Saturday Editorial | School Lunches
School lunches were the bomb.
Italian dunkers, creamed turkey over biscuits, and of course chicken nugget day were all academic dining highlight from my youth. But beyond the lunches, I also remember wanting to pass out and nap everyday after lunch. Could it be teenage hormones? Could it be I hated AP English (sorry Mrs. A)? Or could it have something to do with the 1500 calories of rectangular shaped pizza I just shoved down the hatch along with french fries and washed down with chocolate milk? Bottom line is many schools today are simply not making the grade when it comes to feeding today’s youth a nutritionally sound meal.
The deck is stacked against the schools however. The National School Lunch Program allocates $9.3 billion dollars of federal funding to feed 31 million students in eligible schools each year. If you do the math, that’s $2.68 per student per lunch. When is the last time that YOU had a meal that met National School Nutrition Guidelines for less than a gallon of gas? (Note: The farce that is those guidelines is a rant for another day… How the F is a hotdog bun considered a grain?!) With federal funding getting stingier and school budgets tighter, it’s hard to fault school kitchens scraping by through whatever means necessary. Processed and formed, precooked meat products. Canned, bland-blanched vegetables. Refined starches. It’s truly one of those spots where you get what you pay for.
I admire lunch ladies. They work early hours, always have a smile on their face, look good in hair nets. They also put up with a hell of a lot. Imagine a chef in a restaurant trying to please a few hundred finnicky eaters with only a couple bucks. Unpossible.
The solutions to the school lunch problem all strike nerves because it comes down to money– They need more of it. Raising federal taxes, raising local taxes, passing the buck onto parents– These are all options that boil people’s blood at the mention of it. Although all of the solutions are painful, this is a problem that must be addressed. It’s asinine to think that schools can provide a nutritious, balanced meal on a shoe string budget.
If we don’t pay now, the next generation of youth will be paying. Paying with their own long term health.
For more viewing about the wretched state of school lunches, check out the Emmy-Award winning Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. In the show Oliver, the renowned English chef who has successfully reformed English school lunch programs, tackles the similar problem this side of the pond in America’s fattest city– Huntington, West Virginia. Clips of the show can be found on Hulu and I posted the trailer below. Get a taste.
Andy is the Founder/Editor of Team EDR. His random collection of rants, tall tales, and misinformed opinions appear in the Saturday Editorial, right here at Eat.Drink.Repeat.