Welcome to the Thursday food "nooooo." That's "nooooo" as in "no way", "no they didn't", or "no one in their right mind would buy that."

The idea for today’s Thursday food “nooooo” came straight out of my kids’ backpacks. It’s the school lunch menu. I know that all over America school districts are creating healthier lunches for their students. Some schools have student planted organic vegetable gardens that supply some of the lunch items.

Not all school districts have gotten there yet, including mine. They are still serving the same fat laden, poor nutritious lunches that they always have. Take a look at the photo above – it’s part of my school district’s menu for this month. “On a bun” and “with dinner roll” are two phrases very commonly seen on the menu. One phrase that appears only once on the menu is “side salad.” The chilled fruit always comes out of a can served in heavy syrup and the vegetables are frequently either a potato product or corn.

The other day, when the entrée was mozzarella sticks and garlic buttered pasta, I forgot to make my boys’ lunches. I scavenged for $2.30 for each of my boys as we were rushing out the door. I usually allow them to circle two days on the calendar each month that they can choose to buy (and I have to approve their choices), but this day was unplanned.

I asked them when they got home how lunch was. My nine-year-old said it wasn’t very good. My six-year-old said he loved it, but he didn’t have the mozzarella sticks. He had, and this is absolutely nowhere on the menu, Fruit Loops!

Nowhere on the menu is there a mention that Fruit Loops or any cereal is an option. Do you know what is in Fruit Loops? Here is the nutrition information straight from Kellog’s website (highlights are mine).

Ingredients

SUGAR; CORN FLOUR; WHEAT FLOUR; OAT FLOUR; PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (ONE OR MORE OF: COCONUT, COTTONSEED, AND SOYBEAN) †; SALT; SODIUM ASCORBATE AND ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C); REDUCED IRON; NATURAL ORANGE, LEMON, CHERRY, RASPBERRY, BLUEBERRY, LIME, AND OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS; RED #40; BLUE #2; YELLOW #6; ZINC OXIDE; NIACINAMIDE; TURMERIC COLOR; BLUE #1; PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6); RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2); THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1); VITAMIN A PALMITATE; ANNATTO COLOR; BHT (PRESERVATIVE); FOLIC ACID; VITAMIN D; VITAMIN B12.

Who in their right mind would serve this to a first grade boy and then ask him to go back to his class to sit tight and learn? We know better now. These are the type of ingredients that make kids (and adults) bounce off the walls. 

I can take comfort in the fact that for my child this was a one time deal. But for many students this is their lunch, day after day. Many working parents buy meal plans for their kids because its difficult to fit making lunch into their daily schedule. The students who receive the free lunches, those who come from low income families and statistically eat the least nutritiously overall, also have to eat this each day.

It’s wrong. I’ve always been unhappy with my district’s lunch menu, and that’s why most of the time I pack my boys’ lunches. It wasn’t until my six-year-old was served a lunch of sugar and red dye did I stop to think about the kids who are consistently served a lunch of sugar and red dye or something “on a bun” with potatoes on the side.

I have a feeling I’ll be at a board meeting saying, “Nooooo, we’ve got to do better for our kids” very soon. 

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