Thursday, September 20, 2007

When will a president care about the fat and sugar offered to kids every day by the US government?

I am worried that the school will make my daughter fat and unhealthy with bad food choices. Is she going off to college? No she's going to kindergarten.

I looked at the school lunch menu for the entire months of August and September. I see items I might feed my child once in a while like hamburgers but not every day. During the Reagan era ketchup was declared a vegetable but I thought perhaps naively that things had gotten better with all these drive to get healthy. In fact at the bottom the menu declares in bold letters "Off to" (in an apple) A great Start" I also thought I could control whether or not my daughter ate lunch at school by choosing to give her money. No now they have a new convenient "card swipe system" so my child needs no money at all. It's a heavy burden for a five year old to make healthy choices and I am disappointed but unsurprised that I see so few healthy choices to make. The government rails that kids are fat and then offers them a host of fattening food subsided for $.40 to low income families. When will school meals actually become healthy instead of a victim of special interest groups? When will one of the presidential candidates actually speak up about this issue? I am listening and waiting and I am angry at the hypocrisy.

Here's Monday's lunch menu:

All white meat Chicken Drummies w/Tots Corn Dog (full of fat and nitrates) (some form of deep fried processed meat is offered four days a week one day a week the nuggets are baked whee!)
Reduced fat Pizza (offered twice a week)
Mini Twin Cheeseburger (offered twice a week under a different name)
Turkey (nitrates) and Cheese (processed) on whole wheat (a sad rather soggy sandwich).
Salad mix (a sad affair of iceberg lettuce and a couple carrots - offered twice a week)
Carrot Sticks with ranch dressing
Corn (buttered and heavily salted)
Mixed fruit (a fruit salad drenched in corn syrup - some form of fruit in corn syrup is offered every day)
Offered every day

1% Low Fat
Non Fat Chocolate

Now it's not that I expect the government to understand or value organic produce but to me "Off to a Great Start" implies more than just offering 3 types of fruit every day. What about some pasta? I have yet to meet a child who doesn't love mac and cheese. What about bagels?(Oh but they offer that twice a week at breakfast) along with Cinnamon roll Pancake on a stick and other ways to give your kid a great sugar high for the rest of their day.

Today we had a somewhat disturbing conversation to me. "Is it true that you need to drink three cups of milk a day?" she asked. I blinked a bit. "There's a cow in the cafeteria... A picture of a cow." she added hastily as she interpreted my gimlet gaze as perhaps thinking there was a real cow in the cafeteria. Instead of I confess I was thinking hormones from nonorganic milk. I take a deep breath. Well maybe a little hormones aren't so bad. Then she continues "I love chocolate milk. I dream of chocolate milk in class. I dream everybody except the people are made of chocolate milk."

Sending my oldest child my daughter off to kindergarten brings with it a whole host of worries. Will she enjoy kindergarten and learn? Will she make friends? Will her teacher like her? But all my typical fears have been addressed. She comes home each day excited and happy. But I did not expect to worry about her health.

I have solved this problem by telling her the school cafeteria is completely out of the control of the school. True. That she goes to a wonderful school. But the school lunches are terrible. And the school has no choice in the matter. It works for a five year old. But I think about other parents who go to the school. The one who qualify for the $.40 cent reduced price lunch -- a really low income level. Or even those who are at a slightly higher income level for whom spending $3 for lunch versus spending the money to get a proper lunch is an issue. I think it's fundamentally unfair. I also get angry with people who argue that kids will only eat fat and sugar. Sure that's what they'll eat if that's the only thing on offer.

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