Worried about what your child is served in the lunchroom? You are not alone. We speak to hundreds, if not thousands of parents throughout the year who are really concerned about their kids’ nutrition at school. To boot, just watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is a wakeup call that has the nation’s parents on edge, wondering, ‘what can I do to save my child from having to eat this garbage?’
Our advisor and nationally renowned childhood obesity expert James O. Hill, Ph.D. says, “The good news is, many schools are really trying to improve lunches to offer healthy foods.” So the first thing you should do is find out what your kid’s school is doing, if anything.
Get involved at your child’s school
Talk to the school food service people. Dr. Hill says it usually is fairly easy for parents to find out what efforts a school is putting into serving more nutritious food in the cafeteria. School districts should have a section about food service or nutrition on their website. If there is no initiative to serve better school lunch, push them to start thinking about improving nutrition. Ask how you can help; volunteer if you can.
Now, you might think, if they don’t like it, parents can simply choose not to enroll their child in the school lunch program and, instead, bring lunch from home. But while school food program enrollment numbers certainly send a message to the district, not participating is not a solution to the problem, and for so many parents it’s not even an option due to time and budget constraints.
“Schools have given in and decided that kids like the fast food, fried food, that’s what they would eat,” Dr. Hill says. But things are beginning to change. “We are realizing that when schools make an effort to really buy healthier stuff, cook it in a healthier way, that in fact children will eat it. You can sell the kids healthier items; it still has to taste good.“ If many schools today are indeed looking to buy better products and cooking from scratch rather than just heating up things, have we turned a corner with school lunches? Dr. Hill remains scaptical: “I think there still are more schools doing it wrong than right. We are seeing more and more schools taking it on, but I don’t think we are there yet.”
Dr. Hill believes it is a “huge issue” that some schools only allow kids 15 minutes to eat lunch. What’s more, recess is schedules right after lunch motivating kids to hurry up with lunch so they can go play. Our expert strongly advocates for longer lunch times or at least putting recess before lunch so kids don’t wolf down their food in a hurry.
What can YOU do?
As part of our back-to-school campaign, we will be bringing you more articles and resources here to support you in the fight for better school lunches at your kid’s school. Stay tuned!
Join our related discussion of Facebook today: What if kids would be rewarded for making healthy choices at the cafeteria? Would that help?