Posts Tagged ‘ school lunch ’

Should Schools Be Allowed to Have Bake Sales?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

I’m a big fan of recent efforts to improve school lunch nutrition over the last few years. After all, about one in three American kids are considered overweight or obese (and even those who aren’t may still be enjoying too much junk food!) So I applaud everyone—whether it be Michelle Obama or a mom who packs healthy lunches for her children each day—who is focusing on this important issue.

That said, I can’t help but feel that the recent bake sale debate going on in Virginia is taking this issue a little too far. Long story short, students are no longer able to hold bake sales with homemade goodies to raise money for field trips, uniforms, and whatever else they need. That’s because new federal guidelines require that all food sold while school is in session must meet certain nutritional standards. And of course, the kids don’t want to pay for “gross” healthy food; a parent volunteer at Brooke Point High School told The Washington Post, “Since we’ve gone to the ‘smart snacks,’ sales have dropped by more than half. The kids just don’t want it.” Some lawmakers in Virginia are displeased about the situation, so they’re currently trying to come up with a bill that offers some exceptions to the rules.

Ultimately, I think we need to teach children the importance of moderation, rather than blocking them from ever enjoying an occasional brownie at a bake sale. My own mother is a health teacher who loves to bake, so she taught me to exercise, eat wholesome food, and also to indulge once in a while with a reasonable portion of a delicious dessert. By outlawing sugary or fatty foods outright, we risk making them more enticing to kids—who may find a way to eat them when adults aren’t looking, anyway. (See our earlier post from a nutritionist who lets her kids drink soda—she nails it.)

That’s not to say that I think kids in Virginia schools (or anywhere else) should be allowed constant access to homemade goods. If the lawmakers do pass an exception, I hope it allows just a few of these tasty fundraisers throughout the year, not an unlimited amount. After all, treats are often also available at birthday parties, club meetings, soccer games, and so on. But an occasional bake sale won’t destroy healthy eating habits—but it will teach kids important lessons about business, independence, and moderation. Those are lessons we can all support.

Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids
Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids
Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids

Chrisanne Grise is an editorial assistant at Parents. She’s an avid runner, mainly to counteract her uncontrollable sweet tooth. Follow her on Twitter @xanne.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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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 / Shutterstock.com

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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!

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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.

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

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