Posts Tagged ‘ school lunch ’

Michelle Obama, Congress Battle Over School Lunches

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Michelle ObamaChildren may already be out of school for summer, but their school lunches can’t catch a break.

First Lady Michelle Obama is fighting back after Republicans in Congress introduced a bill that would let schools opt-out of nutrition standards set in place in 2010. As part of a $143.5 billion Agriculture Department spending bill, schools will be given an extra year to comply with federal health standards that promote fruits, veggies, and whole grains and limit fat and salt.

“It gives schools an opt-out saying you don’t have to participate in the school lunch program because it’s hard,” Democratic Rep. Sam Farr of California told CNN. “Well, we don’t tell kids, ‘Look you don’t have to take math if it’s hard or science if it’s hard. You don’t have do P.E. if it’s hard.’”

Healthy doesn’t have to mean boring. Here are 25 ways to liven up your kid’s school lunch!

Last week, the healthy school lunch efforts suffered a setback when Democrats failed to get enough votes in committee to strip the language about school lunches from the proposed bill. This means the bill was sent to the House of Representatives for full consideration.

And the First Mom hasn’t been silent on the issue, either. Mrs. Obama often stays away from legislative issues, but when it comes to our kids, she has let her voice be heard.

“Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches?” Obama wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece last week. “You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn’t make much sense. Yet we’re seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools.”

“Our children deserve so much better than this,” she continued. “Even with the progress we have made, one in three children in this country is still overweight or obese.”

She has my support in this fight.

This isn’t about politics. Children have the right to the pursuit of happiness, and we can’t just sit by and watch that pursuit cut short due to preventable health issues.

As of now, 90 percent of schools already comply with these school-lunch standards. Standards that stop the promotion and sale of junk food in schools. Standards that require schools to provide REAL veggies and fruits instead of making it optional. (Even Elmo is helping the cause!)

In February, federal health authorities reported a 43 percent drop over the past decade in obesity among children ages 2-5.

“This generation is now entering our school system,” Executive Director of Let’s Move! and White House staffer Sam Kass said. “Our schools must be a place that really continue to foster and support their health and wellbeing, and that’s what this is all about.”

And while the argument can be made that the $10 billion of taxpayers’ money going into school lunches every year is excessive, just compare that to the $190 billion taxpayers shell out every year to treat obesity-related conditions.

But the fight for healthier kids is more than dollars and cents. A recent Atlantic article revealed most kids in a Los Angeles’ school system did not take a veggie from the lunch line, instead choosing a processed alternative.

If we know children who have the choice would pick sugary, processed food over healthier ones, why would we give them the option? As pointed out in the article, school cafeterias tend to give children what they want, and not what they need.

We are finally starting to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic. Why take a step backwards now?

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How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Everett Collection /

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Mrs. Obama: Stop Promoting Junk Food!

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

To mark the fourth anniversary of the Let’s Move! campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama is making the rounds to continue raising awareness of childhood obesity.

Tuesday morning, she made a major announcement that will impact the future of schools across the country. Mrs. Obama outlined new rules that will ban the promotion of sugary drinks and junk food in schools. The rules aren’t just limited to the cafeteria, either. Vending machines, posters, menu boards, and even scoreboards that feature unhealthy food and drinks will be phased out.

Companies spend $149 million a year marketing in schools, and 93 percent of that marketing is to promote beverages according to the USDA and reported by the Associated Press.

Companies will now have to start promoting their healthier options if they want to remain in schools. For example, Coca-Cola won’t be able to sponsor a high school football scoreboard if their logo for Coke is visible. Instead, Coca-Cola will have to use Dasani water or Diet Coke as an alternative.

“The idea here is simple — our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food,” the first lady said from the White House. “Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.”

There are some exceptions to the rules. Promotions regarding bake sales and other in-school fundraisers would be left up to the schools or states. Off-campus fundraisers, like a school night at a local fast food chain, would be allowed, but posters and flyers advertising the event would not be allowed in the school. Instead, an email would be sent to parents.

The proposed rules will first have to undergo a USDA-facilitation comment period. This will decide how long schools have to remove and replace current unhealthy promotions running on campuses. The rules are expected to take affect by the beginning of next school year.

Many companies have already started the transition, and the American Beverage Association is on board with the rule change. “Mrs. Obama’s efforts to continue to strengthen school wellness make sense for the well-being of our schoolchildren,” President and CEO Susan Neely said.

But helping kids make smarter choices doesn’t begin and end at school. Last fall, the campaign announced Sesame Workshop agreed to license some of their characters to the Produce Marketing Association to help healthier options appeal to children. Parents can also encourage their children to choose healthier options. Here are six easy ways to incorporate non-sugary drinks into your child’s routine.

Let’s Move! was launched in February 2010 to help fight the increasing rate of childhood obesity in America. The campaign encourages children to get active and make healthy eating choices. In the four years since the launch, new school lunch guidelines have been put in place and childhood obesity rates are beginning to fall. Large companies, government agencies, and local towns and counties have made an effort to encourage a healthier lifestyle.

Tell us: What do you think about these new rules? Do you agree that the marketing of junk food should be banned in schools?

Need more inspiration or help choosing healthier food options?? Download our free food substitutions guide!

Sesame Street Lessons: Limiting Sweets
Sesame Street Lessons: Limiting Sweets
Sesame Street Lessons: Limiting Sweets

Fine me on !

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School Throws Kids’ Lunches Away Because of Parents’ Overdue Bills

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Cafeteria lunchAn elementary school in Salt Lake City threw away the lunches of up to 40 students before they could even eat them this week. Why? Their parents had outstanding balances on their accounts.

In this situation, the cafeteria workers weren’t able to see if an account was overdue until the child bought the lunch. If their parent owed money, the student’s food went in the garbage and they were given milk and fruit instead. How humiliating!

It’s unclear why some of the parents with overdue bills didn’t pay them. Erika Lukes, the mother of one 11-year-old who had her cafeteria lunch taken away, told The Salt Lake Tribune that she thought she had paid her bill. For other families, money might be tight. The school district had notified those who owed money beforehand.

But here’s the thing – when people don’t pay bills, they should be charged a late fee. If they still don’t pay, tack on another late fee. There are many other ways to get people to pay their bills and depriving children of lunch should not be one of them.

Child hunger is an epidemic in America and we need schools to help our hungry children get nourished. In fact, 20 million kids get a free or reduced-price lunch on an average school day because I’d like to believe that the school administrators in this country believe that all children deserve to eat lunch, regardless of their family’s financial situation. Unfortunately, as I’ve learned today, that’s not always the case.

I’m disappointed in the child-nutrition manager who made this decision at the Salt Lake City elementary school. He or she should be passionate about making sure all children received the nutrition they need to grow and focus throughout the school day. If someone in this role won’t stand up for the hungry students, who will?

The Hungry Home
The Hungry Home
The Hungry Home

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Image of girl eating lunch courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Lunch Report Cards: A Good Idea?

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Recently, researchers at Cornell University set out to find what would happen if kids were “graded” on how balanced their lunch is. Each week, select parents of kids in kindergarten through grade twelve were sent weekly report cards of what their kids ate each day for lunch. According to The Atlantic, the reports seemed to have some impact on kids’ meal choices–such as buying less cookies. Additionally, some parents said it was a good way to start a conversation on healthy eating.

On the flip side, lunch report cards could be just another headache for students and educators. With the length of school lunch shrinking across the country, kids are expected to shovel in a healthy meal and enjoy some free time with their friends in 20 minutes or less. Giving a report of what’s going down (kids’ throats) during this time seems like an unnecessary source of stress during students’ time to relax. This scrutiny on every item kids put on their trays or in their mouths might also spark eating disorders, which are already on the rise.

As a kid who used to spit out my Flintstone Vitamins while my parents weren’t looking, I know that even little ones will figure out how to beat the system. It might not take long for students to put healthy food on their tray, only to throw it away after it’s been accounted for. And the educators who monitor the lunch room would likely be in charge of recording the kiddos’ meals in addition to making sure the lunchtime shenanigans stay under wraps, which is already a tough job.

Ultimately, the kids who are truly at risk for childhood obesity might not benefit from a program like this. Since only one meal per day is eaten at school, a child who earns an “A” during lunch might be failing breakfast and dinner at home. At the same time, if parents aren’t watching what their kids eat at home, can’t afford healthy options, or know about the benefits of healthy eating,  is this putting too much blame on the children?

Though knowledge of nutrition is an important weapon in the fight against obesity, maybe the lunch room is not a place to grade it.

Try this 12-week plan to get your family in better shape, then take our quiz to find out if your little one is too sick for school.

Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating

Image of Red apple on a book with pencil and vintage report card in background via Shutterstock.

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The Chocolate Milk Controversy

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

While I was leaving the science fair at my daughter’s elementary school last winter, I noticed another project of hers hanging up on the wall in the hallway. It was around Martin Luther King Day, and her teacher asked each child to write an “I Have A Dream” essay in class. Her dream: a healthier school lunch! I was much more proud of that essay than the ribbon she won at the science fair because it 100-percent came from her heart.

Fast-forward six months: My daughter’s dream has come true. The school’s meals are now chock full of fresh fruit, whole grains, and lean protein—and I’m off the hook of packing a lunch everyday. But one change has left me torn—chocolate milk got the boot like it has in many other schools around the country.

On the one hand, I know that chocolate milk contains a lot of added sugar. A cup of plain low-fat milk packs about 12 grams of sugar while the same amount of the flavored kind offers 22 grams; that’s about 2 1/2 extra teaspoons or roughly 40 calories worth. Kids eat way too much added sugar (300 to 350 calories worth daily for 6- to 11-year-olds, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) so I understand that ditching chocolate milk may help lower kids’ consumption of added sugar to a more reasonable amount. What’s reasonable? The 2010 Dietary Guidelines suggest that no more than 5 to 15 percent of calories come from added sugar—that’s about 75 to 150 calories for children who take in about 1,500 calories daily.

But unlike candy, soda and other high-sugar treats (which I don’t think should be in schools), milk has a redeeming value nutritionally—calcium. Kids ages 9 and up, like my daughter, need a whopping 1,300 milligrams of calcium daily (500 milligrams more than 4- to 8-year-olds) so I’ve got to fit in a good source of the mineral at every meal. I wish that my daughter drank plain milk—and, yes, I have tried over and over again—but she genuinely dislikes it. Without milk, many of the lunches that her school offers aren’t particularly high in calcium so I’m having to cram in more at breakfast and dinner on the days she buys lunch. And since we only eat dessert a couple of times a week and don’t buy sugary cereal or snacks, she’s well within the limits of added sugar—even on days when she has two cups of low-fat chocolate milk.

So my daughter’s latest “dream” is to bring back chocolate milk. I am hopeful after reading about one school in Massachusetts, which returned chocolate milk to its menu after a year-long hiatus. The principal told me that students actually petitioned her about it. Of course, a number of factors went into her decision, but I love that kids took the matter in their own hands. Tell me if chocolate milk is still served at your child’s school.






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