School Lunch

by Scott Smith

I found this great little cartoon through Aidan Brook’s (of the United Kingdom) blog. He has an entry on “Jamie’s School Dinners” (school lunches to we Americans). It got me wondering if there is a similar program in the US trying to improve school lunches. I haven’t found one yet. Probably in the US it is a state by state endeavor. So, I tried to read the USDA standards on school lunches (which is what Michigan uses – some more progressive states have upped the standards on their own) and found it nearly impossible to navigate. And almost everything in their PDF on the regulations is worded in such a way as to not be enforcable. Statements like, “schools are encouraged to…” “It is recommended that…” “Depending on what method of…” Why have standards at all? I now feel completely justified in driving a forgotten sack lunch over to the school when my kids forget it on the counter (or bathroom floor as the case may be).

And then of course there are the alternative choices (I won’t even go into what they are an alternative to) the school insists on giving the students. Like every kind of Little Debbie snack cake you can imagine, ice cream, chips, and of course, the 2 (because one isn’t enough) Coke machines that are the first thing the middle school children encounter on their way into the lunch dungeon room. Lest I seem too harsh in my judgements, the middle school, who apparently whores out 12-15 year olds to the Coca-Cola Corporation, did get a grant to have a “healthy” snack machine in the building. The healthy snack choices are apparently high fructose corn syrup laden juices (okay, I’m assuming on this one), Combos, and mealy apples bruised on their way out of the machine. Of course, it’s no where near the lunch room which I’m sure is courtesy of the contract the school system has with the fine people at Coke (perhaps local parents should be more concerned with the contracts that the school DOES have rather than the one they don’t have with the teachers).

So, anyway, I love the cartoon. It’s clever and entertaining while being educational and the activities that the USDA offers to help educate children on nutrition pale in comparison. If anyone knows of a similar program in Michigan I’d love to hear about it.