Lobby For a Healthy School Lunch Program
Schools often have poor nutrition choices for the meals they serve. If you want your child to have healthier options at school, you can get involved. If you band together with other parents and lobby for a healthy school lunch program, you can create some significant changes.
How To Help Your Child’s School Get a Passing Grade In Nutrition
I served for four years as a member of a school board. One time at a meeting, I raised my hand and shocked the other members when I said, “I’m concerned about how easy it is for kids to get drugs at our school!” Now, please understand that this school worked hard to be drug-free. I went on: “Yes, in fact, right now for two dollars, I could walk 50 feet and buy drugs.” They finally realized I was talking about the junk in the school vending machines. Folks forget that foods are drugs, good and bad.
Just as schools should model the family values taught at home, they should also model healthy eating habits, but it’s in schools where most of the Ds (ADHD, NDD, etc.) are detected. Serving junk food at school presents a confusing message to a vulnerable child: “If school is supposed to teach me the right things, why do they serve junk food that Mommy says won’t help me grow or learn?” Try these Simple steps to keep your child eating clean at school:
Lobby For Nutritious Lunches
Here’s an actual conversation I had with the principal at our child’s school: “Why do we send our children to school?” I opened. He looked at me, rather puzzled, and I continued: “To give our children the tools to succeed in life and teaching them what to eat is a valuable success tool.” The principal got the point and agreed to make changes. To be sure this happened, a group of parents got together to visit the school cafeteria periodically during lunchtime and to check the contents of the vending machines, and we immediately complained if the junk food reappeared (which it occasionally did). As a parent, you have both the right and an obligation to insist that the school offer a healthy school lunch program.
Lobby for a healthy school lunch program that begins the lunch line with a salad bar. This gives children the message that healthy food is crucial. It also gives children control over their choices. Stephen, our teenage son with Down Syndrome, attends a special-needs class in a typical high school. His classmates have a variety of brain-wiring differences: cerebral palsy, autism, and other brain quirks. I imagined that a class full of quirky kids with quirky brains would certainly be fed brainy foods. Wrong! They were served the same junk food the typical kids got.
Schools are often not the only place children receive confusing messages about food. School cafeteria managers have told me that they have tried to serve healthy food, but the children won’t eat it. That’s because healthy eating habits weren’t modeled to children at home. The school should not be expected to reshape children’s tastes. That has to be done by you. But you can ask that health and nutrition be emphasized within the classroom, and that the food they provide include healthier options and exclude unhealthy ones.
Review The School Menu With Your Child
If your child’s school sends home a lunch menu, make this a teachable moment and review it with your child, by using language like:
“Let’s see which one of these choices has the most grow foods.” “Oops, that one has a bad word in it.”
“This one has lots of green-light foods.”
“This one looks like a smart school lunch.”
Circle the red-light foods and talk about them with your children. Then make an appointment with the school principal and cafeteria staff and show them where they are flunking lunch.
Pack Your Lunch
Remember the purpose of school food: to feed growing brains to help children learn and behave. If your school refuses to cooperate, brown-bag it. Here are 10 nutritious and tasty suggestions:
- PB&J: peanut butter or almond butter, all fruit jelly, 100 percent whole-grain bread
- Fruit: apple, orange, a bunch of red grapes
- Veggies: cherry tomatoes; sliced red, yellow, and green peppers; raw broccoli florets; carrot sticks; celery sticks filled with peanut butter
- Trail mix. Make your own trail mix with a small bag of selected nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts. Sprinkle in some raisins or dried cranberries and some sunflower seeds.
- A cup of plain Greek-style yogurt with a side of honey for sweetener
- Treats: peanut butter carob balls, homemade oatmeal-raisin cookies
- Hard-boiled egg
- Veggie wraps: whole grain wrap or pita pocket with hummus and veggies; whole grain pita pizza with tomato sauce and cheese
- Whole grain tortilla burritos
- Container of guacamole with veggies (squeeze in a half lemon or lime juice to keep it fresh and colorful)