What’s in your child’s school lunch today?
It seems school lunches have become a topic of concern in most school lunch programs, especially with First Lady Michelle Obama’s interest in making school lunches a top priority. The U.S. is becoming aware of how important healthier lunches are in our school system, with lunch being the only nutritious meal some children living at or below the poverty line will get during the day.
School lunch programs around the U.S. are focusing on foods containing less fat and sodium and more fruit and vegetables. Free lunch programs or reduced cost lunches are available for those students whose families can’t afford the high cost of a daily school lunch. There is the option to send your child to school with a sack lunch, at least for those attending the majority of schools.
A mother living in the Denver area was surprised when her 4-year-old daughter returned from school with an unopened bag containing a couple of Oreo cookies and a note from her daughter’s teacher stating the girl had not been allowed to eat the cookies.
The note informed Leeza Pearson that her daughter’s lunch should be packed with a nutritious lunch, one that includes a vegetable, fruit and a healthy snack. Pearson states she does not agree with the note sent by the teacher at the Children’s Academy in Aurora, Colorado.
Leeza Pearson packed a sandwich, a piece of cheese and a couple of Oreo cookies for her daughter, Natalie. The school removed the cookies and gave Natalie a “healthy alternative” to replace the cookies. Should we look at this as the school staff simply showing concern or is this taking their “control” a bit too far?
In 2011, social media sites were filled with rumors claiming schools were no longer allowing parents the option of sending their children with home-packed lunches. The students were sent home with a note claiming they put a nix on the brown bag lunch idea. Of course, as these stories do, it went viral. There were conspiracy theories that the government was trying to infiltrate school cafeterias to feed children foods the government wanted them to eat. These claims were accompanied by photos of notes reportedly sent home by the school. On conspiracy websites, these notes were “proof” that the feds were out to gain control.
According to Snopes.com, the banning of lunches brought from home are both false and true. In 2001 a Chicago based school had banned home lunches. The principal of the school had chosen to ban lunches brought from home after watching students bring sack lunches with bottles of soda and “flaming hot chips” on field trips.
After the 2011 rumors of banned school lunches died down, a mommy blog brought attention to the topic again. This time it was a story of her friend in Virginia who received a notice from her child’s school banning the brown bag lunch. The note and the story behind it made its way through the social media sites, and websites pertaining to children, health and natural foods.
As a new school year began in 2014, the story circulated again, with the same photo and same text. This prompted the Director of Communications and Public Relations for Henrico County Public Schools to respond to a particular inquiry received by a parent.
The response indicated that it is the policy of the Head Start Program, not the Henrico County Public Schools policy, that all meals are free of charge. Parents who pack a lunch for their child is going against policy because of the Head Start monies the school receives. School lunches are offered at no cost to parents and by sending a lunch it constitutes a “cost” by Head Start.
Unless the child suffers from a medical condition and requires a specific diet, no brown lunches are allowed. For those students who do have medical conditions that prohibit the school lunches from being served, the school requires a doctor’s note to keep on file.
With all of the options for cold lunch, could the mother have packed a more nutritious lunch for her daughter? Sure. Could we all eat healthier? Absolutely. The two cookies packed into the child’s lunch for the day wouldn’t send her into a sugar coma although there are healthier alternatives. This child is probably given a couple of cookies once in a while to act as a dessert if she eats her lunch.
While Oreo cookies aren’t the healthiest of choices, how about the hormones and other preservatives put into our foods, including milk that is served with school lunches? These products are deemed healthier. The frozen fish sticks and meat patties are filled with preservatives. Are we going to nitpick whether the Oreo cookies have a worse reputation than the frozen slabs of meat placed in a school lunch?
To be fair, school lunches are being served with healthier foods, such as oranges, apples and even salads at some schools. But how many preservatives and chemicals are in that food? Probably not a whole lot less than those found in a couple of Oreo cookies.
But let’s get past the chemicals in most of the food we eat as a population. The Oreos are not as nutritious as the salad or the orange, that’s a given. The people in this country who are overweight definitely indicates we have a portion issue and a nutritional issue in the U.S. Feeding our children a nutritious lunch of fruits and vegetables is a must, to teach them what the healthiest options are. It’s an excellent lesson and one that needs to be taught. Many children do not get that lesson at home when many American families love junk food or run through that drive-thru on the way home to pick up dinner that night after a long day at work.
Lessons we learn as children from our school staff are valuable and yet, how far do we allow the school to dictate what we do in our personal lives? Are school lunches actually more nutritious than something we could send in a brown bag lunch? Lastly, should our children be embarrassed by having a staff member take away a lunch item and give the child another? How harmful are those two Oreos, really?