Two sides to the school lunch coin

All of that hand wringing at the beginning of the school year and I haven’t said one more word about how school lunches are going for my kindergartner.  Well, here’s your update. After initially wanting to bring lunches from home, my daughter started eating the school lunches.  One day, I had the opportunity to join her at school for lunch.My daughter was so proud to have me at school eating lunch with her.

This was the main lunch on offer that day – sloppy joes with baby carrots, a fruit cup and milk. The kids were able to pick and choose what they wanted to eat, and my daughter picked this.

There were other main dish options that looked more appealing to me personally, like a turkey wrap with lots of shredded veggies, and a salad.  But my daughter wanted me to have the same thing she was eating.  So I did, except for the chocolate milk.

Normally she drinks water with meals, but that wasn’t an option in her school’s lunch room – it was milk or nothing. So she chose the chocolate stuff, and I didn’t say a word.

I left the school lunch that day thinking that the choices weren’t so bad and there seemed to be more healthy options than what was on offer at my school as a kid.  In the end, I was more disturbed with the amount of garbage created by one meal.  Multiply it times 400 kids, and you have a ton of garbage from just one lunch.

***Soon afterward, I read this.  Then this.  And I started to feel like a horrible mom for not protesting my daughter’s choice of chocolate milk; for not coaching her to make better food choices while we were in the school lunch line; and for not providing a more wholesome, nutritionally superior lunch from home.My buttons were totally pushed by these blog posts, I’ll admit.

As a working parent whose time at home is limited, it takes a lot of energy just to get through the day, and who likes to pack school lunches, anyway? My husband certainly doesn’t.  Was I being a lazy parent?

***

You could look at this lunch from two perspectives:

A-This is a meal loaded with unhealthiness. 

Let’s start with the meat.  It’s said that the lowest grade meat is used in school lunches; plus, do you know how much acreage is needed to produce one pound of ground beef? And it’s certainly not grass-fed beef.   It’s possible that the sloppy joe sauce contains high fructose corn syrup and other artificial ingredients.

The fruit cup may be packed in light corn syrup.  The milk is skim, homogenized and not organic; with the natural sugar lactose in it, it already contains 12 grams of sugar (the chocolate version contains 26 grams of sugar).  You can practically call carrots “sugar sticks”, as they’re one of the sweetest vegetables.  Don’t even get me started on the hamburger bun.  Those refined carbs quickly turn into simple sugar in the body.

Is the chocolate milk just the tip of the iceberg, as one person commented on the chocolate milk post?

B – This is a meal with a protein, whole vegetable, fruit, grain, and dairy.  No fried foods.  No cookie, cake or candy.  No fruit snacks or fruit roll-up.  No sugary yogurt.

59% of the students at my daughter’s school are eligible for free lunch.  This may be the only square meal some kids eat all day.

Is this school lunch really so terrible, even when washed down with chocolate milk?

Which perspective is the truth?

[Continued in Part 2 on Tuesday]

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6 thoughts on “Two sides to the school lunch coin

  1. I got over it, Lee. :) Like I said, it pushed my buttons and made me feel a little defensive as a parent, but it also made me think.

  2. Pingback: More on school lunches | Green Your Plate

  3. Pingback: School lunches, the sequel | Green Your Plate

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