Friday, June 11, 2010

What Are Your Kids Eating?

There has been a lot of buzz recently in regard to school lunches. Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution series highlighted the issue in one town and its region (Huntington, WV), but what's the story at your kid's school? Do you know? Do you care?

My son is only 3, and he's all set to start attending public preschool here in Chicago this Fall. I am counting myself lucky so far that his 2.5 hrs of class per day will not include a school lunch. The school he'll be attending is progressive in many ways, but as far as I know, they still serve the same type of crap for lunch that most schools in the States are re-heating. So, I figure I have 2 years to incite some real change before my child lines up with his friends to get his servings of surplus processed meat, fruit-flvored gelatin, and chocolate milk...where should I start!?

If you are not aware of the big issues surrounding school lunches, here's a guest post from a great blog on the topic.
Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project The woman who writes the main blog, Mrs. Q, is an Illinois school teacher who has taken it upon herself to eat the school lunch every day and report on the contents and her experience to draw attention to the big problems and issues. Namely, they are: over processed foods, lack of fresh or properly cooked fruits and vegetables, an overabundance of packaging and waste, massive amounts of sugar, and general poor overall quality. She's even having blood tests done 6 months apart, so I'm really interested to see how the results come back... These lunch options directly reflect much of the convenience food that's on the grocery shelves today, so you have to figure many of the kids are eating this way all the time and many (maybe even most?) parents don't see a problem. But kids these days are in trouble. Obesity reigns, diabetes is an epidemic, and I suspect many other health problems are a direct result of all the preservatives and chemicals that are in the food America feeds its children.

I wonder if there's any way to start a city-wide "food revolution" of our own, or if I should just start with my own child's school and take baby steps. This will more than likely turn into something I'll need to devote quite a bit of my own time and energy to in order to see real results in 2 years, but I know deep in my heart it will be worth the effort. I have worked hard here at home to nourish my children as best I can from making their babyfood, feeding them organic dairy, grains, meat and produce whenever possible, and offering them a wide variety of tastes and textures. If you ask my kid what color bread/noodles/rice is, he'll say "brown", and I'd love to keep it that way. He can recognize herbs by smell and by sight and knows how to strip a sprig of thyme. It's pretty funny that my son is virtually a self-made vegetarian and the three things I've always had trouble getting him to eat in almost any form have been meat, eggs, and potatoes (the un-vegetable). Yes, even fries! He'll eat sweet potato fries, and now once in a while I've seen him munch a couple of regular fries down if someone puts them on his plate, but for the first 2.5 years of his life, he wouldn't even try one (not that I was trying very hard to change that!). A friend got him to bite into one at a restaurant once and he spit it out! Hahaha. Don't get me wrong. I'm sure that if offered chicken nuggets, nachos, hot dogs and pizzas on a regular basis, both my children would easily succumb to the new diet and happily munch away on the garbage next to their friends. But that's the whole problem and the bottom line is that that's not OK with me. Especially not 5 days a week!

So the deadline looms ahead of me and I'm starting to gather resources and gear up for this hurdle...but I'll wait until the 2010-2011 school year begins before I call the principal's office and ask for a meeting, and permission to spend a day in the cafeteria.

I welcome any ideas and comments!

Photo by bookgrl


  1. Nicely written. :) I think you have the first step correct - meet with the principal. Step two might be to meet with Michelle Obama. I'm sure you know she's taken up the fight against child obesity.
    Brian S.

  2. Well done Kristen. I'd recommend that you actually contact the principal as well. Food and eating, as subjects, can be incorporated into so many aspects of schools it's not even funny. Juts off the top of my head, food can be used to illustrate examples in economics, history, chemistry, world relations (social studies), politics, and math! I imagine it would take a lot of time, but also, as you've written, would yield a lot of benefits for the children, the school, and health in general. Good luck!