Making School Lunches Healthier Doesn’t Mean Kids Will Eat Them, writes Olga Khazan in The Atlantic.
Los Angeles Unified has been fighting childhood obesity for years: It ” outlawed sodas in schools in 2004, banned selling junk food on campus, and swapped the bulk of its canned and frozen produce for fresh,” writes Khazan. Still, 42 percent of students are overweight or obese.
In 2011, the district went after school lunches.
. . .the new menus were the most austere measure yet, cutting kid-friendly favorites like chocolate milk, chicken nuggets, corn dogs, and nachos. Instead, little Jayden and Mia would dine would dine on vegetarian curries, tostada salad, and fresh pears.
A student rebellion ensued—kids brought Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to school rather than much on quinoa salad—and L.A. Unified was forced to settle for a middle ground between Alice Waters and Ronald McDonald.
Under the new new menu, “Hamburgers will be offered daily,” the L.A. Times reported. “Some of the more exotic dishes are out, including the beef jambalaya, vegetable curry, pad Thai, lentil and brown rice cutlets, and quinoa and black-eyed pea salads. And the Caribbean meatball sauce will be changed to the more familiar teriyaki flavor.”
But students are still “beelining toward carbs and meat and avoiding fruits and vegetables,” according to a study in the April issue of Preventative Medicine. Examining middle schoolers lunch trays, researchers found that “32 percent of students did not take the fruit from the line, and almost 40 percent did not take the vegetables. Among those who did take a fruit or vegetable, 22 percent threw away the fruit and 31 percent tossed the vegetables without eating a single bite.”
So in essence, just over half the students both took and ate some fruit, and about 42 percent both took and ate a vegetable.
Salads were the most common vegetable to be left untouched, while whole fruits, like apples and oranges, were far less popular than fruit cups or juices.
Food waste totals at least $100,000 a day, estimates the Times.
School districts are losing their paying lunchers because of new federal regulations, reports Reason. Congressional Republicans may give money-losing districts a one-year waiver of federal regulations, reports Reason.
Michelle Obama adamantly opposes any changes, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Other proposed changes include “scrapping a requirement that foods be 100% whole-grain by July 2014 and sticking with the current 50% target; holding to the newly enacted standard for sodium rather than a lower target scheduled to go into effect in a few years; and eliminating the requirement that students take a fruit or vegetable, regardless of whether they plan to eat it.”
One of my stepdaughter is a nutritionist who designs school lunches. The insanely complex guidelines must be met every day, she says. It’s not possible to go a little under in one category on Monday and make it up on Tuesday.