Mrs. Obama announced new nutrition standards for school lunches yesterday. This is a major step forward in feeding our kids. But, it is really just the beginning of a new era in feeding and teaching our kids about health and nutrition. Regardless of your attitude about big government, they are feeding our kids. After all, the free and reduced lunch programs at schools across this nation are huge. In fact, It is the key indicator of the economic makeup of the families attending those schools. Impoverished schools have a free or reduced lunch program of at least 35% of their students. This is the threshold for a school to be considered “Title One” and be eligible for federal funding under that program. So, as you can see, there is a direct correlation between federal dollars spent and the feeding of our children.
The schools are starting to wake up to their responsibilities. But we also have a duty as parents to teach our children about food and make sure that they get the proper amounts of nutrients necessary for a growing body, while discouraging massive intake of “empty calories” that can lead to a myriad of health problems. While there are major strides occurring at the national level and in some school systems like the NYC school system, more often than not the school lunch still sucks. Even if the nutritional values change, the system of delivery has been centralized in most larger school systems making it impossible to have fresh, delicious and appetizing food prepared by the local kitchen staff. That is the change that we need to insist occurs.
If you have a school age child go see for yourself: go see if you would eat the lunch that is being served to your kid, and then volunteer. The easiest way to make a change is to do it yourself. Insist that the “lunch ladies” actually cook the food, not microwave and plop. Organize other parents to also insist. Make noise. This is really important. If a kid is not properly nourished, he or she cannot learn. It’s as simple as that.
In the meantime, pack them a lunch. Here is one that works for anyone in the family. All of the kids will eat this, hubby going off to work and wife going off to jury duty can all be completely satisfied with what’s in their lunch.
- Natural Peanut Butter (no sugar added)
- Whole Grain Bread
- Reusable, bottle with filter for water
- Chef’s Knife
- Butter Knife
- Brown Paper Bag (or Ralph’s plastic bag, while they last)
- Plastic Sandwich Bags
- Make a peanut butter sandwich. The combination of peanut butter and whole grain bread combine to make a whole protein with at least 8 of the amino acids needed.
- Slice an apple and squeeze some lemon on it. This prevents it from browning. I use meyers when I have them and the kids always say: “How did you make that apple taste so good?”
- Bag some of the baby carrots. They are slightly more than large carrots, but if you are doing this every day it is a worthwhile time saver.
- Cut a couple of stalks of celery into the same size pieces.
- Fill one of the filtered bottles with water. Kids tend to not drink water unless they are reminded. If they finish this at school, they can refill it safely at the fountain. Humans need to drink about 2 quarts of water a day. Every system in the body depends on water.
It may seem trivial to write a recipe for a sack lunch but with 5 kids I have learned what works and what doesn’t. One thing that you will notice is that all of the foods are easily eatable by hand. As much as I would like my kid to sit at a table, use proper cutlery and have a break in his or her busy day over a warm meal with friends, that is not the reality. What is real is that they need the nutrition throughout the day and we currently cannot count of someone else making sure this occurs.