A dad emailed me recently to tell me that his daughter has been asking if she can participate in the lunch program so that she can eat salad from our new salad bar. Since the salad bar is included with the cost of the whole lunch, he wanted to know which meals were ones that I would want my own kids to eat. Um. Okay – this is awkward. I am working with the food service department to help implement the salad bar and ultimately bring in more money that can be put right back into better ingredients.
But I had to admit that I wasn’t excited about my kids participating in the hot lunch program at all…except for maybe on the days when the burritos come in from a local restaurant. I suggested that he pack an entree from home and simply allow her to supplement her meal with a salad that she could make herself. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for our lunch program. Yet. But I told him that we were working on it and the next time he asked, I hoped to have a better answer.
One of my biggest fears is that our new salad bars are a smoke screen to distract observant people from the hot lunch entrees that are still being served.
Our entrees need work. One group of kids from the middle school recently called them “dog food.” Ouch. They are improving a bit but still have a long way to go. Plus, there are still those pesky packets of “snacks” (colored empty calories). Our food service director just went to a school food convention in Los Angeles with the California School Nutrition Association, where companies were demonstrating their newest “food products.” Hopefully, she had our voices echoing through her mind as she walked the aisles – “no artificial colors, no trans fats, no high fructose corn syrup…” And the real bonus – Jamie Oliver gave the keynote speech! That ought to have provided some fantastic inspiration and motivation to keep our improvements moving in the right direction.
Luckily, our team is working with some folks at Project Lunch to set up some standards (bronze, silver, gold and platinum) for school lunch programs that should help us see clearly where our food currently stands and exactly what we would need to change to achieve a higher status. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that everyone can work together without feeling like one committee is stepping on another’s toes.
I was invited to do a talk on Affordable Healthy Meals for parents at one of our schools last week, and discovered this in the kitchen…
What’s the current state of your school’s lunch program? Or do you pack your own?
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