20% of schools serve high-poverty kids

One in five public schools was a high-poverty school in 2011, according to the U.S. Education Department. That means 75 percent or more of students qualify for a subsidized lunch. The number of high-poverty schools increased by 60 percent, according to Hechinger Report‘s Education By The Numbers. In 2000, only one in eight public schools was deemed to be high poverty.

According to this chart, a family of four could earn up to $42,643 to qualify for a reduced-price lunch and up to $29,965 for a free lunch.

It’s way past time to measure poverty directly and throw in other socioeconomic factors, such as parents’ education. The school lunch figures are skewed at the high school level: Many kids don’t ask for a free lunch, even if they’re eligible.

School cafeteria goes all-vegetarian

A Queens public school is serving all-vegetarian menus for breakfast and lunch, reports Metro. PS 244, the Active Learning Elementary School, now serves “black beans, red roasted potatoes, falafel and brown rice for lunch.”

Principal Robert Groff said the school is trying to encourage healthy lifestyles. “It is about educating their mind, body and character all together.”

What about separation of idiots and state? asks Stephen Kruiser on PJ Tatler.

This isn’t about children’s health, it’s about indoctrination in a fringe lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with vegetarian options for children whose parents have chosen to raise them that way.

. . . This is a decision that is one for the parents to make, not for school administrators who seek to undermine the role of parents, which is what’s really going on here.

My nutritionist stepdaughter designs school lunches for a nonprofit. She says it’s hard to comply with very detailed federal guidelines, use affordable ingredients and produce a lunch kids will eat.

New York Mayor Bloomberg was refused a second slice of pizza at a New York City restaurant in a protest against  his ban on large sodas, reports the Daily Currant. It’s a satire site, but some readers thought it was for real. It’s hard to tell the difference these days.

More meat, grains in school lunches

Complaints about smaller school lunches have borne fruit, so to speak. The Agriculture Department will allow more meat and grains in school lunches.

Students across the country say small portions aren’t enough, even with unlimited vegetables. In Cedar Falls, Iowa, a student tells AP he’d eat salad if he could get enough salad dressing. “There was one girl who used to bring a glass jar of dressing every day,” said sophomore Caleb Iehl. Ketchup also is restricted.

Swedes crack down on good school food

At a school in Sweden, the cook has been told to stop baking fresh bread and serving a 15-vegetable buffet because her food is too good, reports The Local.

The municipality has ordered (Annika) Eriksson to bring it down a notch since other schools do not receive the same calibre of food – and that is “unfair.”

Moreover, the food on offer at the school doesn’t comply with the directives of a local healthy diet scheme which was initiated in 2011, according to the municipality.

“A menu has been developed… It is about making a collective effort on quality, to improve school meals overall and to try and ensure everyone does the same,” Katarina Lindberg, head of the unit responsible for the school diet scheme, told the local Falukuriren newspaper.

. . . “It has been claimed that we have been spoiled and that it’s about time we do as everyone else,” Eriksson said.

Since students’ tastes differ, they should have a choice of vegetables and  proteins such as chicken, shrimp, or beef patties, she argued. However, the school will cut the selection of vegetables in half and replace Eriksson’s handmade loafs with store-bought bread. Lowering the quality won’t save any money, Eriksson said.

Meanwhile, some U.S. districts are considering cafeteria “trash cams” to monitor how much food students are throwing away. Under new rules, students who take the school meal must take fruit and vegetables, but can’t be forced to eat them.

Jon Stewart: Eat your *#!*#! lunch!

Jon Stewart on school lunch protests: “News flash! Extry extry! School lunches suck!” And students are still hungry after they eat it. “So you hate the food and you want more of it.” (That’s an old Borscht Belt joke.)

Under the new rules, designed to fight childhood obesity, students can get seconds of fruits and vegetables, but they won’t even eat the first (mandatory) helping. Cafeteria garbage cans are twice as full. “Hmm, now I am obviously not an nutritionist or an educator,” Stewart says, “but I think if these kids are hungry, I guess my solution would be…eat your motherf**kin lunch!”

Let them eat snacks

Let them eat snacks says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in response to student protests against lower-calorie, low-protein school lunches.

School lunch trays are a bit lighter this year after Congress-approved calorie limits on school lunches went into effect in August. The new regulations, which were championed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity, have inspired protests and even a video parody from students who claim the reduced lunches are making them go hungry.

. . . Vilsack said the Obama Administration is working with school districts to create snack programs and encouraging parents to pack extra food for their active students to munch on before football practice or band rehearsal.

A new federal rule limits calories for school lunches — 650 calories in elementary school, 700 in middle school and 850 in high school. Cafeterias must serve twice as many fruits and vegetables while limiting proteins and carbohydrates. Students must take the fruit and vegetables, though they can’t be required to eat them.

For an average high school student, that means two baked fish nuggets, a cup of vegetables, half a cup of mashed potatoes, one whole grain roll and 8 ounces of fat free milk . . .

Linda O’Connor, an English teacher at Wallace County High School in Kansas, wrote the “We Are Hungry” parody after a colleague, Brenda Kirkham, posted a photo of her school lunch on Facebook, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

The lunch included one cheese-stuffed bread stick, a small dollop of marinara sauce, three apple slices and some raw spinach. . . . “I asked why the sauce had no meat and I was informed that due to the breadsticks containing cheese, the meat would put us over the guidelines for protein,” Kirkham wrote.

Wallace County students often do farm chores in the morning before school and play sports after school, O’Connor said. Two ounces of meat per day isn’t enough.

Last year, students got six chicken nuggets for lunch; this year, says Callahan Grund, a 16-year-old football player who’s featured in the video. This year, students got three chicken nuggets.

Students in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Kansas have organized school lunch boycotts, packing their own brown bags.

The 850-calorie limit seems high enough, even if students don’t eat the fruit and veg. Most families can afford to send an apple or an after-school PB&J for calorie-burning athletes. I wonder about limiting protein.

Boston schools give free breakfast for all

Boston public schools are now serving free breakfasts to all students, regardless of family income, reports the Boston Globe. Some “set aside time in first period or homeroom for students to finish” eating.

A study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital in 2000 measured the impact of school breakfasts in 16 Boston public schools. The results: Increasing student participation in school breakfast programs also improved nutrition, school attendance, emotional functioning, and math grades.

Some schools serve breakfast in the classroom, alternating between cold cereal and a hot meal.

 Sitting in a quiet classroom, Konnor Mason, 9, sat ripping apart his orange while engrossed in a book. He eats breakfast at home just after he wakes up — “my mom wakes me up at 6 for no apparent reason,” proclaimed the precocious fourth-grader — but by the time he starts school at 9:30 a.m., his stomach has already begun rumbling.

In the past, he didn’t qualify for free breakfasts. Now, he can enjoy the classroom snacks every morning.

I suspect quite a few kids will eat breakfast at home and at school, which can’t help the fight against childhood obesity.

My nutritionist stepdaughter is designing lunches for the Boston public schools as part of her new job. Working with a chef, she came up with a tasty, healthy (and ethnically interesting) lunch that met very strict federal guidelines — except it didn’t have enough calories. Federal rules assume the average school luncher isn’t eating enough at home. That’s sometimes true, but usually not.

Milk does a body (not enough) good?

 Milk should be removed from school lunches, a doctors group argues.

The promotion of milk to help build strong bones in kids is, “in effect, the promotion of an ineffective placebo,” writes the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in its petition. “Milk is high in sugar, high in fat and high in animal protein” — all of which counters its purported benefits to bone health, the committee argues.

Instead of requiring schools to serve milk, the USDA should promote sources of calciumwith “a more healthful, nutritional profile,” such as beans, tofu, broccoli, kale, collard greens, cereals and other calcium-fortified beverages like orange juice and soy milk, PCRM recommends.

Oh yeah, lose the dairy and pile on the kale! That’ll get kids all the calcium they need.

Chicago: Free-lunch fraud includes principals

Twenty-six Chicago Public Schools employees — including 12 principals and assistant principals — stand accused of lying on federal school lunch forms, allowing their total of 45 children to receive free or reduced-price lunches at 40 schools across the district, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

Federal lunch forms are used to measure school poverty rates. That creates a stronger incentive to lie than saving money on chicken nuggets and  jello.

. . . every year they trigger a windfall of “hundreds of millions of dollars” for CPS — from reimbursements for lunches, to federal poverty dollars for schools, to state funding,  (Schools Inspector General James) Sullivan noted.

Two suspects admitted “they falsified the forms so the schools their children attended would receive more funding,” Sullivan said. He plans to investigate whether school officials are encouraging the students’ parents to lie on school lunch forms.

School lunch: Pizza is a vegetable

Pizza (with tomato sauce) will be a vegetable in school lunches under legislation proposed by Congress, reports Nirvi Shah in Ed Week. Remember the ketchup-as-a-vegetable flap in the Reagan era?

“It is not that a whole-grain, moderate-in-fat-and-sodium pizza can’t be a healthy food. It just isn’t a vegetable,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Legislators also ditched limits on starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, peas and lima beans, under pressure from Big Tater. (Senators from potato-growing states took the lead.)

The bill also bans the Agriculture Department from spending money to reduce sodium in school lunches.

French fries are no good without salt.