Would you eat it or toss it when it comes to your usual Sacramento school lunch? Now you can post a photo of your healthy school lunch online. Photograph your school lunch and upload the photo online. What do you think of your school lunch? How healthy is it in your opinion? Do Something | Largest organization for teens and social cause, a youth advocacy website with two million members, has launched a campaign encouraging young people to photograph their school lunch.
The Fed Up school lunch campaign, asks participants to “show them what you think of school lunch” by posting photos of their meal, completing a short survey on their impressions of school lunch, and voting either “eat it” or “toss it” on posted photos. The School Nutrition Association (SNA) sent this letter to DoSomething.org on behalf of members and is communicating with DoSomething.org regarding campaign inaccuracies. The School Nutrition Association (SNA) encourages members to help show DoSomething.org the true state of school meals.
Visit this link and submit a photo of your school lunch so visitors to the site can see the healthy, fresh, delicious food you serve in your schools each day. It only takes a few minutes to participate. Click on the “Show us your lunch” tab at the bottom of the page. Then click on “register” in the top right corner. You will be required to provide your name, an email address and birthday (you are not required to submit a cell number). Upload your photo and you can complete the short multiple choice survey telling the site how healthy your lunch is.
You may also wish to check out these studies: Research Presented on Yogurt's Effects on Weight Management and Chronic Disease, and the Harvard meta-analysis provides more evidence that ‘1st line of defense against weight gain is to reduce or stop drinking sugary drinks'.
Did you ever wonder about why people overeat and ever wish to post your healthy school lunch photos online? What will the photos reveal as far as attracting people to eat what you consider your healthy school lunch. What if your school lunch isn't as healthy as you assumed it would be? Why do people overeat? Check out the video: Why We Overeat: The Toxic Food Environment and Obesity. And then you may wish to see the site, "Post Your Healthy School Lunch Photos in “Fed Up” Youth Advocacy Campaign." Check out this permanent link.
The problem is not about trying to save elementary school kids from personal choices in foods
And the problem is not how to change their parent's eating habits of traditional, familiar foods. Sure, healthier food substitutions is great. But the real issue is how much change is the Healthy Foods Task Force making in Sacramento foods served to children in schools--breakfast and lunch?
About three years ago, Sacramento City Unified school district started a Healthy Foods Task Force to look at changes to public school breakfast and lunch menus. What's going to help will be the development of district-wide school gardens to grow vegetables and fruits. Some of those school gardens exist now on a few campuses. But what's wonderful is the integration of nutrition education into what's taught in public schools.
The task force includes nutritionists, Soil Born Farms, a chef, Patrick Mulvaney of midtown Sacramento's Mulvan's, as well as parents and educators. (Why don't you put some students on the task force as well, for example, nutrition majors?)
The task force also is getting help from local nonprofit Valley Vision and the Sacramento Region Food System Collaborative (healthy eating policies). What Sacramento students need is improved access to nutritious food
You can't use the excuse that the students will only eat food with which they are familiar. You have a melting pot of diverse ethnic foods that have healthy ingredients here in Sacramento, including a lot of vegan meals such as salads. In fact some elementary schools in Sacramento have salad bars featuring green and orange vegetables, dried fruit, and a variety of choices in salad pickings.
You might add more diversity, such as taking out the raisins that stick to the teeth and substituting other fruits that help prevent tooth decay, such as cranberries. Or perhaps substitute blueberries and strawberries instead of raisins and crackers--all of which cling to your teeth. You don't see kids brushing after meals in school. That's why teeth-friendly fruits, such as berries, are welcome.
Nutrition education is incorporated into classroom teachings
For example, San Juan school district hosts "harvest of the month" since 2005. You have numerous teachers ordering produce kits from the Food Services Dept. Produce suppliers donate the kits.
More produce suppliers should get involved with schools to help create lesson plans or activities each month on different vegetables. For example, instead of the old iceberg lettuce and raisins in a salad bar, try jicama, kumquats, berries, and other fruits and vegetables that look new and refreshing to kids instead of the same old tired iceberg lettuce with a lot less nutrition than Romaine lettuce or clean spinach. How about more chopped parsley, some mint, and red bell peppers or tomato slices?
If you're looking for variety on a salad bar, schools could take a lesson from the variety of salads offered at the Fresh Choice restaurant salad bar in Sacramento. You have a lot of students eating free breakfast and lunch at school. Instead of the prepared, processed foods the students usually get to save money, try cooking some meals from scratch.
Children are eating two meals a day at school
Why serve them corn dogs, pizza, fries, and burgers when you could offer a salad bar with more choices from fruit and vegetables to cheese and sliced peaches or mango chunks, raspberries, jicama, strawberries, and lots of finely chopped greens, such as celery, broccoli, and spinach combined with carrots?
Too many Sacramento school meals are fried chicken instead of grilled meats. Kids don't need deep fried foods when they're eating two meals a day at school. Chances are they come home and in the evening are eating pretty much the same types of processed foods such as cheese and fried meats or sausages. You don't have to cook meats deep or fish fried in fat. You can grill the food or steam it with water.
Some elementary schools have a Pizza Day. Kids could get a pile of finely chopped raw vegetables on top of the pizza, like fresh tomatoes instead of canned sauce, possibly with a metallic taste
You have hundreds of students getting free or reduced price breakfast and lunches at schools. San Juan Unified school district has salad bars in its 50 elementary schools put in by 2006. Variety of choices might increase to attract students to the salad bars. Yet few foods are made from scratch. This year, though San Juan is considering making more recipes from scratch.
It's going to cost more. One answer is having the students raise their own vegetables on school property. Some schools got rid of chocolate milk at breakfast because kids don't need a sugar crash by 10 am. Whole grain cereals and breads are fine, but it would be better if kids ate whole oat groats instead of processed cold cereals. Who will take the challenge and bake whole-grain no-yeast bread or cook cereals from scratch? The cost again comes up.
You think that children are going to come home after school and get nutritious food at home? Maybe some parents are aware, but many still are buying processed foods for convenience at home. So kids may get three meals a day of processed foods and have one chance at school to access a salad bar. How many parents whose kids get free breakfast and lunches are on a raw plant foods diet for at least part of the week?
What Helped to Create the Healthy Foods Task Force in Sacramento?
Kids back in 2010 were lining up daily for breakfasts of sausage pizzas and corn dogs at Sacramento elementary schools, according to the April 18, 2010 Sacramento Bee article, by Melody Gutierrez, "Sacramento area schools try to serve healthier food."
If the only place parents and teachers have to look is the U.S. Senate, then the nutrition guidelines pending there currently may be a step toward getting salty, fatty, and sugary processed foods out of public school lunch menus in Sacramento. You have to contend with what kids eat for breakfast in school and what they eat for lunch. Besides the issue of obesity and children, you have the issue of anorexia in kids trying to emulate models on magazine covers.
In the middle between the two extremes are most kids subjected to up to two meals a day at school of mostly processed, pre-cooked, or frozen, packaged foods bought because of the cost. Few foods were made from scratch. Perhaps next year in Sacramento, more foods will be made from scratch. Then the cost will be considered again. If the vegetables were grown on school grounds or more producers of food became involved, perhaps the cost might be adjustable.
School meals are a big issue with the government
Michelle Obama traveled across the USA or broadcasting on television for schools and families to take some action to prevent or reverse childhood obesity. Our children may be the first generation to develop chronic diseases related to diet and lifestyle at an earlier age than our grandparents did in the 1940s.
You can't turn on your TV set without seeing reality shows about school cafeteria workers or comments about the quality of food served in public schools. It's going to take people with the power to change standards to make any improvements in the local nutrition standards of what's served in Sacramento's elementary school cafeterias.
Instead of serving choices of raw food diets or lots of fruit and vegetables other than fried potatoes or battered zucchini and fried corn hush puppies, in many of the local and national elementary schools a large number of packages of frozen, processed foods arrive with the only cooking being done is a batch of salty, processed foods full of fat, salt, and sugar getting warmed up in an oven. Who's really cooking meals in the public school cafeteria kitchens? But what can a school do when the apples are tossed in the garbage and kids visit a local convenience store to buy sweet foods, pretzels, and chips, often fried in fat or sometimes coated with fats when baked?
Most of the foods are processed
Once the food is processed, it's dead food. It's not sprouted grain, and not green leafy vegetables that are raw or balanced. It's food that has lost most of its nutritional value and taste. On one hand, you have Sacramento City School's Healthy Foods Task Force looking at standards.
On the other hand, you have parents objecting to the processed corn dog breakfasts kids are getting in Sacramento elementary schools where finger food like hot dogs on a stock and fried corn batter is convenient. The corn dogs are heated and served.
Time is saved from having to prep raw vegetables or slice fresh fruit. Who's planning healthier breakfasts for kids? If the parents are working and don't have time to cook, and the schools are serving heated processed food that arrived frozen, not many people are taking the time to cook from raw materials and live foods. Are kids eating white bread or whole wheat made by adding caramel coloring to flour instead of eating flourless no-yeast bread made from sprouted lentils and grains?
No. Unless it's baked from scratch, and time is no problem, it's expensive. Of course, you could teach the kids how to bake their own bread and invite them to show their parents how they do it. But for food servers, the answer so far as been to serve foods that take little time to prepare, comes packaged, processed, and within the budget. This year, however, more food will be at least considered to be prepared from scratch.
You've heard it before, the adage, "the whiter the bread, the sooner you're dead." If you work as a school cafeteria cook or server, you know what the answer is: there's not enough money or equipment in school cafeterias. And without resources and staff, you're as limited as the government is when it comes to inspecting food that is imported. So both cafeteria workers and government inspectors are strapped for resources, money, and staff, let alone time.
Salad bars: Do they satisfy hunger and fill up kids enough so they can focus?
What is good about schools is that there are salad bars, but they're not at all schools. And when you look at costs, what's really in those salad bars? Is it iceberg lettuce that has little nutrition? Or is it Romaine lettuce with more nutrition and salad greens, including spinach, arugula, and some of those colorful purple lettuce that you see on supermarket produce shelves?
If you don't have money to buy those foods for school salad bars, then plant the green salad pickings in back of the school instead of just having lawns? You need a small, sustainable community garden at elementary schools. The students can plant the vegetables that eventually end up in the school's salad bar. It's part of the slow-food, urban community gardens in the schools movement.
Local farmers also can supply schools with greens for their salad bars, if the farmers find a way to get the produce to the schools. Is transportation being provided? Or are the vegetables rotting in local farmer's fields while school kids are dining on processed foods?
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 puts the burden on the federal government to give grants that would help to pay for vegetables and fruits from local farmers. Why import vegetables or fruits frozen from another country, when local farmers are eager to find ways to get their produce to markets, such as public schools? What parents want for school children is food that's safe and nutritious.
You can research the local Davis Farm to School Programs -- FarmtoSchool.org. According to its website, the farmers' market salad bar, called "Crunch Lunch," of the Davis Joint Unified School District is a daily buffet-style array of in-season fruits and vegetables sourced from local farmers.
The salad bar is offered daily as an alternative to the regular hot meal. The program was started in 1999 as a way to link the district's already thriving school garden program. DJUSD works in partnership with the Davis Farm to School Connection in order to implement and maintain the Crunch Lunch salad bar at each school site.
The program got off the ground in 2000 with a $46,235 grant from the USDA Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems. Additional money was received from the California Department of Education's Nutrition Services Department for development of links between classrooms, school gardens, and food service and from the California Integrated Waste Management Board for vermi-composting, waste diversion, and recycling.
Other organizations also received money to pay for for program evaluation, farm tours, and program expansion throughout California
Supplementary funds were sought out and received for ongoing support of the program. Start-up equipment costs totaled nearly $10,000 for three schools. In the first year program costs were $23,609, with the help of grant funding, the salad bar program was able to run at a profit its first two years, according to the Davis, CA, Farm to School Programs site. No matter what public elementary school in Sacramento your child attends, the school districts are serving the same menu items at all the elementary schools in this area. Some schools offer salad bars, and some do not.
If your child attend an elementary school that is classified as a "poor" school, the child qualifies for free and/or reduced lunches. A lot of kids depend on the school meals for most of their nutrition such as breakfast and lunch and come home to a dinner of take-out foods, fries, or macaroni and cheese processed foods at home, particularly if the parents are trying to stretch food budgets.
Other children from Sacramento's poorer areas rely on school food as the only food they get each day. You can research the websites of organizations such as the School Nutrition Association. According to the Sacramento Bee article, Davis Joint Unified has one of the most acclaimed nutrition programs in the country. The district serves fruits and vegetables from local farms. The teriyaki chicken and Moroccan pork for $3.25 are cooked as slow-food.
Nugget and finger foods
These foods aren't a 2010 version of the frozen 1950-style TV dinner that your grandparents used to heat up for dinner. How difficult is it to raise enough money to have food made from scratch instead of serving kids deep fried formerly frozen chicken nuggets?
How much money can you raise by fundraising? It took thousands of dollars from fundraising efforts to serve many of the foods cooked from scratch at Davis Joint Unified schools, according to the Sacramento Bee article, "Sacramento area schools try to serve healthier food." Check out another article, Greening the Plate of School Lunch. See some slides from a presentation of the whys and hows of starting a Farm to School program.
What do Sacramento school lunches serve? Have you looked lately at the local menus of junior high school-middle school lunches? Is it burgers and fries, chicken, grilled cheese, fries, or anything at all like the lunches kids take to school such as avocado and grated carrot nori sea vegetable rolls with brown rice, sprouted corn tortillas filled with Parmesan and spinach, wild-caught canned salmon, celery, carrots, and grape seed oil mayonnaise or sardines? Check out what Sacramento middle schools serve for lunch. See, Sacramento City Unified School District 2009/2010 Secondary Menu ...[PDF]. How about spicy chicken sandwiches and cheeseburgers? Also see, Folsom Cordova Unified School District.
Now, you can't say the school lunches caused your child's obesity. But a new study links middle-school lunches in general to obesity. Why? What's the link ?
Your child's lunch menu can be found online. Check it out. Or perhaps your child's school lunch looks like fast food with barbeque chicken and sauce, lettuce, and fries or burgers with sliced onion and pickles? Take your pick of school lunches. Some are good and some might be linked to obesity. Check out what's cooking in Sacramento middle school cafeterias.
Students who regularly eat school-furnished lunches are more likely to be overweight and have higher levels of cholesterol than those who eat meals brought from home, a new study found. But studies like these have been going on for years. The latest survey of middle-schoolers found that 39 percent of those who always or almost always had cafeteria meals were overweight or obese, compared with 24 percent of those bringing food from home.
School lunches and overweight kids
Check out the study done by researchers, from the University of Michigan Health Systems in Ann Arbor. The scientists presented their findings March 13, 2010 at a meeting of heart specialists in Atlanta. Read the study's results. See the March 13, 2010 University of Michigan study's press release, Children who eat school lunches more likely to be overweight.
What you need to understand is that scientists didn't specify that school lunches caused the children to be overweight. What the study found, according to the survey results, focused on added evidence of unhealthy diets and lack of exercise in the same group that regularly went through the lunch line. Still, the research adds to evidence that some schools don't do enough to fight obesity in American youths.
The question in nutrition, is do parents blame children's obesity on genes inherited from one or more family members? Or on food habits that are difficult to change? Are food habits based on taste? Do bad food habits change the way the brain perceives the taste of vegetables? Or do family members blame obesity on what the children eat in school, out of school, or on lack of exercise in favor of video games, computers, TV, or even too much homework?
Do families make the connection between familiar foods or traditional meals made with unhealthy ingredients compared to what substitutions could be made at home or in schools?
For example, before a slice of toast topped with butter and cheese or bacon is given to a child, does the school (or the family member) think maybe a healthier substitution for a familiar food could be made? One example would be instead of margarine on bread, how about a drizzle of olive oil spiced with minced garlic or sliced tomato?
Or instead of a smoothie of milk and ice cream like those 1950s familiar malts, how about putting into the blender a handful of spinach tossed into a cup of pomegranate juice, a few almonds, some flax seeds, a serving of whey or rice protein powder, a tablespoon of psyllium husk, a tablespoon of whole wheat germ or if allergic to grain, a spoon of sesame or flax seeds, and 3/4 cup of blueberries? Blend it all into a smoothie, and taste it. Do you really need that milkshake or malt when you could substitute fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and no-sugar added fruit juice?
One study reported March 13, 2010, found that middle school children who regularly eat school lunches are more likely to be overweight or obese, develop poorer eating habits and have high levels of "bad" cholesterol compared to those who bring lunches from home, according to new University of Michigan Health System research presented March 13, 2010 at the American College of Cardiology's 59th annual scientific session.
Although previous studies have looked at the nutritional content of school lunches, this was the first study to assess the impact of school lunches on children's eating behaviors and overall health-a critical issue amid skyrocketing rates of childhood overweight and obesity, which can set the stage for future heart disease and premature death.
A team of U-M Cardiovascular Center researchers collected and analyzed health behavior questionnaires completed by 1,297 sixth graders at Michigan public schools over a period of almost three years. They discovered that children who consume school lunches were more likely to be overweight or obese (38.8 percent vs. 24.4 percent) than those who ate lunches brought from home.
Children who ate school meals were more than twice as likely to consume fatty meats (25.8 percent vs. 11.4 percent) and sugary drinks (36 percent vs. 14.5 percent), while also eating fewer fruits and vegetables (16.3 percent vs. 91.2 percent).
Researchers also found these children had higher levels of low-density lipid cholesterol (or "bad cholesterol") than their home-fed counterparts
Students reported on what they consumed throughout the day-not just at lunchtime. "This study confirms the current and escalating national concern with children's health, and underscores the need to educate children about how to make healthy eating and lifestyle choices early on," says Elizabeth Jackson, M.D., MPH, assistant professor of internal medicine at the U-M Health System, according to the news release, Children who eat school lunches more likely to be overweight. "Although this study doesn't provide specific information on nutrient content of school lunches, it suggests there is a real opportunity to promote healthy behaviors and eating habits within the school environment. This is where kids spend a majority of their time."
In addition to gathering information on dietary habits, researchers looked at sixth graders' self reports of physical activity, involvement in sports, and sedentary behaviors such as watching TV or playing video games. They also collected information on student weight, height as well as blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
"Good heart health starts at a very young age," Jackson says in the news release, Children who eat school lunches more likely to be overweight. "School-based initiatives like Project Healthy Schools can really make a difference in promoting healthy eating choices throughout the day."
Project Healthy Schools is designed to teach sixth grade students about heart-healthy lifestyles, with hopes of reducing their future risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and is supported by a broad community partnership
While the findings from the present study are concerning, Jackson says she is encouraged because there is more awareness among parents and children about their heart health than ever before. She reinforces the need to consistently integrate small steps to support heart health-for example, holding farm fresh food days during which students learn about fresh produce, walking to school and health education about healthy food choices.
There are other, potentially confounding issues that Jackson and her team are teasing out, including whether there is a possible correlation between socioeconomic status and heart health in children of low-income families who take advantage of free school meal programs.
Recent data show that while an estimated 30.6 million U.S. students consume school lunches, only 6 percent of school lunch programs meet the requirements established by the School Meals Initiative for Healthy Children. Additionally, children who bring meals from home are also exposed to competing foods from school cafeterias, vending machines and trading with other students.
"As a parent, you're not completely sure what you're packing in their lunches is what they are actually consuming; foods can be traded or they can get snacks from vending machines, so it can be hard to know what they are putting into their bodies," Jackson says, adding that parents can help shape food choices by modeling good eating behaviors at home and on the go.
Researchers state that more research is needed to better understand whether healthier school lunches will lead to healthier behaviors among school-aged children
This study was funded, in part, by the University of Michigan, the Atkins Foundation and the Thompson Foundation, among others. Can children really get a healthy lunch in school unless they bring their own food from home? Two years ago there was another similar study. In fact, school lunches have been linked to childhood obesity, for years.
Is childhood obesity the reason we're seeing an increase in children developing Type 2 Diabetes? It seems obvious that we need to start serving healthy lunches in our schools, and a 2008 study shows that making these nutritional changes does have a positive affect. What would you put into a new program for school lunches?
Maybe a new lunch program needs to be put in action in schools
According to the previous 2008 study, 1,349 students had been followed from fourth to sixth grade. There was about a 50 percent reduction in the incidence (new cases) of overweight at the end of 2 years among the children attending the program schools, while no changes were seen among the children attending the schools without a program.
For example, at Bret Harte elementary school, almost 450 of 500 students eat a free breakfast and lunch at school. What can the school afford to feed them for free? The cost is covered by the federal government. The district is doing a lot to promote better food choices. But what can it really do on the present budget? Options are needed, for example, having students and produce farmers work together to grow food on campus with the help of organizations such as Soil Born Farms and similar groups.
There is a way to serve more nutritious foods to kids in schools and still be able to afford it
Community urban gardens is one answer. So are other answers, when you have in Sacramento produce rotting in the fields nearby because local farmers can't afford to get their vegetables or fruits to a market.
Also, farmers' markets might become involved in more food choices for kids in school. Parents also need to join in the effort. There's going to be resistance to ingrained food habits and tight family budgets for food. But there is a way to help, especially by getting more celebrity chefs involved.