When Michelle Obama started an organic garden on the White House lawn, much of the public was encouraged that finally there would be an end to the crappy processed nonsense that undermines our attempts to feed our children actual food. Of course, there were a few detractors who worried about never being allowed to eat hot dogs at Little League games. In hindsight, those were the good old days. Weren’t they?
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A few years ago, when our kids’ charter school was building a kitchen and discussions about improving food options were taking place, I decided to get involved. First, I did a screening of Two Angry Moms, the movie that chronicles two professional women — a dentist and the maker of this documentary — looking at schools across the country that have managed to start farm-to-school programs. We live on the Big Island of Hawaii, after all, an island where quite literally anything can be grown pretty much all year long.
Funding for School Lunch Programs
We often hear that schools don’t have the budget to pay for real food. The logical leap for me would be to glean foods from local people who have lemons, papayas, bananas or avocados so abundantly they go to waste. We could do that from within our own community.
Not so fast. Schools lose meal program funding if they don’t take the heavily subsidized factory-made, rationed trash made in factories. How backwards is that?
Government offices such as the American Dietetics Association point the finger at processed food for making our children sick, while the Dept of Education withholds funding from schools that don’t take that very kind of “food”. Then the American Academy of Pediatrics tells us our kids are obese. The saddest part is that parents are blamed for having that junk in the house.
Telling someone how to fix their problem, while withholding the solution, then blaming them for the outcome is a form of narcissistic abuse. But we’re all on this unrelenting treadmill of life trying to do all the things to make life flow more easily and stay compliant with laws and bill payments that we don’t even recognize it for what it is.
The simple fact of the matter is that the government works for large corporations. They give them subsidies. Then they give them contracts to sell their product on their behalf, on our dime and at the expense of our children’s health. This is not unlike the economic hitman model John Perkins mentions in his book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman.
The science on how bad this kind of food is for our children has been in for decades now. Processed foods destroy health in every possible way from rotting teeth and bad eyesight to diabetes and cancer. It would almost seem like draining our pockets on medical treatments to limp along with these conditions is the ultimate goal.
If better health were the true consideration, then there is simply no logical reason why the government should not shunt at least a portion of funds toward local farmers to acquire imperfect produce at rock bottom prices, while giving on-the-job training to culinary students from local colleges to prepare them in delicious and interesting ways. This is common practice in countries like France and Japan, while here, we’ve got lunch staff prepared to do little more than slash boxes open.
We always got around the lunch issue by giving our kids food from home in thermoses and lunch boxes, usually with leftovers from the evening meal — chili, mac and cheese, turkey pot pie, lamb or roast beef sandwiches, pastas etc. To do this is not hard, but takes a shift in mindset more than anything.
It is an illusion that you can’t do this too or that it’s too expensive. While certain foods may be more expensive up front, it doesn’t take long for you to realize that less money is spent on pain or fever-reducing medication, doctor’s visits, and prescriptions. In addition, it could additionally translate into fewer days missed due to illness, less snacking (often a bigger expense than people realize), better behavior, and even cognitive improvements resulting in better comprehension in math, science and reading. For teens, it could mean fewer mood swings, and little to no acne. At the end of the day, it depends on where you’d rather spend your cash.
Systems only change when we stand up to them. In America, that usually means causing companies financial pain. During the Civil Rights Era, Black Americans knew that the only way to be treated like human beings on busses was to stop riding the bus. More recently, PayPal tried to “combat misinformation” by fining people they considered guilty of said crimes $2500… until people started cancelling their accounts.
How do we get the money out of public schools that only spend our tax dollars on frankenfoods that are already subsidized by our tax dollars? During the Frenching Your Food Summit, Paris native Valerie Delahaye suggested that French children get real meals prepared by chefs because their medical system is a not-for-profit model, meaning that the government doesn’t want to pay for long term health consequences of an unhealthy population, so the investment is made up front. Is she on the right track? Do you have another idea? Let me know in the comments below!
Also, be sure to check out some of my nourishing recipes for meals that won’t break the bank. I can only serve you, if you let me know what you need, so leave a comment and ask away~!
One thought on “What I Learned from Trying to Fix the School Lunch Program”
I like what France is doing. I wish our government was like that. People need to realize that kids need good nutrition instead of feeding them chicken fingers and French fries.