Let's talk about food! School food to be specific. I have been working in a school for over 20 years so I think I have a pretty good idea what kids are eating and not eating. My school has been trying for years to improve the lunches and now breakfasts that we are offering our school age children. Gone are the days of feeding children a good meal to fill them up and get them through the day. It is now a business. Big business we have found out. Our P.E. teacher has worked for years on changing the choices that are offered to children but has run up against a brick wall at every turn. Long before Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution, she has talked until she is blue in the face about offering only healthy choices. So far we have only managed to get them to offer oatmeal...but with a packet of sugar to sweeten it.
We know that kids like hard boiled eggs. How easy would that be to offer an egg, a piece of toast, and a white milk. But heaven forbid less children buy breakfast and their families feed them at home! Instead they are offered a coffee cake like thing, breakfast pizza, or my all time favorite is the corn dog with a rancid sausage inside. We have kids buying breakfast that have already eaten at home just to get the sugary sweet stuff offered at school.
Lunch is getting better I must say but the kids are still offered pepperoni pizza every day and some always make that choice, followed up with a chocolate milk.
We would like to have every child visit the salad bar and even if they don't eat it they are being taught what a balanced meal looks like. A lot of the kids at our school, sadly, never see that.
Not only are we feeding our kids the wrong things we are letting them eat all day long. Snacks have gotten completely out of hand. School starts at 9:00 and by 10:00 they are munching on their first, usually processed, snack. Did you know that you can perish if you feel pangs of hunger? No wonder we have such a problem with childhood obesity. Everyone is afraid of feeling hungry.
Last weekend in church, a young couple sat next to us with their boy who looked about 5. Not too far into the service the mom pulled out a string cheese and let him eat it. The noisy wrapper was heard crinkling while everyone else was praying. Eating in church? My mom would have killed me. Toys in church? All I got to do was doodle on the back of my program and make faces at my sisters when the choir hit a sour note.
As a healthy eating staff, we have been pretty passionate about change. It has been an uphill battle but if we persevere together we can, hopefully, change the minds of the higher ups and offer even our poorest children healthy choices. Recently, after helping a kindergartener wash syrup off his crayons and the desk after finishing his deep fried french toast sticks smothered in syrup, I talked to our principal and questioned the smothering of syrup and suggested that the lunch ladies didn't know the outcome in the class of all that syrup for not only the teachers but the custodian...not to mention the health of the child. He agreed that he would ask the lunch ladies if the syrup filled a nutritional requirement (really?) and if they had to serve it. He talked to them and they agreed to give the little ones less. The next time french toast sticks were on the menu the same boy happily munched his with no syrup.
The 4-H program was started when the county agents knew that the way to change farming methods was to teach the children. As an ex 4-H leader, I embrace that theory. Let's teach our children how to eat healthy.
Now don't get me started on the fact that it is just one more thing that schools are forced to do because parents are not!