Friday, January 27, 2012

School Cafeteria: Then and Now

As a school teacher I get the joy of watching kids eat each day. Of course, I have a toddler myself and I know how messy and picky they can be. When I was growing up, the school cafeteria had a monthly menu set up with various options and choices each day. These included main dishes such as spaghetti, baked chicken, fish sticks and other "some-what" nutritious items. These had side dishes of green beans, corn, salad and fruit. This came with white milk. It wasn't until I got into high school that the cafeteria started to offer chocolate milk too.

When I worked at Grove School in Oklahoma, they pretty much followed the same guidelines as above. They had an AMAZING cafeteria staff and cooks that were constantly focusing on student nutrition as well as great food and choices. Their menu was so good that even the teachers ate the cafeteria trays most days. This is VERY uncommon... but not for Grove.

Now I work at an inner-city type of a school and the cafeteria and its' menu/ choices are VERY different. Approximately 97% of our students are on free and reduced lunch and breakfast is free to ALL students. I have daily breakfast cafeteria duty and I see what is served and what the students take as their breakfast option. The healthiest item that my cafeteria serves for breakfast is a breakfast burrito with sausage and cheese. This is usually only served one day a week and occasionally as "left-overs" from a previous day. Here is a list of other options available to these K-5th graders for breakfast:

1. French Toast Sticks with syrup
2. Waffles with Syrup
3. Powdered and glazed doughnuts
4. Sausage/ Chicken biscuit sandwiches
5. Kolaches with Syrup
6. "Pancake on a stick with sausage" (It is really just a corn-dog!) served with SYRUP
7. Chex-mix (Seriously... for breakfast)
8. Yogurt and animal crackers
How can I forget...
9. POP-Tarts

These are all served with milk, juice and/or fruit. Now they have 4 milk choices for the students. Fat Free White Milk, Fat Free Chocolate Milk, Strawberry Milk and now serving "Fate Free Vanilla Milk". This new Vanilla milk is still "Fat Free" but it has 88 grams of sugar in a 6 oz bottle. It's 2nd ingredient is HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. The kids this morning were literally fighting over it as they approached the line. This is just the breakfast options and menu... I have even mentioned the lunch line!

I just look at this and then look at our children and ponder why people are so worried about the obesity rates in the US. Some of our students are very heavy for their age and even larger than some of the teachers at my school. Now-a-days students are not as excited about PE as they used to be either. When I first began teaching 7 years ago, kids would have paid me money to let them go to PE instead of music. Now kids would rather come to music (Hey... That is fine with me:) ) or go to computers and play video games!

All of this is just to say I am worried about my kids and the environment they will be brought up in. I am working hard as mother of a 2 1/2 to get her to eat more healthy meals. Just 6 months ago, Natalie wanted to only eat Macaroni and Cheese. Now she eats what we eat at the dinner table which is usually a main meat dish with various "healthy" sides. We try to only allow candy and/ or cookies when she sits on the potty or for good behavior. Hopefully this training while she is young will help her overall life eating habits. Sometimes, I just get a little nervous for my precious children.

God is Good... All the Time

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