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For the last several days, my daughter has come home with tales of her school lunch experiences. She has been in school just over a week and already is afraid she will starve during her school day if she doesn’t take her own lunch. Today, for example, she wasn’t even given enough food to keep her body functioning through PE class. I must admit, this broke my heart.
Both of my children have major issues with the food served at their school. The last two years, they were both homeschooled, and we spent a lot of time focusing on health and nutrition. Returning to school to find high carbs, fried foods, and overcooked, flavorless mush deemed to be vegetables was not what either of them was expecting. Honestly, neither was I.
School lunch programs all over the country have been getting major makeovers, but this is mainly in higher-funded schools. When schools are faced with a limited budget, they have to decide where to cut cost. Food seems to be at the top of the budget cuts.
While the schools where I live offer a completely free breakfast and lunch program, the food being served is far from desirable. My children have complained about it being cold, overcooked, and void of any sort of flavor.
However, a much bigger concern is the fact the food is vastly unhealthy. With obesity rates so high in our country, we should take a stand and teach our children early about healthy food options. This includes the food being given to them at school. Food should be made in a way that is appealing, nutritious, and nurturing for their young, growing minds and bodies.
There is, however, still the issue of how to deal with cost. As many of us already know, eating healthy isn’t an inexpensive option. Finding a way to cut costs can be tricky, however, not impossible.
Talk to your local farmers.
Our country is still full of farms, and many towns and cities have local farmers' markets open to the public. Talk to the local farmers about specials they may be willing to make for the school or even donations. Farmers tend to support local, and schools certainly fall under that description. It also will expose kids, and subsequently their families, to local foods and increase business for the small farms. It is a winning situation for all parties involved.
Start a school garden.
Michelle Obama spoke a lot about eating healthy and even went to schools in larger cities to help them start gardens. Not only would starting a garden aid in providing food for students, but it will teach kids a valuable life skill. Classes could take turns tending the garden or planting different fruits and vegetables throughout the year. If the school is in a place where gardening can be difficult due to weather, maybe see if the community would support building a greenhouse for the school. Many communities would love to see their schools have health programs that give students a broader perspective on life.
Teach the kids how to cook.
College is expensive, and many people are turning toward trade schools and other career paths to avoid this. Cooking is one of those careers which can be learned at a young age and taken to great heights as you grow older. Starting cooking classes in schools, where the students cook the food for the school, would give them both an education on how to cook, make healthy food choices, and plan out meals for various groups of people. It will also make the students prouder of the food and appreciate it in a way being served their lunch never could.
How do we make the change?
The only way change can happen is if the people speak up. We can stay home all we want complaining about the past. It can even be funny now and then to hear the stories and remember lunch from our glory days. However, if we want to make a difference we have to speak up. Go to PTA (Parent Teacher Association) meetings, school board meetings, and city council meetings and demand that our kids be served better quality food. Start up a petition and have other students and parents sign it to show school officials how serious you are. All in all, if you make noise, they have to listen.
Our children are our future, and if we want to see them succeed, we need to give them the best opportunities possible. Keeping them healthy and teaching them how to stay healthy can be one of the most valuable ways to accomplish this. Don’t let this slip by. Take a stand and demand it for your kids’ health.