Insider’s perspective: Michelle Obama’s School Lunch Program.Posted by Deb Lea Benefiel on October 16, 2014
In light of recent stories about First Lady Michelle Obama’s guidelines for school lunches becoming even tighter, it’s time to take an insider’s look at the situation. This is based on a school system in a small town in middle America. This school system takes care of students from two towns and outlying areas. Some students are from families who have lived in the area for generations and are farmers. Other families are upper middle class who commute to work in a large city environment. There are all economic backgrounds represented. The school system consists of three elementary schools, one intermediate school, one middle school and one high school. There are free breakfast and lunch programs for those in need. The focus will be on the high school although there are some remarks on the elementary school as well.
The high school has a population of approximately 1400 students divided into three lunch hours. There are four serving lines for each lunch hour. Each day, there is 1965 gallons of trash just from lunch. Based on a five-day week, that is 9825 gallons of trash. Mind you, this is trash accumulated from lunch only. There is a meal protocol each student is required to follow telling them what they must have on their tray when checking out. This might sound like a great idea on the face of it, ensuring students get enough food to fill them up. Not so! Most times, fruit which is required never makes it to the table. It is thrown away immediately after checking out and before students even sit down. Some fruit is used for various activities such as catch and soccer. These would be apples and oranges. Vegetables make it further. They get to the table but then end up in the trash as students exit the cafeteria.
The lunch menus are kept for nine weeks before they are changed. This means the same foods are being eaten every week for nine weeks. There are some items that are on the menu as many as three times per week. Because the students like one of the menu items, they tend to eat that same thing at least three times in the same week. They complain about the taste of the food saying they wish they had their old menu items back. They use an exorbitant amount of condiments to mask the taste of the food. Ranch dressing is by far the most popular. There are those students who have resorted to bringing their own lunches to avoid the ones being served at school.
The reason for watching and learning about what is happening at school regarding lunches is because of comments that have been made ranging from elementary students saying they are still hungry after eating lunch because they don’t get enough to eat, to high school students remarks that Mrs. Obama needs to stop telling them what to eat. Please note the elementary schools lunch menus differ from the high school. Each level has its own protocol to follow. High school students are allowed to go back through the line and purchase extra food if they want.
The unfortunate consequence of all this, parents are paying twice for food their children aren’t even eating because it doesn’t taste good. They pay first through taxes that fund the school, and they pay again for their children’s weekly lunches. Some students spend up to $20 weekly on lunches in high school.
To qualify all this, the school system referred to has a very large and active athletic program and many of the students are involved. The community has many athletic programs available and the majority of children participate in at least one.
Michelle Obama, not being a registered dietitian or nutritionist has failed to see the real problem with runaway obesity in school age children. The obesity rate in this school system would rank in the minimal category. It is mostly because the children are physically active and are physically fit. There is no denying soda and fast food are not good for children, BUT everything in moderation. Mrs. Obama is a bit of a hypocrite in that her own daughters attend a private school with chefs and an unlimited menu.
Maybe Mrs. Obama would be better off sticking to what she does best… oh snap! That would be spending taxpayer money on lavish vacations all over the world. Well, then she should stick to dancing with turnips and stop forcing them on our children!
Deb Lea Benefiel
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