Wednesday, September 19, 2012

School Food: Sloppy Joes or Pigs in the blanket?

(written about a year ago)

When my kids were still both at home with me, having control over what they were eating was a lot easier. When my daughter went off to preschool, things were still pretty easy. I packed her a healthy lunch and snacks. Yes, there was the occasional cupcake or special treat for holidays etc., but I still felt good that she ate healthy there. Now in Kindergarten it feels like my daughter is constantly eating "junk."  In her class, parents are assigned days which we must provide snacks. Most of the time it is the processed snack items that can be easily bought at Costco: goldfish, cookies, crackers etc. Sometimes it is even worse: cupcakes  (with no birthday to celebrate), candy etc. When there is a holiday like Halloween or Valentine's Day, I have to just prepare myself for all the sugar she is going to consume. When I ask my daughter what was for snack on any given day, I rarely hear: fruit or vegetables!

Then there is the cafeteria food.  My daughter had only tried chocolate milk once before and now she can get it every day. She doesn't usually want the food served for lunch but she always grabs a chocolate milk with her friends. I don't make a big deal about sweet snacks every once in awhile but the chocolate milk, which is just sugar, does not settle well with me.
When my daughter first started the year, we looked at the food menu for the month and chose only a couple days that she could buy lunch. We realized that there was only a few things on the menu she would actually eat. It was not healthy options but I felt like I needed to allow her the chance to have the experience of eating/buying lunch at school. She chose: chicken nuggets and corn dog. Now 7 months into the year, she has told me she prefers taking home lunch to school instead of these meals. We have also gone there a handful of times for breakfast. This was something that she and my son were both very excited about doing: eating cereal in the cafeteria instead of at home! The breakfast options are also not what I normally serve at home. The novelty has worn off now and we haven't been there for breakfast in many months.
Gingerbread house made at school!

I know that some schools strive to have healthier choices for feeding the kids but I have not seen this at my daughter's school. Yes, they do have a small fruit bar at breakfast and a salad bar for lunch time. My daughter generally ignores them as she does the white milk. At home she only drinks white milk, but if that chocolate milk is there and she is given the freedom to choose, she will get the sweet stuff!

Every month my daughter is sent home with the lunch and breakfast menu in her backpack. Interestingly, on one side it lists: "Healthy Snacks." This is a pretty good list of options for parents and families to incorporate in their diet. However, I don't see enough of these items on the opposite side of the sheet which has the menu for the month.
Breakfast options on the menu are: cheese quesadilla, locomoco, fried rice with portuguese sausage, cinnamon snack waffles, chicken patty, breakfast pizza, turkey link, french toast, fried rice with pork patty, mini frank sliders, pizza pocket. I read this and thought: Seriously? Are you trying to make my 6 year old overweight and disease-ridden?  
 Lunch looks like this: pepperoni pizza, sloppy joes, pulled pork sandwich, cheese burger, chicken patty with gravy, pig in the blanket, hamburger macaroni, beef stew etc. When I was a kid in the 1970's, we had sloppy joes and pigs in a blanket for dinner. Has this heavy-saturated fat menu not improved since then?

 We don't eat this type of food at home so most of it doesn't even sound appealing to my daughter. She happily takes a lunch from home. This still gives me a bit of control of what my daughter is consuming except of course for the chocolate milk and the classroom snacks. Now there are a lot of kids that are eating breakfast and lunch at the school every day. It is great for the community to have free lunch programs but not so great when you can't offer the kids a free and HEALTHY lunch!


Seriously? That is what they serve at the schools??!! Wow. Another reason why I don't want to send my daughter to "regular" school. She's turning 5 soon, and I've been trying to make that decision on where to send her. Yikes! That's really sad...

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