The School Lunch Debate

Liz Fogle

I feel like I am in venturing into a sticky subject…nutrition and school lunches. When Bug (my daughter) started school, my husband and I knew she would have to eat school lunch (it is a requirement for preschool). In all honesty, we were concerned. We were concerned that she wouldn’t like the food, that it may have some ingredients she is allergic to (her allergies are certain spices), and the nutrition factor. At the beginning of the school year, I had resigned myself to the fact Bug would be eating lunch at school. Well the lunch subject has resurfaced (oh…I hope this blog make sense, I just a mom trying to understand!).

Bug now has the option to take her lunch. Her lunch still has to meet certain USDA guidelines. It has to include: milk, protein, 2 vegetable servings or a vegetable serving and a fruit, and bread. This doesn’t seem too hard to accomplish, but I am left scratching my head. I question how what she is eating at school now, meets those specific guidelines.

I decided to do a little research on school lunches and how foods were classified (the USDA has a huge PDF file on foods, serving size, and how they fit these classifications. I suggest you check it out). The information can be overwhelming! This is what I have gleaned from my reading and research. I hope that it is all accurate, but to be honest I am still confused by some of the standards.

When I “googled” school lunch regulations, a whole host of news articles came up. I clicked on several of them (most of them were dated November 2011). They all related to the Agriculture Department and a spending bill. Apparently in November, a bill was proposed that would allow the Agriculture Department to make changes to the nutrition guidelines. The new rules would have cut potato servings (currently, French fries are a vegetable), changed the way tomato paste was counted as a vegetable (yes, a slice of pizza can fulfill a vegetable serving), increased whole grains, and reduced sodium. Needless to say, the bill didn’t pass for various reasons.

Despite this bill failure, some changes are still being made to school lunches. The changes are a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. They actually went into effect this week in some schools. Some of the changes you could see in your child’s lunchroom are: more fruit and vegetable options, increased whole grains, lower sodium, and fat-free or low-fat milk. Portion control and calories will also be considered. Schools will receive a financial incentive for implementing the changes.

I applaud the changes to school lunches!! I remember some of the things I ate growing up and boy they weren’t healthy. At 16, I didn’t see anything wrong with eating macaroni and cheese and a roll for lunch or bread sticks and cheese. But as an adult, I am appalled by how I ate!! I desire to set a good nutrition example in our house and don’t want it undone by a school lunch.

This blog is not to pick on my daughter’s school or their lunch options (I have heard some good discussion of possible changes)! We have actually seen a few positives from Bug eating school lunch. She is trying new foods and eating things I struggle to get her to eat. I would love to know how her teachers get her to eat some foods! I guess its a little food peer pressure?!?!

In an attempt to get a more accurate response and opinion on school lunches I asked several of my friends (who have school age children). I found out that many of my friends children do eat school lunch. For those whose children don’t eat school lunch, there reasons varied. Some cited picky eaters, others cost, and others nutrition.

So what is your opinion on school lunches and the new changes being made? Do you kids eat at school or bring their lunches from home? Why do they choose one over the other? Would love to hear from you!

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