It always amazes me what we turn into a cause for celebration. The more I read about the changing face of the school-provided lunches that students are eating these days, the more I want to celebrate.
Let me start by saying, I NEVER bought school lunch and by never, I mean from kindergarten to twelfth grade, I maybe bought lunch 50 times, which averages out to 3.8 times during a school year. Maybe this was because I was fortune enough to always have one of those lunches that my friends would want to trade me things in their lunch boxes for… Or maybe it was because the thought of pizza (which tasted like cardboard) with a side of peas (from a can and topped with a stick of butter, oh wait, I mean margarine) and a plastic container of “fruit” punch just wasn’t that appealing.
As a child, growing up on a farm had a lot of perks… We always had the freshest of the fresh vegetables and the freezer was always full of meat. I still had the usual lunch box inclusions, from the peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a piece of fruit, it’s just that the jelly in my sandwiches was always homemade and many times the fruit came from our farm or from a friend’s.
I think the biggest reason I always ate a packed lunch, rather than what was being served in the lunch line was because the school lunch was disgusting and my mom could ensure we were getting all our daily requirements for a healthy diet by packing our lunches. That’s not to say that there weren’t chilly winter days (I grew up outside of Buffalo) when I wanted a hot bowl of soup and grilled cheese for lunch. It’s just that school lunches never those healthy options and if the lunch ladies were serving grilled cheese, it had 1/4 of a stick of butter on in, which brings us to the childhood obesity issue. Kids around 180 days a year in school and many of them eat both breakfast and lunch at school. We have a moral obligation to teach them about healthy eating and offer them healthy choices, just as we do in teaching them to read and write.
So, let’s celebrate that school lunches are getting better… And acknowledge that it’s a long road ahead. If you have kids in school, take a part getting your making the most of their school-provided lunches by contacting your school board. If you’re a farmer or a gardener with an abundance of produce, donate it to your local school. If you’re a teacher, push for a school garden. For more information on how to get involved the links below are a great start!
The National Farm to School Network sprouted from this desire to support community-based food systems, strengthen family farms, and improve student health by reducing childhood obesity.
In San Francisco and LA, Revolution Foods delivers tasty and healthy meals and nutrition education and in some cities in Oregon, Kaiser Permanente Community Foundation has provided schools with grants to put locally grown produce on lunch trays.
Farm to School in Virginia
Farm to School in Maryland