Back to school is on my mind as are all the issues around feeding our families breakfast, lunch and dinner. So this post is a shout-out to some of the bloggers, twitter mavens, and policy wonks who are advocating for real change in the lunch room.
School lunch is a personal issue for me now as my youngest started Kindergarten at a large public school this week. I'm packing her lunch, in a special new lunch box, just like I did for her in pre-K. Much to my chagrin, lunch is turning out to be her least favorite part of the day. The food isn't the issue; it's the same heart-shaped jelly sandwiches or cheese sticks and veggies. The problem is the loud, chaotic nature of being in a big cafeteria, with literally hundreds of kids doing lots of things that might not be eating. It's hard to celebrate and enjoy lunch when you are hunkered down. It makes me think a bit about how environment affects how much and how well kids are eating in the school cafeteria. That hotly-debated chocolate milk is perhaps a comfort food, for reasons beyond sugar.
Most school lunch reformers are trying to change the larger system and improve the food that's presented to all kids as they pass their cafeteria trays through the line. For families that can't pack lunch from home, schools should be able to provide good food. School lunch reform advocates have been making progress locally, with fresh ideas like salad bars and farm-to-school collaborations. Nationally, there is a big push for more money and improved guidelines in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR). Recess and outdoor play, either after or before lunch, is another important piece of keeping kids healthy and ready to learn during school time. It's great that these issues are finally getting attention and action.
For my own child, I hope I can use her little lunch box as a token of home amid the confusion of "big-kid" school. To be sure, planning and packing healthy from-home lunches everyday is a hassle and it adds to the daily morning juggle. But, like family dinner, I think it's worth it. When a friend asked if I was packing lunch, I expected her to remark on the poor quality of institutional school lunch. Instead, she said, "Food from home can be such a comfort." Words of wisdom.
School Lunch Reformers (and Moms/Dads who pack great lunches!) that I Follow
(Please add to this list in comment section!)
Fed Up With Lunch
One Hungry Mama Back to School Lunch Post
The Lunch Tray
Healthy Schools Campaign
Time For Lunch Slow Food USA
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution
The Lunch Box
What's Cooking Blog
Brooklyn Food Coalition School Reform Group
Today I Ate a Rainbow