The Crusade for Better School Feeding – Making Real Change

Recently, the media reported on new findings about the rise in childhood diabetes and its dire consequences. This news has once again sounded the alarm about the growing epidemic of obesity in our children and youth. The problem is so serious that experts recommend drastic changes in the way our children eat. But could complacency, denial, and ignorance among the adult population be preventing our young people from getting the help and education they need to make these drastic changes?

Dining tables and school cafeteria trays

During a recent school assessment visit to a highly ranked eastern university for one of my daughters, I had the opportunity to raise questions about the quality of food available in the campus cafeteria. Was the food served at your school free of pesticides? Was it non-gmo? What about the meat sources? Were students served factory farmed animals injected with hormones and antibiotics? Were natural, healthy, organic food options available in the cafeteria, as embraced by some of the most innovative schools across the country, including Yale, UC Berkley, Duke, and Oberlin College?

The question seemed to stump the college staff member. She said that she was not sure about the quality of the food in the cafeteria. She didn’t know if there was any kind of focus being placed on providing students with natural, vegetarian, or organic options. It wasn’t clear that the school offered nutritional food that addressed some of the serious health problems facing Americans at ever younger ages… visions of a variety of fried foods, processed starches, and sugary desserts lining the trays. from the cafeteria swam before my eyes.

This reaction seems somewhat typical of school professionals at all educational levels. I recently had the opportunity to ask the food service directors of our local educational institutions about nutritional quality and education in elementary, middle, and high schools. I was told that the children did not eat healthy looking food and only wanted the type of food that can be found in any fast food restaurant. Furthermore, they implied that it was not the responsibility of the school system to provide healthy food options for children. That’s the parent’s job.

While I agree that healthy eating habits begin at home and that parents should show their children in the kitchen and at the dinner table, this does not relieve our educational system of its responsibility to teach good nutrition. Our schools must provide information and training on the elements of a good diet and must lead by example. That means clean, healthy cafeteria food. And healthy does not and should not imply “unappealing to children’s taste buds.” Healthy and natural food, prepared with good recipes, can be much more delicious than the fast food that now dominates the lunch menu in the school cafeteria.

Unfortunately, political concerns have impeded progress in the campaign for better school feeding. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this important issue and allow big food conglomerates to dominate school cafeteria fare simply by default.

Healthy eating from the Romper Room to retirement

A foundation for lifelong healthy eating begins in early childhood. By introducing children to healthy, natural foods, providing dietary knowledge, and teaching them how to prepare delicious meals, they are likely to maintain good eating habits well into adulthood.

Taking children to the local Farmer’s Market to buy produce is one example of expanding the way we learn and shop for food.

We need a revolutionary approach to change our food system. Assuming the feeding of the school cafeteria is vital if we want to avoid childhood overweight, malnutrition and diseases caused by poor quality nutrition for our youth. The evolution of food on our planet depends on a gentle but firm revolution in the market, the kitchen and the cafeteria.

Leave a Reply