Home > Uncategorized > School Lunch De-Regulation: Eliminating “Waste” in the Name of Efficiency Rewards Manufactured Meals

School Lunch De-Regulation: Eliminating “Waste” in the Name of Efficiency Rewards Manufactured Meals

Weston Williams’ Christian Science Monitor article on the recent announcement that the USDA is scaling back regulations on school lunch provides further evidence that we are valuing efficiency at the expense of common sense and willing to subsidize business at the expense of the well being of the poor.

After noting that school lunch is often the only healthy meal children raised in poverty get during the day, Mr. Williams explains the real reason for the recommended change: saving money!

Despite the importance of the school food for many students, proponents of the change argue that it’s sometimes challenging for budget-strapped schools to create meals from fresh ingredients. With current funding levels, many schools may find it easier to rely on cheaper, mass-produced meals. While government subsidies do exist for the purpose of providing healthier meals to students, some school districts have found themselves coming up short.

Unfortunately, say some experts, it’s often the schools whose students most need nutritious lunches that have the hardest time serving them. “The only advantage to offering less healthy options is a balanced school budget,” says Kristen Linton, a professor of Health Science at California State University, Channel Islands.

When the new standards for school lunch were put in place, school districts howled that they would be challenged to put them in place. But when the rubber hit the road, 97% of them met the challenge and as a result millions of children benefitted.

“The standards that were enacted during the past eight years have helped to improve the quality of food so that there is less sugar, less saturated fat, less sodium, but more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains – with many new and tasty recipes being used,” Miriam Nelson, nutritionist and director of the Sustainability Institute at the University of New Hampshire, tells the Monitor in an email. “Our children matter, so society should care about what our children are fed.”

But here’s the sad truth: our pocketbooks matter more than our children… especially if “our children are the children of those people who use EBT cards to buy their food. Because if they are the children in our community, we DO care about them. That’s why children in affluent communities or in schools that do not have a high free-and-reduced lunch count often participate in food-to-farm programs designed to ensure that children receive food that has “less sugar, less saturated fat, less sodium, but more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains”, in some cases paying a premium price for their meals to ensure that they are healthy and nutritious. And to be fair, many of those same families would gladly pay higher taxes if they knew their money would be earmarked for better meals.

But as a whole, our society wants efficiency more than they want health, which is why we seem to be willing to punish those who make “bad choices” about smoking, eating poorly, and failing to take care of oneself. At the same time, though, we seem unwilling to teach children how to eat well, or how to make good choices when it comes to eating. And we certainly don’t want to pay a premium to do that. Why pay for fresh home-made food that will go into the dumpster when we can pay less for processed food full of salt and sugar that will be eaten?

 

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