Let me brag a moment, just a moment about my two boys. They are 20 months apart, minus a day. Both came into this world rather quickly, considering, 9 lbs, 19 inches, and always hungry. Straight to my chest they both went. It was the only thing that would settle their cries.
Max would cry all night, yet Charlie ate and fell right back asleep. Of course, he was awake soon enough ... hungry.
They both weigh in at about 47 lbs., and over 3 and a half feet tall, even though Max is just over 5 and a half years where as Charlie is almost 4. They can share clothes -- a mother's laundry dream. But what am I getting at? I'm getting at the fact that I have two quickly growing boys whom are always hungry. I am convinced they would eat all day if I let them. Don't ask me about my grocery bills, the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables, the pasta, the chicken, the bread, OMG the bread.
Fast forward a few years to when both of my children are in public school. By what I have seen, I will be packing school lunches until June 2029. I applaud Michelle Obama like any other loyal democrat might for her attempt to change the eating style of our many American children. Yet, how realistic is she really being? My children are hungry. My students are hungry. It is a proven fact; food must taste good for a child let alone a teenager to eat it. I have put ranch dressing on things you would not understand to get my son to eat it. Ketchup on eggs, peanut butter and syrup on pancakes or waffles, ranch dressing on ANYTHING, but what kid doesn't like Hidden Valley Ranch dressing?
According to governmental guidelines, a typical school lunch for a high school student must contain 850 calories. One lunch found was a large soft pretzel, corn pudding, canned fruit in syrup with whipped cream, and chocolate milk. This was over 1100 calories and barely appeared like a snack. This WOULD NOT fill up a high school student let alone my four year old. Another lunch had a banana, black bean and cheese quesadilla with salsa, a brown rice tomato salad, and milk. This lunch had less than 900 calories and what appeared like much more taste.
BOTH of these lunches net the guidelines served out by the NSLP, or the National School Lunch Program. I don't know about you, but I see many differences. A hot pretzel is something you buy on the street in NYC, covered in rock salt with yellow mustard. Guaranteed the one on the street will be hot. The one from a school lunch, perhaps not and it will also be smaller. When did a soft pretzel and some canned fruit become lunch? What would a school charge a student for this at full price, $2.75, $3.35?
I have a number of students who eat at a reduced cost or for free, so when I have struck up the conversation with them, they don't have too much to say. They obviously know the food is not the best, but they eat it, because it is FREE. Many of them get breakfast too, perhaps a bagel and some yogurt. They are hungry. Is the food good? Is it fulfilling? Not. At. All. But they eat it because it is all they get. I would hate to think that this is the best my child would get. We send our students off to public schools believing the school has their best interest at heart. This includes nourishing them. I know I would rather have higher grocery bills to send my boys to school with a nourishing fulfilling lunch then have them be served four chicken nuggets that are likely not entirely meat with canned fruit and a bag of chips. I'm not saying they don't get this once in a while from me, yet I do know I can send them off with better on a daily basis.
Let's be realistic ... sometimes the schools are doing the best they can. They are working with the laws they must abide by on a daily basis. If you ask some of the wonderful men and women who work in a public high school cafeteria, they do not want these changes. They want to be able to serve the kids what they want. They want to think that what they are here for at 6:30a.m. in the morning will not in a garbage can five hours later. Guess what; it most likely will be. Do I believe schools would try the Jamie Oliver Revolution if they had means -- ABSOLUTELY I DO. But let's be honest, majority of public schools do not have the means or the budget. The money goes somewhere else.
Where I live the conversation has begun to not allow young elementary students to bring in cupcakes or brownies on their birthdays. I'm sorry ... WHAT? Those days were the best when a dutiful mom or dad sent in chocolate chip cookies, individual cupcakes, or my personal favorite ... brownies. We loved those days. That child was a rock star as he or she passed out chocolate frosted cupcakes, got to walk down the hallway to other teacher's classrooms and hand over a homemade treat. One time, in 4th grade, Ms. Cady's room, a girl brought popsicles. Life could not be any better at that very moment.
I do not have all the answers, but I can tell you with all sincerity ... our children are hungry and they need to be fed accordingly. I will preach to the high hills that good eating habits and exercise habits begin in the home. If you do not start the vegetables before the fruits, that's what they will always know, sweet before green. If you don't emphasize meats, dairy, vegetables ... then grain is what they will always know. If you must bribe with food, bribe will apples, not cookies. Carrots, not chips.
If you want all the preaching to stop, then become someone who does not need to be preached to. Feed your children in a healthy manner and instill good habits in them as soon as you can. It will pay dividends. I work in a public high school; I see on a daily basis who carries snacks in their bags and who does not.
If we want to expect the schools to do their part, we as parents must do our own part. If we keep sending our schools overweight and unhealthy children, the guidelines will become stricter and our children will be fed even less. I don't know how you all feel, but I have come to peace with the fact that my grocery bills will just get higher. I will feed my children's hunger. I know I am making up for someone else's lacking. Just saying...
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