There's no getting around it: School lunches are a travesty. Under current legislation, high-fructose corn syrup juices, french fries, and even candy bars are not considered junk food; seltzer water IS (go figure). Finally, finally, a movement to upgrade school lunches and revise these appalling standards is gaining momentum. A new bill, the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act, was introduced just this spring; to support it, write your congressperson and/or sign a petition that will be delivered to Congress on June 24. And watch for the Sept issue of DL, which includes an interview with Ann Cooper, The Renegade Lunch Lady, who is on a mission to improve what we feed our kids in school, one lunch at a time. She started in East Hampton, NY, then took on Berkeley, Calif, and is now getting ready to feed 30,000 school kids right here in Boulder, CO.
It just amazes me that school lunches have deteriorated so dramatically from when I was a kid in Phoenix ... I remember really liking to buy lunch, where I'd get real baked chicken and steamed veggies (OK, tater tots were making an early appearance too, but that was more the exception than the rule). In the meantime, here's what's happened, according to the new House and Senate Bill:
(A) since the 1970s, obesity rates have tripled among children ages 6 to 19;
(B) children’s sodium intake is 214 percent above recommended levels;
(C) 85 percent of children consume more saturated fat than is recommended in the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans;
(D) over 2/3 of all foods consumed by schoolchildren are foods that are recommended for occasional intake;
(E) overweight and obesity are leading modifiable risk factors that have led to the growing number of children with type 2 diabetes; and
(F) 1/4 of children ages 5 to 10 show early warning signs of heart disease, such as elevated blood cholesterol or high blood pressure.
Don't you agree it's high time to do something about this?