We Need to Change the Lunch Program

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (starts tomorrow night!) has got me all fired up about our lunch program in schools. I’ve been into this for a long time, and he has brought back my desire to change it! I hope that his show will open the eyes of America and show us just how bad the lunch system really is.

My husband is a teacher at an elementary school.He tells me that all their food comes pre packaged and they just warm it up. Does that not sound disgusting to you? Would you like to eat lunch every day that was already made and packaged. Nothing fresh? Eww.

There are no fresh fruits. None. No bananas, oranges, apples, berries, pears, watermelon, nothing. Kids are going to throw their food away if there is a better option. If you present a 4th grader with pizza and an apple, she will most likely choose the pizza. No surprise there. But, if you present a 4th grader with foods that are all healthy, she will eat them and she will learn to like certain foods. She is hungry!

Are we giving ourselves excuses that kids must eat crap because it’s the only thing they like? News flash! WE are teaching them what they like. My son, for example, is only one, but I can already show him that fruits are like candy. They are yummy and fun. If you’re a kid, you eat whats in front of you. It’s my belief that children will eventually learn to like whatever you feed them.

Educators and parents expect and want their child to grow, learn, and thrive yet we’re not providing them with the fuel to do so. No wonder they can’t sit still in class. No wonder they can’t concentrate or understand a simple math equation. They’re eating crap.

I can’t function very well when I eat junk for lunch, let alone a child who is learning.

This is something that I’ve been passionate about for a long time. A few years ago I had a meeting with the “head” lady at my school district office. I asked her about what sort of jobs were available, and how can I get involved in changing our lunch system in schools. In short, she basically told me that I need more education (it doesn’t take a masters degree or a PhD to know that processed food for growing kids is not healthy) and my chances of getting involved were low.

I think, all of us mothers (and dads, too!) need to come together and make something BIG happen. We need to demand healthier food options in schools. What can we do? How can we change this? Shouldn’t we have a say in what school systems are feeding our kids?!

I don’t think I’m being realistic. I’m not asking them to prepare all organic foods every single day. I’m not expecting a child to eat gourmet meals with four servings of vegetables. I just expect a lunch program at any school to be relatively healthy.
I think it’s just about common sense, really. It’s sort of a like a mathematical equation.
Healthy food + people = more brain power, better grades in school, higher levels of concentration, increased mood.
You do know there have been studies done to prove this, right? People who eat healthier are shown to have all these things; increased attention span, better grades in school, increased mood and lower levels of stress/anxiety/anger, able to concentrate and focus better.

We need to do something. How do you feel about all of this? Is your school among one of the healthier ones? Or the unhealthiest? Do you know what food their feeding your kids? What are you going to do about it?

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

18 thoughts on “We Need to Change the Lunch Program

  1. I definitely agree something needs to be done about school lunch. I too watched Jamie Oliver food revolution and laughed when they said they cant make things from scratch. it is easier to open a bag of apples then it is too seperate chicken nuggets into servings. I hope one day things can change our nation filled with obesity is horrible. Even worse is that people make themselves so skinny they look like they are starving. Maybe if we all had healthier options being more affordable then we would not have this issue.

  2. I know that when I ate lunch room food in Middle School I tore the corn part off of my corn dog and had a green hot dog. NASTY!!! Needless to say, I didn't eat it ever again.

    I know the school in my area now tries to serve some healthy foods. My in laws grow cantaloupe and the schools buy them fresh from them a couple of times a week.

    I wish there was more we could do though. People wonder why we have so many obese children…. Look at what they eat everyday!!!

  3. http://www.slowfood.com

    http://www.jamieoliver.com/jfr-beta/pdf/Jamie-Oliver_Food-Rev-Charter.pdf

    http://www.betterschoolfood.org/

    Two weeks ago (right before spring break) my 4th grader came home and informed me that he didn't want to get hot lunch at school anymore, he wanted to pack leftovers from home. LEFTOVERS. He'd rather reheat leftovers of my cooking than have corndogs, hamburgers, pizza, etc. 9 years old.
    We'd talked at the beginning of the school year (he qualifies for 40cent lunch, which is cheaper than packing) and he wanted to buy at school…but the novelty has worn off I guess. I'm actually working on starting a series on my recipe blog of good stuff to pack for lunches. We started off with carrot-gingerbread muffins (like carrot cake or gingerbread cake, only less sugar and in muffins…veggies + wheat flour + reduced sugar = good part of lunch!) I asked him to sample one after I made them, and he told me it was the best thing he'd ever eaten. So I guess that recipe is a keeper!!

  4. Oh, so yeah, I'm packing him lunches now, (or, rather, making things that he can pack for himself) but I've also decided to start talking to the PTO to try to make some changes.

  5. not all schools are like that, my nieces have the choice of which fresh fruit they want with their meal. In my high school (needless to say this has been nearly 10 years ago) we had soy products for vegetarian meals, salads, and other meal options.

    I hate that some schools are eating horrible foods, but it is our job as parents to stand up and make our opinions heard. that is how my school did it.

  6. I think that it is all about teaching our kids to make smart food choices. While sometimes we don't have the luxury to pack our kids lunches every day, we can teach them from a young age eat their fruits and veggies.

    I TOTALLY agree that the school systems need to offer better choices for children. As a kid my mom always made my lunch- I never ate hot lunches- but in high school I remember that the most popular offerings were nachos and pizzas! Gross!

  7. I having been blogging about this for the last week – I am growing my first veggie garden – and sending my kids to school with lunches – our school lunch program has started offering pizza and chicken nuggets every day — it's crazy that they are serving fast food everyday!! Come see what's in our lunch bags.

  8. Everything?? That is disgusting. I have a guest post from a friend/fellow blogger that is set to publish soon – she mentions a new school (in Chicago?) that incorporates a lot of nontraditional things like yoga and (gasp) healthy fresh food. Not only have educational scores improved, but the obesity rate dropped significantly in the first year!

  9. I totally agree with your statement: “it's my belief that children will eventually learn to like whatever you feed them.”

    I know there are some picky kids out there but it seems that an awful lot of parents cater to their kids by cooking separate meals for them and excusing them from eating what everyone else is so that they can avoid an argument. Many of the parents I know who have difficult eaters don't even insist on a single bite of the 'offensive food' which really boggles my mind, how are the kids ever going to learn to like new things if they are never exposed to them?

    In my school board the lunch programs have recently flipped from pizza and hot dogs (once a week) to hot lunches (2 days a week) that include a variety of pastas, sandwiches and salads. Hopefully this healthier trend keeps up!

  10. I haven't seen the show but I couldn't agree more with you!! When I was teaching elementary school I was horrified by the food offered. My husband teaches high school and the meals he tells me they offer are so bad. There HAVE to be changes.

  11. I wrote a paper on this topic when I was doing my bachelors degree. It's amazing at what school districts can accomplish when they take the time to make the food from scratch- it doesn't actually cost much more. There are some schools in the US that are teaching the students how to grow a garden and they use the produce that grows to make their lunches- great idea!

    Interestingly I don't know any schools here in Canada that offer lunches. I never got them growing up either.

  12. I couldn't agree more! I work in schools too and even though my district has a “wellness policy” that excludes candy and soda from schools, the middle and high school lunches are basically fast food options and most students eat pizza or nachos most days. It is time for a change!

  13. It varies a lot by state. I'm a registered dietitian/researcher in Texas and do health related research on students in schools. In Texas a lot of progress has been made. PE is mandated (to some degree) and the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy outlines junk foods that are excluded, an increase in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables offered, and other improvements – such as no fryers!

  14. I get a menu sent home every month of what is offered each day. They always offer a hot lunch, a cold cut sandwich, and some type of salad. The children choose which they prefer. Then they also have a choice of things like fresh fruit, veggies and dip, mozerella cheese sticks, etc. I find their lunches are pretty good, and I'm very pleased with what my daughter chooses.

    We live in NY State. I know it does very by state, but also by school district. And I know healthy eating has been something that has been pushed in our area schools big time.

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