Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows that improving school lunches is a big issue for me. But while I've been a big supporter of the "big picture" moves to make school lunches healthier (like supporting improvements in the 2010 Child Nutrition Act and promoting the Farm-to-School programs nationwide) I'll be the first to admit that it has been more difficult to bring real improvements to the school lunches served in my own community.
Time has been a big factor — I have none to spare and really can't afford to take on any more projects. The reluctance of stepping on toes and creating enemies in my small community was another factor. For years, I have casually talked about improving the lunches served at my daughter's school to anyone who will listen. The take-home message is always the same: Sounds interesting, but that will never fly here.
But all of that is about to change. It all started with a phone call from a friend who was working at the local summer school program and was appalled by what the kids were eating in the cafeteria. She was particularly disturbed by the breakfast choices for kids: sugary cereals like Trix and Fruit Loops that the kids were topping off with a pint of chocolate milk. Her frustration was that the solution for this situation is so simple — don't offer sugary cereals and flavored milk — at least not at breakfast.
That was all it took to push me over the edge. After tons of research and a few e-mail exchanges, I have a meeting scheduled this week with our county's food service director. I'm armed with information about ways to improve school lunches right here in my own community. Here are some of the sites I found most useful for compiling my info:
- Farm to School: Connects schools with local farms to help schools serve healthy meals and improve student nutrition.
- Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: Their Farm-to-School page connects me with other local schools that have implemented the program and put me in touch with the folks who coordinated the efforts.
- The Lunch Box: Excellent site with lots of great resources for parents, teachers and school administrators on improving school lunches. There is even info on how to get the community involved!
- Chef Ann: Also known as The Renegade Lunch Lady, Chef Ann's site offers lots of tips on improving school lunches and case studies of schools that have done it.
- Jamie Oliver's two-week menu planner: Complete with recipes and buying guides, this menu planner is the perfect launching point for a healthier school lunch program.