School Food Workers Struggle To Feed Healthy Foods: Op Ed

August 20, 2012

In a Washington Post news article, school cafeteria workers are finding it difficult to feed the children under the new, somehow more difficult food rules. Apparently, schools must offer dark green, orange or red veggies and legumes at least once a week. The students also have to choose at least one fruit or vegetable per meal. They can still have flavored cow milk (naturally), but it must be nonfat, and of course no trans fats. Apparently, the kids need to see adults eating such strange foods as chicken with a bone in it, and it will be crucial to have food ambassadors to eat foods in front of the children, you know, so they can mimic the strange behavior. 

Please. What nonsense. I get that kids may not be familiar with foods like Jicama, or Radicchio. Heck, I saw that movie where the teenager ate his first apple on camera. I get that there are some children who do not eat wholesome, local, fresh foods at home, but from the first day of school the children are shown what an apple is. Let's not completely strip them of their dignity, in thinking they need to watch a human eat a piece of fruit before sampling. 

This smacks of the school's cafeteria balking at the idea that they can't simply zip open a box or bag and heat it up for the kids. Let's face it, we all know that feeding our own kids can be a pain. I can't imagine having to feed hundreds daily. But they are hired to do a job. That doesn't mean try to cut corners and whine at every swipe of a spoon or heaven forbid, slice of a knife that they have to make. 

How about these *struggling* food staff invite parents who actually DO cook, to come up with some ideas for them? It isn't rocket science. Some people need to pull up their hygienic food worker gloves, and get to work. 

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Stephanie V.'s picture

Even for an Op-Ed this piece is a little too sarcastic. This problem is a serious one that needs serious attention and concrete, realistic solutions. This site should be used as a forum for such ideas.

Amy Jeanroy's picture

Thank you for your comment, Stephanie. I respectfully disagree that this is too sarcastic. It is not strong enough in my opinion.
The *serious* problem you and I are speaking of, is schools being able to provide healthy lunches to children. For them to complain that the children don't eat the veggie wrap on wholegrain, is not suprising. That is a little extreme for kids to jump into-even for my children, who eat homemade wholesome food all the time.
In fact, that doesn't sound appealing to me! Why are they going overboard? To prove their point that kids *won't* eat healthy foods? How about feeding them foods that they recognize? Like apples, oranges, bananas, applesauce, berries, carrots, virtually ANY veg if it is accompanied by a dip, make their own chicken strips with a healthier coating and using those, instead of the pressed chicken mash they are accustomed to providing? Make chicken by the trayful, remove the bone and use fresh chicken for chicken salad, etc. Provide fish-actual fish, not weird pressed fish sticks, beef (it is DENVER, after all), in the form of burgers or cook ground beef and flavor it to fill wraps-throw those veggies in. C'mon.
Lets face it, the story is more about having to put forth an effort to organize, plan and implement a healthier meal to the kids, than it is about teaching children to not be scared of a chicken drumstick.
I still think it is nonsense.

Again, how about asking parents who DO cook, for answers?


Jennifer F.'s picture

I think because so many children today don't receive nourishing meals at home, it's even more important that our schools offer healthful meals. I know they're trying, or think they're trying, but they're not trying hard enough. I question whether the motivation is strong enough, i.e., what happens if the new Dept. of Ag guidelines aren't followed?

But having adults model good eating behavior? I'm not sure that's an answer. Better would be to have kids helping kids make healthier food choices, and limiting the unhealthy food available in the school food line.

The great irony, of course, is that healthy food is simple food, and easier to make (unless, of course, the other stuff really does come down to ripping open a bag or box).

I think adults are balking at the change that needs to occur, at the expense of our children's health. How long do we need to TALK about it?! The ACTION I see is incremental, and quite pitiful, at least over here, in the Denver suburbs.