This post is part of a partnership with the School Nutrition Association. Please note that, as always, any personal opinions reflected in this post are my own and have not been influenced by the sponsor in any way.
School is back in session. My youngest son’s school just sent home the menu for next month’s school lunches. School lunch. No doubt a big topic of discussion in many households at this time of year.
You might recall that in I wrote a post about the School Nutrition Association’s National Conference that I attended this year in Boston, MA. Things you wanted to know about school lunch but didn’t ask. I touched upon things that I learned at the conference that many people don’t ask. In today’s post I want to touch upon things that people do ask. Meaning, the questions people asked me when I asked them what they wanted to know about school lunches. For the most part, questions were about one of three things – the food, the allergies, and the rest.
- Why do they serve things kids don’t like to eat? That’s why my kids never eat lunch as school … they’d rather eat the same old Jelly sandwiches or Lunchables every single day.
- How are healthy choices that also appeal to children (so important that the kids want to eat it) being incorporated into the daily lunch meals?
- Why don’t schools poll the kids AND the parents to see what would work rather than offering the same crap they always do?
- Are kids eating them and are generally happy about their lunch?
School districts are trying to offer more healthy foods now then ever before. When determining what to put on daily menus a lot of things are taking into consideration. Nutritional content is the big one, followed closely by taste. Many districts are actually implementing taste test programs for new food products, to see what the students think.
Of course, some kids (and adults, myself included) get a bit closed minded. I hear certain things and I won’t touch the dish. Kids are the same way. If we as people understand why things are good for us, and then hopefully find ways to make those foods taste good, we’ll eat more of them.
- Definitely interested to know how they go about special diet restrictions like nut allergies, gluten-free diets, etc.
- Are they going to be incorporating more allergy free foods into menus?
- I am curious of schools will start to offer more allergy friendly lunches since allergies are on a rise. Especially in those schools that are mostly free and reduced lunches.
My youngest is gluten-free. I think about this topic a lot. I did discuss this topic in my first post. But if you missed it, let me summarize. First and foremost. Schools need to know that your child has a legitimate food-allergy. They won’t put it on the menu if they don’t know there is a demand or need for it, know what I mean? Let your school know that your child has specific food allergies. The nutritional department needs to know how many people have what allergies. Once they know there is a need they can start looking into foods and ingredients that are safe. More and more nut-free and gluten-free items are becoming available literally almost daily.
- At the school I work at, the children are offered Bananas, Apples and oranges. They HAVE to take them, it’s required. Do you know how many they throw away? It’s such a waste.
- What nutritional and health training does school staff receive, including lunch room staff AND teachers
- Why can’t they serve a wider variety of different foods? More raw veggies and fruit.
- What options are being explored for organic lunches?
First of all, you might be surprised to find that employees working in school nutrition programs have an extensive relevant background, whether it be in nutrition, cooking or even medical. Believe me, the 90 year old lunch lady older folks like me remember from our school days is not calling the shots. Schools are required to offer a nutritionally balanced meal that meets federal guidelines. Remember the old food pyramid? Same concept. They have to offer certain things in order to remain within federal guidelines. Schools across the country are starting initiative such as Farm To Table, where the school is actually participating in the planting, gardening and harvesting of fresh fruits and vegetables. In some schools there may be gardens right there on the school property. This is a terrific way to make sure that fresh foods are incorporated into meals, and to teach the kids about growing and cooking healthy foods.
Oh and there’s one more thing.
How was that for a Steve Jobs Keynote moment?
I had no idea that school nutrition programs are generally not funded by the board of ed. I always thought that they were. Many schools offer a la carte items to students in order to offset their costs. Like the Lindy’s cookies I mentioned last month, for example. Yummy a la carte item for years now. Still taste like they did when I was in high school in the 80s, but now they meet current FDA guidelines for school nutrition. And the profits from selling them help make school lunch programs possible. Maybe once in a while let your child buy cookies. Food for thought, pun intended.
The School Nutrition Association is a national, nonprofit professional organization representing more than 55,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country.