Tammy Thomas Garnes

School Lunches – In this age of childhood obesity, I can’t believe we’re still having this conversation!

In Family on July 5, 2009 at 3:56 pm

DSC_4795School lunches.  This topic comes up among my mommy friends as often as vaccinations.  When the kids are babies, we over analyze everything that goes into their bodies.  Breastmilk, formula, fruits, veggies, organic, homemade….the list goes on and on.  Then of course we debate allergies and allergens, we eliminate and re-introduce, we agonize over whole, soy, rice or almond (and that’s just milk).  We read books, blogs and email friends….all about the food our little darlings eat.

Then they go to school.  And if you attend a public school that provides “school lunch,” you may find yourself constantly fighting against the very institution that is charged with educating your children about all things, including nutrition.  Kids spend lots of time learning about the food pyramid in class, only to be served pizza, tacos and chicken nuggets in the cafeteria on a daily basis.  Some schools and districts offer salad bars to those at the elementary level, others don’t (because the kids don’t eat that stuff, is what I was told by a cafeteria manager once).  

In our school, our PTA has recently put together a task force to meet with the district nutritionist and help to mold/understand the food offerings in our school.  But alas, as much as I despise packing a lunch for 2 kids everyday, I guess that’s what I’ll have to continue doing. Our district now serves pizza TWICE A WEEK (and calls it healthy because the bread is whole grain). Uggggh is what I told the nutritionist for the district in a one on one meeting. You’re training kids, I informed her, to believe that pizza (once reserved for a Friday night treat), is NORMAL to eat twice a week at lunch. In the real world, I informed her, PaPa Johns pizza doesn’t come with a whole grain crust!

Do you know what your children are eating for school lunch?  I found this article below from the Columbus Dispatch, eye opening.  Money always seems to be at the root of everything….even the health of our most precious beings.  Wondering how you can “be the change” at your school?  Gather a few parents together to meet with your school principal and director of nutrition.  Establish a health and wellness committee that will bring reports back to parents during PTA/PTO meetings.  Do something, anything, because as those of us in the trenches know, a small voice crying out in the wilderness often attracts other small voices.  Together we become a great big roar!

Cost constraints and students’ palates often make school lunches unhealthful
Sunday, July 5, Columbus Dispatch
By Jennifer Smith Richards 

Pizza, tater tots, hot dogs and tacos are on school lunch menus even though those kid-friendly staples might not be the most healthful choices.

One reason: Kids like them. Another: They can be made cheaply.

“We have a big, big problem,” said Susan Rubin, nutritionist and founder of an advocacy group called Better School Food, based in New York. School lunch programs in Ohio and the nation are “a dumping ground for these poor-quality commodity foods.”

Most school food comes frozen. It is usually not whole-grain, low-fat or low-sodium. And it is cheap because school districts need it to be: On average, local districts spend less than $1.50 per lunch to buy the food.

The federal government and school districts say they know that most school lunches aren’t healthful enough and that more must be done to improve them.

Food-service workers say they do the best they can with what they have. Choosing a menu, buying the food and getting kids to eat cafeteria offerings is a difficult juggling act.

“It’s pretty hard to feed somebody healthfully on $1,” said Rubin, who is featured in a documentary about school food called Two Angry Moms. But she and other critics say kids would welcome more healthful lunches with fewer processed foods.


  1. School lunches are crazy I agree I cannot believe we have to keep going here….my daughter attends a public elementary school and the lunches are virtually inedible. My son attends a private middle school and they have a salad bar!! They offer the salad bar, sandwich bar and one hot meal choice each day….amazing!!

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