When considering the “dangers” of school lunch, parents’ concerns probably don’t go much further than worrying about their child trading his carrot sticks for that peanut butter sandwich that’s an allergy attack waiting to happen. But a group of retired military leaders who call themselves Mission: Readiness say that school lunches are causing a threat to national security. A report by the Associated Press quotes one of the former officers as saying unhealthy school lunches are making kids “too fat to fight.”
The group released a study that said 27 percent of Americans between the age of 17 and 24 are too overweight to join the military. A startling statistic, to be sure, but how much of this is really based on school lunches?
As Maureen Downy points out in the Atlanta Journal Constitution‘s Get Schooled blog, “we could feed kids arugula, fresh fruits and yogurt for lunch every day at school and still have an obesity problem if they return home to sour cream and onion chips, gummi bears and milkshakes.”
Kids spend a large portion of their day in school, but once the bell rings it’s up to their parents to make sure they eat healthy and don’t languish on the sofa watching TV all afternoon. Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign stresses getting information and resources to parents, not just to schools.
Mission: Readiness supports the new Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, pending in the Senate, which would allow the USDA to further restrict the nutritional requirements of school meals, and increase the reimbursement rates of schools that comply.
But what about schools that are already taking steps in the right direction? Last year, Baltimore City Public Schools set in motion a program to bring food straight from farms and into schools, but would this approach comply with new federal regulations? Clearly programs like Baltimore’s would not work for every district, but unique areas come with their own opportunities for healthy eating. Individual school boards are certainly more adept at assessing the individual needs and strengths of their schools than an overarching national regulation.
Getting kids to embrace a healthy lifestyle is a noble goal, and one that we should all embrace. But let’s start in our homes, and on a local level in schools.
Tricia Smith, Spring intern