Make Lunch…. Not War. Part I

It’s been said before: “As Maine goes, so goes the nation”… and this may be true.   Recently  Kevin Concannon, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, told C-SPAN that school nutrition  programs in Maine are some of the best in the nation.   A recent count shows that 147 schools in Maine, representing 46 school districts, have achieved awards through USDA’s Healthier US School Challenge (HUSSC).  HUSSC award winning schools have shown to meet a rigorous set of achievements involving physical activity, nutrition education, and nutrition standards in the school meals program.  Go Team Maine!  

Recently, a group of colleagues and I traveled to Washington to tell our stories – stories from the school nutrition front lines. Stories of success.  Stories about kids, tasting foods for the first time, stories about feeding hungry students and nourishing lives.  Powerful stories about making a difference.  

  Visiting Capitol Hill          photo credit: Herb Perone

While in Washington, we met colleagues from across the country,  colleagues committed to the nutritional integrity of school meals.   We heard stories of success and innovation, stories from California, Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania…  The truth is, there are exciting school nutrition happening all across the United States.  

It seems, however, that recently, we have been distracted by a food fight.  On one side of the lunch war, we have  celebrities such as Jamie Oliver and “mommy bloggers”. Social media is bombarded with staged pictures of school meals from “around the world”.  It seems as though so called experts are intent on waging war against school nutrition programs, smearing the integrity of the school meals program, like jelly being smeared on a peanut butter sandwich.  

No one has defended the School Nutrition program more eloquently and succinctly than my friend Dayle Hayes, MS, RD, of School Meals that Rock, in her recent blog post response to the so called School Lunch Haters:

The truth is, the battle gets tiring.  We want to make lunch, not war.

The battle, the fight, the haters… its discouraging AND distracting.   I would challenge all of the haters, critics and celebrity “experts” to develop a menu within the USDA guidelines, and with in the allotted budget ($3.00 per lunch including food/labor/supplies/equipment).   Make sure  that the menu is whole grain rich, includes 8 oz fat free or low fat milk, healthy servings of protein, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.  And then, make sure the kids like and eat it.    It’s a challenge. But. We. Are. Doing. It!

In our district, we spent the month of March eating our way through the alphabet, fruits and vegetables, A-Z.  Kids we able to experience everything from Asparagus & Arugula to Kiwi & Quinoa to Zucchini.  

Students tasted, tried and learned.  They were exposed to delicious foods they have never tried before.  This is how we choose to fight the food fight – by making lunch and making it exciting and delicious.  

This is just part of the battle, but it is absolutely the most public part.   The second part is that the need for increased funding for school nutrition programs is critical.  I will save that Make Lunch, Not War post for another day.   

Happy Easter and nutritious eating!  

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