Guys, we desperately need to take back the responsibility of feeding our kids. In this day and age where limited time and value-meals are becoming routine, so too is the decline of our children’s ability to focus in school and plummeting grade point averages. Although we could point blame on several reasons for this, malnutrition and unhealthy diets are a known cause for the inability to both hold one’s attention and comprehend, so putting lunch in the hands of our schools is no longer a realistic choice.
The NSLP (National School Lunch Program) provides free to cheap lunches to 31 million kids a day*, and while some kids don’t have a choice (and we’ll address that in a minute) a lot of kids do but only as far as the parents and what choices we make. While there is a nutritional guideline for the NSLP to mandatorily follow, in reality it doesn’t depart very much from feeding your child fast food everyday.
Although the NSLP is implemented on a national level, it’s our local school authorities who make the specific decisions on which meals will be prepared and served. Now I won’t blame the suffering status of school lunches entirely on the NSLP, as it takes limited school budgets to furnish appropriate kitchens, but for the most part, due to slashed budgets and failed levies, the food typically needs to be prepared off-site so that the school only needs to reheat the food.
Because of this, we’re left with some very unhealthy meals. Unfortunately foods that are reheated and kept heated over prolonged amounts of time lose much of their nutritional value while promoting bacterial growth due to the continual warming process. Also, reheated foods are typically high in preservatives and fat while being potentially too rich in sodium for that of a child.
Articles like Bon Appétit’s 25 Quick & Easy School Lunches to Pack for Your Kids, Eating Well’s Back to School: Lunch for Kids, and Good Housekeeping’s 30 Ideas for School Lunches should inspire you to make the leap into either packing your children’s lunches or packing them healthier than they already are. The overall gist is figuring out how to increase fruits and vegetables as an accompaniment to protein, while implementing more complex carbohydrates or at least changing it up from bread to using something more like rice or whole wheat tortillas instead.
In case you don’t think there’s a correlation between school lunch and education just check out the lunch comparisons around the world here from the Huffington Post and see where the other countries stack up against America here (list is at the bottom) and ask yourself if that’s really just a crazy coincidence.
With regard to those who don’t have a choice and need the free school lunches, it’s the responsibility of those of us who can provide our kids with the healthier alternatives to pack extra and to encourage our kids to share with those who are less fortunate than them.