19, 2011 04:44 PM

                                                                                Stuff you purchase comes with guarantees. People are quite a bit iffier. You pays your money and takes your chances. :-)

                                                                            2. l
                                                                              laliz Dec 19, 2011 04:53 PM

                                                                              It is lunch. Soup or chili; Sandwich; Salad bar; fresh fruit; i.e. "lunch" food. No fries, chips, cakes, pastries. Carb-based entrees such as spaghetti, or mac n cheese are not necessary for lunch.

                                                                              LAUSD is highly diverse. Look at ethnic cuisines and pick what is familiar to school populations; burritos and/or tacos; stir fries w/brown rice; burgers on a whole grain thin bun or pita; BBQ shredded pork w/slaw; lettuce wraps w/chicken; "salad bar day" with GOOD lean protein options; ~~ make a green bean salad or a corn salad or a pea salad; don't start with quinoa and black bean burgers. Kids don't even like turkey burgers.

                                                                              Offer hummus, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese cubes, string cheese, fresh fruit -- kids are eating that from their parents at home.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: laliz
                                                                                s
                                                                                sueatmo Dec 20, 2011 12:21 PM

                                                                                See, carbs are cheaper.

                                                                              2. r
                                                                                rizzo0904 Dec 20, 2011 12:36 PM

                                                                                Healthy eating starts at home. If the kids first 5 years are filled with days of frosted flakes, mcdonalds, and pizza, then the rest of his life will be too unless that child is educated and wants to make a change. I don't feed my kids that crap because I can afford to feed them healthy options. WIC and food stamps should not be able to be used for unhealthy, processed foods. They should be used for fruits, veggies, grains....

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: rizzo0904
                                                                                  m
                                                                                  mpjmph Dec 20, 2011 01:18 PM

                                                                                  For the most part, WIC already has the restrictions you want. Individual states have some control, but in general WIC will provide bread (limited selection, generally whole grain), cereal (limited selection, generally unsweetened or lightly sweetened varieties), milk (or soy milk), fruits and vegetables, beans (canned or dried, no added flavorings), juice, eggs, peanut butter, and tofu. No meat, no junk, just bare bones nutrition for pregnant/nursing women and young children.

                                                                                2. DiningDiva Dec 20, 2011 09:13 PM

                                                                                  As a former K-12 food service director, let me share some things

                                                                                  - Get the USDA out of the picture. Feeding children is a low priorty for them, supporting agribusiness is not. The Child Nutrition programs are a by-product of agribusiness in ways you all can't even imagine.
                                                                                  - The USDA school lunch regulations are voluminous and burdensome, they need to be simplified and rewritten to make them understandable and easier to comply with.
                                                                                  - USDA Commodities are not uniformly bad, in fact many of them are acutally quite a decent quality. However, getting them to schools in a format they can use has created a massive, and highly lucrative (multi-billion), industry out of commodity processing. This needs to be overhauled.
                                                                                  - Nutrition Education needs to be a mandated in curriculum. There are currently no requirements for nutrition education to be taught at all. There are at least 2 generations of people with no cooking skills and no, or very little, viable knowledge of how food works.
                                                                                  - The food service staff in many school districts can not cook, nor do they work a full day. Most school districts in my State employee food service workers for 3 3/4 hours so that all they pay is salary (often minimum wage), no benefits. They also usually don't have viable cooking skills (Chopped episode notwithstanding). Parttime, minimum wage jobs tend to attract entry level, unskilled labor. Add the requirement (at least in CA) that they be finger printed and not have felonies, substance or abuse arrests, that shrinks that pool of entry level people even further.
                                                                                  - As parents you need to be squeaky wheels. If your food service director is clueless (and many are) press your issues at school board meetings. Don't whine, don't be accusatory, don't try and make the food service department or school employees look "stupid". Simply present your information and request change, and the more of you that do it the better. School Boards do NOT want to deal with food related problems, they also do not want that department to be very high profile. They often will react to get the problem to go away.
                                                                                  - Forget trying to get teachers involved. They are heavily unionized and their contracts limit what they can do.
                                                                                  - Most vending, candy and junk food sales in schools are NOT made by the food service (in fact, they can lose their meal reimbursement if they do) department but by the athletics or drama department, PTAs, ASB or other school clubs. Most of these organizations keep vending machines, or sell junk food to replace funds they no longer get from the school. If you really want the junk food out of your schools, start working on the source which are more often than not sanctioned by the school itself. The State of CA has Ed. Code rule to regulate the sale of non-nutritious foods, it even defines them, but the laws and rules are not enforced and have no teeth. If you State already has law on the books regulatin junk food sales, enforce them.
                                                                                  - Write to your state and local representative and congressmen/women demanding change. Until there is a large, vocal groundswell of people asking for change, Congress and the USDA can continue to ignore the need. After all, kids can't vote, but their parents can.
                                                                                  - Meal periods need to be more than 20 minutes in length and lunch shouldn't start at 9:30 in the morning.
                                                                                  K-5 kids should all have recess first and then lunch. From personal observation, they eat more after they've burned off some excess energy, when recess comes after lunch, they'd rather play so they don't eat much and toss the rest.
                                                                                  - Get farmers into the classroom or kids onto a farm (or both)

                                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                                    mcf Dec 21, 2011 06:00 AM

                                                                                    We can dream...

                                                                                    1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                                      s
                                                                                      soupkitten Dec 21, 2011 09:53 AM

                                                                                      i was going to bring up one of your last points, the 20 minute "lunch period," which is not the most important issue among all of these passionately argued points in this thread--but, if kids essentially have 10 mins or less to eat a meal, once they get through a line, they are getting trapped into unhealthy eating habits. they will eat the calorie-dense slice of pizza or burger + dessert, and throw out their vegetable portion or piece of whole fruit which takes longer to eat. it sets them up for fast food and binge eating and not being able to eat a proper social dinner over the course of 1-2 hours.

                                                                                      when i went to school i brown-bagged it, but my friends were free-school-lunch program. the girls would be forced to choose between eating and changing their tampon... so approximately a quarter of the female students going without a meal at any given time.

                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                        bagelman01 Dec 25, 2011 08:12 AM

                                                                                        Soup,
                                                                                        My high school freshman daughter has a 22 minute lunch period at 10:17AM. Not ready for lunch food that early, in school til 2:25PM, bus gets home at 3PM. You can be sure she is buying and eating junk food from the school store from noon on.

                                                                                      2. re: DiningDiva
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                                                                                        Lady_Tenar Dec 21, 2011 12:51 PM

                                                                                        Wonderful insights and great points! I agree with most of what you said. I still think teachers should be involved but, with unions the way they are now (not to mention liability issues) I understand why it's difficult. Still it seems to me that if there are going to be home ec classes--and there are many places--they can be a lot less useless than they are now.

                                                                                        1. re: Lady_Tenar
                                                                                          mcf Dec 21, 2011 02:02 PM

                                                                                          Speaking of sexism... when my husband was in a boys' home ec class, the teacher made the girls' class next period clean up after them!

                                                                                          1. re: Lady_Tenar
                                                                                            DiningDiva Dec 21, 2011 02:16 PM

                                                                                            Home Ec is an odd duck. The name alone puts many people/students off; some schools have even changed the name but that doesn't help. I think a lot of teachers, especially the younger ones, do want to be involved with projects related to feeding kids. I think the curriculum would need to be changed substantially to do what it needs to do.

                                                                                            1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                                              mcf Dec 21, 2011 02:49 PM

                                                                                              I have used everything I learned in home ec throughout my life, from sewing, to cooking and on and on... and everyone else but the person who is still my friend over 4 decades later was absent on apple sauce making day. We laughed a lot, made sauce, bonded...

                                                                                              1. re: mcf
                                                                                                DiningDiva Dec 21, 2011 03:27 PM

                                                                                                We had to do gathered skirts in sewing, this at a time when NO ONE was even wearing gathered skirts. Go-go boots and granny dresses yes, gathered skirts no. At least you got applesauce, we had to make eggs ala goldenrod http://www.food.com/recipe/eggs-a-la-... - not high on the list of anyone's favorite dish back then ;-). We also got to make muffins and french dressing. To this day, I still check to see if my muffins have tunnels or not from over mixing. Happy to say, mostly not :-D

                                                                                                I'd really like to see modern Home Ec classes teahcing things like knife skills, how to shop intelligently, and do lots of taste testing to develop a students awareness of what things taste like, teach ethic cuisines which then provides ample opportunity to bring in all the different cultural aspects that go along with the cuisine. Just moderinize it to make it relevant to what today's kids eat and need to know as they go through the next 40 years.

                                                                                                Home Ec isn't valueless, it just needs a little nip and tuck.

                                                                                                1. re: DiningDiva
                                                                                                  mcf Dec 21, 2011 04:15 PM

                                                                                                  As I recall, dirndl skirts were extremely popular when I was in jr high in the late 60s... go go boots may've been a bit earlier? Granny dresses later, I thought... Let's see, we made cinnamon toast (what a challenge!), apple sauce and brownies. Maybe a quick bread? We made simple shift dresses and learned how to sew on shank buttons and two and four hole ones, how to hem by hand, and how to file our nails ("for heaven's sake, don't saw back and forth!" is what Mrs. Love said).

                                                                                                  1. re: mcf
                                                                                                    DiningDiva Dec 21, 2011 05:37 PM

                                                                                                    Yes, mid-60s :-)

                                                                                          2. re: DiningDiva
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                                                                                            sophiejj Dec 21, 2011 07:14 PM

                                                                                            As a current director in school lunch service, you are SPOT ON DiningDiva!
                                                                                            Your second to last point is key and often overlooked and I wrote a blog last Spring (http://www.choicelunch.com/blog/artic...) about the recess then lunch issue.
                                                                                            We are training our kids to eat fast food!

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