What a great surprise it was when I saw (and eventually translated) my kids’ first school lunch calendar this fall. If you’ve been reading this blog for even a little while, you can probably sense that I get a bit (okay, a LOT) uptight when it comes to the food my children are offered. I have long feared the day when I will send both of my children to full day school where they will encounter a lunch menu filled with bland processed, frozen, and fried foods and I have thankfully accepted the fact that I will be making my children bag lunches (just like my mom did for me) from their first school lunch until their last school lunch.
This year, though, has been a relief. For lunch today, both of my kids are drinking jamaica (hibiscus tea) that is sweetened with sugar. That, I could do without. But, look at the rest of their menus for today! The primary school is eating lentil soup with carrots, corn tortillas, and oranges. The preschoolers are eating papaya, bananas, plain yogurt, granola, and oatmeal cookies. Today’s menu could be better, but it could be a whole lot worse, too. Our school puts together a menu about every 30 days and parents sign up for which meals they would like to bring. I have to bring one meal each month for Brynn’s class and one for Callie’s. The meals are generally well-rounded vegetarian meals and always have fresh fruits and vegetables as main ingredients.
Today our farm posted a link to this Time Magazine article about school lunches in France. After living in Mexico and experiencing what this non-American lunch menu is like, I was really interested to see the French lunch menus. The article wasn’t really surprising, but it did reinforce what I already know: As Americans, we are really screwing up our kids by offering them crap to eat for lunch every day. The school districts and the government can offer all kinds of excuses for why they offer our kids crap and I know that school lunches aren’t something we can change overnight, but all it takes is a little bit of time visiting schools in another culture to know that we are selling our kids short. To me, the biggest bummer is that most parents either don’t care or figure their kids won’t eat anything other than chicken nuggets and tacos, so why bother offering (or demanding) something better? The parents who do care and who have the time and the means to pack lunches for their kids take the easy way out and avoid trying to change the system. That’s probably what I’ll do.
But…our farm is looking for ways to get our organic produce into our local schools, so maybe I’ll see what I can do to upset the apple cart in my district when I get back. It sounds like an overwhelming challenge, but it is one that I care about!