School Lunch Isn’t a Revolution Its a Caveat

April 7, 2010 Comments Off on School Lunch Isn’t a Revolution Its a Caveat

School lunch has been getting a lot of press lately, what with blogs getting on the news, national television networks making a show, and practically  millions of foodies and localvores twittering about it. Making school lunches more nutritional and fresh is great, kids will no doubt be healthier from eating at least one healthy meal a day and is an ok start to the problem, but  the problem with school lunch is school lunch is not THE problem.  THE problem is complicated and  a combination of two big problems, one involving the industrial food complex and the second involving the state of education in our country. They pretty much intersect somewhere in the middle so let me explain.

Over the last 50 or 60 years  our food system has changed, going from one that relies of small farmers  to a system where our food comes from a factory.  This didn’t happen by itself, the aftermath of  WWII helped, clever marketing helped, lots of money helped,increase in production and lowering cost helped, and a rapidly burgeoning  culture of  immediacy and convenience helped.   So  our food now primarily comes from  a handful of corporations. Most Americans are eating  cheap and factory produced  food, that is why schools  are serving this  food and kids are  eating it. So “fix” the industrial food complex and you effectively fix school lunch. The change needs to happen first  because schools  don’t operate to harm children ,at least in most cases,  the limiting factor of healthy food in school is availability of  resources. These aren’t necessarily monetary resources, even if school got more money for healthier food, that food would still come from a factory, schools and everyone else have very little access to an infrastructure that would support  fresh healthy  and local food on a large scale.  Some areas are lucky enough to have coop or distribution hub that serves restaurants and organization, but most are not. Many would ask why food needed to be local or sustainable  to be in schools, the simple answer is  they don’t, but in a perfect  world, more money kept within a community means more taxes and more money for schools, not to mention more jobs and ethical treatment for animals and people.  So in recap fix factory farming , fix schools to  provide better food, fix unhealthy eating for kids,and it will all support the community and schools are all about community right?

This brings me  to the second big problem. So say  in fantasy land all schools in America start serving “healthy” food not even sustainable but healthy food. This would ahelp a lot, but I really think that the reason that kids are eating the way they are is because  schools no longer create children or adults that  actively engage critical thinking, question asking, and problem solving. The reason that the  our current food system is what it is today is because too many people forgot to ask the simple questions of Where does my food come from? and What is in my food?And plenty of those people already ate  healthy, but this didn’t really roll over to a healthy practice in life. Giving kids healthy food but no curriculum to create a knowledge base about nutrition in food, probably won’t change a whole lot, especially when almost all public school children go home. I myself was a vegetarian for 4 years as a young child, but I still went on to eat all kinds of stuff and eat primarily unhealthy. When I look back on the reason why I chose not to stay a vegetarian, it is mostly because of bacon and steak, but the second reason is that I had no real understanding oh what food is and what is meant in relation to myself. My parents didn’t talk to me about it even though we had a garden I was involved in and my school definitely NEVER talked about it. Although I am pretty lucky that I had the base I did because it allowed me to get to the point I am at now, trying to eat sustainably. So  changing the food in school might make an immediate change , but may not have the momentum to change the overall life of  the student.Most public school children don’t even know a potato or carrot grows in the ground, will this knowledge change if a child is eating  a fresh carrot or mashed potatoes instead of french fries, maybe but not definitely.  However take that student , who is eating healthy food, and actively engage them  with curriculum and conversation about food and how it works for their body, where it comes from, who it comes from, and they will be able to make  informed decisions. Now to be fair none of this will be achieved until curriculum in schools in general is changed pulling away from test driven information and moved more toward the ability to acquire knowledge and ask questions, so that is THE problem that has to change first in order for kids to eat better. Recap:  Make general curriculum more engaging, make food and nutritional curriculum  more engaging, change food in schools, make healthy children who will turn into adults.

So just fixing school lunch is really like giving the beast haircut when you really need to chop off its head, but hey at least it will look prettier and that is improvement after all, and sometimes improvement is better than nothing.


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