School lunch stories

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It's about this time of year that I completely lose my mind and start envying the homeschoolers (in spite of the fact that I would almost certainly eat my young if I attempted to school them at home). At least, I think, they don't have to battle over school lunches.

Maybe battle is too strong of a word. Maybe it's not. In my house, it's been a hot topic ever since my daughter entered public school 3 years ago. Simply put: She wants to buy, all the time. I'm not happy with what the kids are fed, and I don't believe the price is reasonable, either. So we pack. And she pouts.

(Conversely, my son seems to believe that hot lunch is the root of all evil, and is relieved that I am not forcing him to go stand in line with the rest of the sacrificial lambs.)

As I wrote earlier today, I think deciding what makes sense for your family in terms of the "to buy or not to buy" debate is fairly straightforward. What I left out of that piece was how, ever since I wrote this piece, I'd started considering boycotting school food altogether on general principle. And that's what I decided to do this year.

I'm still campaigning for organic milk at a bare minimum as a change to our school lunches. The school's principal is starting to hate me a little, I think, and my fellow PTAers are starting to regard me with a wariness, too. But I intend to put my money where my mouth is, and so I'm not allowing the kids to even buy milk this year. They eat only food brought from home. It's a little less convenient for me, but much cheaper and healthier than the alternative.

In the meantime, I'm constantly on the lookout for resources in my ongoing battle to get the schools to clean up their act when it comes to what they feed our kids. Enter my newest blog-crush: Chef Ann Cooper: Renegade Lunch Lady.

The blog (which is actually a group effort, including Ms. Cooper herself, who is currently serving as director of Nutrition Services for her local California school district) is chock-full of everything having to do with school lunches. In Students deserve to eat better it's pointed out that most school lunches cost around $2. Does this make sense? See for yourself:

With increasing expectations being placed on schools, we need to ask if two bucks and change is enough.

For Cooper, the answer is no. She figures that providing lunch that’s worthy of being served to a school child one that provides fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy and healthy protein sources will cost a minimum of $4. Is this too much?

According to Florence Reed, nutrition program coordinator for the state Office for the Aging, meals served to older citizens in group settings cost from $5.06 to $8.98 each. Why should our society place less value on the lunch destined for a child who is learning, growing and forming eating habits that will impact her lifetime risk of diet-related diseases than on the midday meal served to our deserving elders?

Be sure to check out the podcasts, too, where Chef Ann selects the one article of the week that she believes no one should miss.

I'll continue to fight the good fight, from here. But I can't help it if I'll not-so-secretly be wishing that Chef Ann was our lunch lady.

Mir

[image courtesy of Fairland School Lunch Program]

BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir also blogs at Woulda Coulda Shoulda and Want Not.

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