Italian breadsticks with marinara dipping sauce. Lemonade in a can. A chocolate chip cookie.
That was what I had for lunch every single day in 7th grade. My mom was a single parent to three children and didn't have time to make healthy bag lunches daily. Like many parents, I'm sure she assumed the school was providing us with just that... a healthy lunch. There were healthier options, of course, but then there were those "a la carte" options like breadsticks, cookies, pizza and - wait for it - a frozen yogurt machine with toppings galore. Do you blame me?
And that was just the cafeteria. In the vending machines, there were sugary sodas and snacks in a bag that tried to emulate foods like Potato Skins and Onion Rings. Is that really necessary? Point is... I was well fed at home but at school, junk food was everywhere.
I'm remembering all of this today, specifically, because there's a push this week to raise awareness about the stalled Child Nutrition Reauthorization - legislation which comes up only every five years and determines all the foods in school lunches. There is also a drive to urge the Obama Administration and Congress to include a ban on soda and junk food in this legislation.
It's about time. I won't always be able to puree broccoli and make lean ground pork paste for my son, and that is for 2 reasons... 1) eventually he'll be older than 10 months and won't want to eat meat in paste-like form and 2) one day I will have to put my trust in his school. There are 12.5 million obese children in the United States, according to the CDC, and I would not like for him to be one of them.
Sarah Newman is the Researcher in the Social Action department at Participant Media, and she wrote this blog worth reading: Cut The Crap in Public Schools. If you feel compelled to take action, she suggests you do one or all of the following:
1. Sign this petition asking Congress for better school foods.
2. Call the US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and urge him to make the Child Nutrition Reauthorization a priority. His office is at 202-720-3631.
3. Call the White House to thank President Obama for his commitment to childhood nutrition and urge him to make the bill a priority. The White House telephone number is 202-456-1111.