You may be aware that there is currently a debate raging about school lunches in the United States. Books such as School Lunch Politics by historian Susan Levine or Lunch Wars by activist Amy Kalafa have been recently published; activism is gaining momentum; and even the first lady has taken on childhood diet as a main initiative.
For the most part, school lunches remain frozen mass-produced foods, almost never being actually prepared in the school kitchen. I know for myself that neither I nor any of my close friends would have dreamed of consuming what the cafeteria served up. As a result of that, however, I have little recollection of what the options actually were. I rather recall a particular smell that was always present in the lunchroom, and needless to say, did not motivate me to explore further.
While there are some regulations about nutritional balance, we found out from Jamie Oliver that french fries constitute a vegetable. That gives us a sense of the status quo that we are up against. Jamie Oliver is one of those who is asking why making food from scratch in the kitchen is so out of the realm of possibility. He takes us through some of the issues and obstacles surrounding school food in his TV series Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. When he proposed to use the school kitchens to make food and not just reheat it, it was seen as not only a threat but an absolute absurbity.
Another aspect of this questioning has involved looking to other countries to see how they feed their children at school. In future posts, I will be looking into and testing some of the foods that make up school lunch around the world (bento boxes are a favorite of mine!), but for now, I would like to direct you to a couple of other blogs that are worth looking at. One is called What’s For Lunch: What schoolchildren eat aroung the world, and can be found at:
Another reflects the current interest in French childrearing tactics. Karen Lebillon wrote a book called French Kids Eat Everything and has her own blog where she documents real French school lunch menus, blue cheese and all. She can be found at:
I’ll end with one of her recent posts which took us to St. Etienne, which happens to be where my husband’s family lives. She explains how St. Etienne schools are on track to be entirely organic by 2014, pretty impressive for a fairly low-income region. One of the June menus she lists is the following:
Main Course: Fish filet with sautéed organic vegetables and organic potatoes
Dairy: Organic camembert
Dessert: Organic compote (fruit sauce)
Sounds good to me.
4 thoughts on “The ABCs of School Lunch”
My mom told me about a problem in the school cafeterias in Houston when they tried to institute more healthy food. The regulation in question called for more fresh vegetables, but the salt restrictions were very severe. So the kids were served heaping piles of cooked string beans with no seasoning. Almost no one ate them, and they went straight into the trash. Pounds and pounds of string beans in the garbage. The same regulations that say french fries are a veggie can make actual veggies unpalatable to American children. I think common sense went completely out the window.
Ugh, that’s so frustrating! I was thinking that if you look at the American trays on some of the websites that photographs school lunches- another good one is here:
you can be sure that next to the fried chicken and freetos, the milk is going to be either 1% or skim. Maybe if they tried 2 % or whole then kids would be less likely to want soda and strawberry flavored milk (lowfat of course!)!! Put the cheese on the green beans instead of the pizza! Duh…
I’ve tried to understand the American mentality about fat for a while. If you go to a convenience store – or a cheaper grocery store for that matter- you can be sure that next to the hotdogs, potato chips, and packaged transfat pastries, ALL the yogurt and milk will be fatfree or maybe 1%. I think the idea is that those foods are “health foods” and as such should be fat free?? Do you think that’s it? That would seem to be supported by your story. The only problem is, who wants to eat “healthy” food unless it’s prepared with a little (natural) fat?? We set ourselves up for failure.
Honestly, make the kids old fashioned green bean casserole, and it would be better than pizza and chicken nuggets. It’s yummy, and has veggies.
Yes, I don’t get the american obsession with health food. Health food has to be non-fat non-sugar and painful to scarf down. I think we would be much better off if we just ate real food and instituted some portion control. Eat the real chocolate cake. Have one piece on special occasions and skip the non-fat cookies daily.
I think there are some changes going on with the local real food movement, but it’s still an affluent somewhat fringe idea.
Ah, green bean casserole. There’s another good entry! I totally agree.