March 24, 2003
"The school bell rings. It's
lunchtime! After grabbing some grub, you sit down with two of your
friends. You glance at what they're eating. Other than the brownie
they both picked for dessert, their choices differ like night and
day. Your friend to the left is munching on chips and a pickle, drinking
a soda. Your friend to the right has a sandwich - turkey and Swiss
cheese on wheat bread with lettuce and tomato - plus a banana and
milk. By the end of the day, you notice that one friend is dragging
while the other still has a high level of energy. What's the deal?
The difference comes from the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients
found in their lunch choices."
"You've heard the drill
from your health teacher about the importance of eating well, but
how are you supposed to do that when your schedule is so demanding
and you're hardly ever at home?...A slice of pizza every once in a
while won't do you any harm, but you should be careful to eat a healthy
diet. Why? Because the food you eat affects your:
* mental functioning
* emotional well-being
* future health"
"But in more and more
schools nationwide, children from kindergarten through high school
are being taught that 'nutrition' comes in boxes of fast foods, candy
wrappers and soft-drink cans and bottles. In many schools, fast-food
companies have co-opted the lunch program, and children have ready
access to soft-drink and snack machines.... Beginning in preschool,
children are exposed to thousands of messages from advertisers that
can corrupt the food lessons their parents hope to teach them. For
example, Dr. Nestle cites the public television program for toddlers
called 'Teletubbies,' sponsored first by Burger King and then by McDonald's,
which distributed toys representing the four Teletubby characters....Once
children are in school, the commercial lessons continue. More and
more school lunch programs now offer brand-name fast foods....Some
districts sign 'pouring-rights contracts' and they result in soda-pop
vending machines in thousands of schools in return for big bucks the
schools say they desperately need. The companies may even offer bonuses
to schools that exceed stated sales targets."
"20.2% of schools offer
brand-name fast foods to students, and in 16.6% of schools, an outside
food service management company operates the school food service program."
"The federal government
sets standards for the nutrition (if not the taste) of regular school
lunches. The national school lunch program, in fact, was developed
after too many young men during World War II failed their physicals
due to malnutrition. But in schools today, à la carte meals
answer to nobody -- except possibly Ronald McDonald. According to
a nationwide survey conducted in 2000 by the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, more than 20 percent of schools sell McDonald's hamburgers,
Pizza Hut pizzas, or other brand-name fast foods. A second survey
of California high schools, also done in 2000, found that 95 percent
sold à la carte fast foods, including many items from Taco
Bell, Subway, and other big-name franchises."
Who or what determines the
choices you have on the lunch menu at your school? Are these decisions
based on taste (what students will eat), on nutrition (the food guide
pyramid and what experts think students should be eating), on logistics
(the money and time needed to purchase and prepare different foods),
or is it a combination of different factors?
Are you happy with the choices
you have? What would you consider good lunch menu choices? What do
you think your school nurse or health teacher would consider a good
choice? With all that in mind... Who should make the decisions about
what menu options are offered to students? Should the government have
a say? Should they be able to restrict or mandate certain aspects
of the school lunch program? Should the students have a say, or do
the students already have a say by showing what they are willing to
buy? Should parents, teachers, or school administrators be able to
decide what choices the students have, so that they can offer foods
that they think will help students to function better in school while
remaining cost effective for the district?
Questions of the Week:
Keeping all sides in mind (including, but not limited to: funding,
nutrition, and taste), what would you do if you were in charge of
creating a school lunch program for your school? Why would you make
the decisions you did, and who do you think would offer opposition
to your plans?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum