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Opinion: Fed Up With School Lunches

4/22/2010 4:33:18 PM

Tags: Opinion, Fed Up With Lunch, Health, School Lunch

GinaAlthough I’m not a mother, I find myself worrying about my future children’s health.

When I was a student—both elementary and high school—I ate a lot of hamburgers, crispitos, chicken fried steak and pizza. In kindergarten we took a milk break every day and I remember always choosing chocolate milk because I was never allowed to drink it at home. Throughout elementary school I never enjoyed eating my vegetables (as many kids don’t) and I remember hating the few teachers that made me eat a bite of my vegetables before I was allowed to leave the lunchroom. By high school my palate had changed. I was finally starting to enjoy foods that were healthy and not necessarily deep fried, but my bad habits were easy to feed with the four different lunch options my school offered. These included:

1. The main dish. This offered the choice between two main dishes. (Today’s meal at my old high school served a soft taco or a chicken fajita along with rice, refried beans, a selection from the fresh fruit and vegetable bar, and milk.)

2. The salad bar. This offered salads, dressings, soups and crackers.

3. The pizza bar. This offered the pizza of the day, which more often than not was pepperoni.

4. The a la carte line. This offered snack foods such as nachos, hot pockets, pre-packaged burritos and chips.

Many students patiently waited in the lengthy a la carte line every day to eat snack foods for lunch, such as nachos, hot pockets, Pop Tarts or simply a soda and a bag of chips.
Photo by debaird/Courtesy Flickr

When I was a student, I never thought much about lunch. I usually ate the main dish but if I truly detested that day's options I would make my way to the pizza or the a la carte line. These were by far the two most popular of the lines—it took almost the entire lunch period to get through the a la carte line in particular.

Should kids be given these many choices, or rather, temptations? Could I still eat the lunch my old high school offered if it was the only option I had?

Courtesy Fed Up With Lunch 

I recently discovered a very interesting and educational blog titled Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project. The premise is simple: an elementary school teacher, who identifies herself as Mrs. Q, made a 2010 new year’s resolution to eat a school lunch every day she was at school—the same as her students.
I was appalled by how bad other students around the states have it. I’ve never seen a school lunch look this horrible. Some of her posts are absolutely depressing.

Courtesy Fed Up With Lunch 

Yes, The Herb Companion is a magazine devoted to growing, cooking and healing with herbs. But as such, we are also a magazine that believes very strongly in nutrition and its proper education. We use herbs to stay healthy and hope to teach others how to do the same. For some healthy, easy-to-make lunch options, read our 2001 article "Healthy Workday Lunches."

What was school lunch like for you? Are you as appalled as I was by Mrs. Q’s lunch? Do you (or will you) pack your children’s lunch to remove their unhealthy temptations?

Stay tuned. I plan to talk more about school lunches and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in an upcoming Herbalista blog. 

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