Archive for Nourishing Our Children

School Lunches Receive an ‘F’ – Sign the Food Democracy Now Petition!

It seems as though the school lunch program, which has come under close scrutiny of the public in the last few years, is now starting to receive some real mainstream attention.  Those faithful to real and traditional foods should not be surprised by this, but recent news reports reveal why this topic is just now beginning to get such heated press.

This report from CBS News explains why. Apparently now school lunches are falling lower on the quality charts than even fast food restaurants. Somehow, even this headline jarred me into thinking – wow, does it really have to come to this to get people to wake up and make some effort to improve the overall state of our children’s lunch program? Just seeing what individuals like Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard project in Berkeley, CA, Chef Ann Cooper, Toni Geraci, chef and director of the food service director of the Baltimore City Public School System, and many others have done should both inspire and motivate people everywhere to get on the truck and start making changes. Our children are worth it!

Food Democracy Now – making a difference

With this failing grade comes the emergence of an important player in food activism – Dave Murphy, founder of a food advocacy group Food Democracy Now, which he runs out of his home in Clear Lake, Iowa. In the fall of 2008, this web site was created and he was able to obtain the support from important leaders in food activism circles like Wendell Berry, Bill Niman, and Alice Waters.

He’s an activist I can really admire because he accomplishes goals by starting grass-roots efforts, online petitions, and action alerts. He’s made it easy for the average person to get involved and make a difference – which is great because it’s easy to feel powerless and as though “I can’t make a difference by myself”. It’s something many of us believe in and can related to.

Murphy has resolved to take on the federal government and make changes in food where it counts – fundamental changes in policy and methods of how food is grown, to convert industrial systems over to sustainable models for raising, growing, and selling food everywhere – including school lunch programs.

His realistic approach to the movement is realistic in that he knows change won’t happen overnight. But with persistence, the effort will pay off.  He is fully aware the challenges in fighting huge, multi-billion dollar agri-business corporations who have the right connections and resources at every turn.

Success relies upon the unity of grassroots organizations and other related interests — health insurers, senior citizens and teacher lobbies. All share a common desire to regain a better state of health by education and activism by healthful eating, and have a reason to join the battle. “If you want to change the ballgame, you have to address the policies that are responsible for the system we have in place,” Murphy said. “If you change policy, the market will change.”

Remember, the importance of nutrient-dense foods for our children is critical. We’d like to see the following changes made in school lunch rooms across America:

  • real, organic, whole milk, cheese, and butter being served, with no hormones/antibiotics/pesticides/chemicals
  • grass-fed meats from pasture-raised animals and poultry
  • eggs from pasture-raised hens
  • organic fruits and vegetables
  • remove processed grain products and replace with whole, sprouted and soaked grains
  • remove processed, industrial foods containing chemicals, pesticides, and genetically-modified ingredients

Get involved! Sign the petition and make a difference!

Please sign this important petition from CREDO and Food Democracy Now page to let Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture know that you support his willingness to investigate this matter and bring an end to processed, industrial foods being served to our nation’s children.

Watch this excerpt from ‘Two Angry Moms‘ where Baltimore’s Toni Geraci talks about how he’s changed the face of school lunches in his district. So inspiring!

Your voice really can make a difference in the way children eat lunch. Join celebrities and others who are fighting for our children’s future. Do you have any stories to share about changes you’ve made or witnessed in your own school district?

This article is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit this site and read the other real food posts listed there.

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Feed Your Children Real Food – Don’t They Deserve It?

It breaks my heart to see the kinds of things children eat – especially when I know what I do about the nutritional content of most of the choices they are provided with to eat.

I’m certainly not trying to criticize anyone when I say this, but it’s very apparent that many children are being done a disservice when they are fed meals and snacks. Children deserve real, whole foods as it is the foundation upon which their growth and development are constructed, and will dictate everything about their physical, mental, and spiritual worlds for the rest of their lives.

When I see children eating fast food and other items like Goldfish, Ritz Crackers with “peanut butter”, boxed cereals and other extruded grain products like pretzels, crackers, and bagels, processed pasteurized dairy products like Yoplait or Dannon Yogurt…even juices that read “100 percent juice” (which is no better than sugar water), quick-to-prepare meals like Chef-Boyaredee Beefaroni, frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets, hot dogs from industrial sources with nitrates, and fruit roll-ups, I become very concerned.

www.mypicshares.com

So what’s so unhealthy about these foods? The label may tell us that they are nutritious…so they must be, right? I believe people go on feeding unhealthy foods to their children not because they don’t care. Most parents care about their children and want the best for them. I just think they lack the knowledge about what exactly their children are eating. I really believe in my heart of hearts, if they knew what their kids were eating, they might make different decisions.

And, a few fundamental changes really can be made, without a huge expense. Check out this Food Stamp Challenge article, very inspiring!

So, I’ve decided to highlight three of these commonly-eaten foods and go through the ingredients to find out exactly why they are far from healthy to eat.

1. Chef-Boyaredee Beefaroni ingredients:

Tomatoes (Water, Tomato Puree), Water, Enriched Macaroni (Semolina, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2] and Folic Acid), Beef, contains Less than 2% of : High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Modified Corn Starch, Enzyme Modified Cheese [Pasteurized Milk, Cultured, Salt, Enzymes] Flavorings, Soybean Oil.

  • All ingredients are from factory sources, including the meat. Meat comes from cattle who live in the worst conditions – are fed genetically-modified, unnatural feeds like grains, soy, corn, and silage from other toxic sources like orange peels heavily covered in pesticides. Cattle are not meant to consume grains, but grass. The consumption of grains causes an acidic environment in the digestive tract of the animal eating it, making a perfect environment for virulent bacteria like E. coli. Read this article about a girl who was sickened and probably permanently paralyzed for life because of eating an industrially-produced hamburger. The same cattle are administered hormones, steroids, and antibiotics.
  • Pasta is from genetically-modified, processed grains that are not sprouted nor soaked, and the high phytic acid content from improperly prepared grains causes mal-absorption of nutrients in the body.
  • Tomatoes used for the sauce are covered in pesticides and are from a conventional source – making the nutrient content of the tomatoes lower than an organic source.
  • Cheese comes from factory-sourced milk – containing many of the same elements as the meat – from cows pumped full of hormones, antibiotics, steroids, and fed improper feed (genetically-modified grain, soy, and/or corn).
  • This “food” has been stripped of all the natural nutrients that would be present in healthy food, from overprocessing (see bullet items above) and has been fortified to include synthetic vitamins and minerals – all of which are isolated elements which the body cannot absorb – with none of the necessary cofactors and enzymes present in real, organic food to make the food nutritious.
  • High Fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, and soybean oil. All genetically-modified, highly processed, and too high in Omega 6s (soybean oil – too much Omega 6s are an inflammatory-causing agent in the body). High fructose corn syrup is an artificial sweetener that causes an overproduction of insulin in the body.
  • The label reads “good source of protein”, yet the ratio of carbohydrates to protein is unbalanced – 27 grams of carbs to 8 grams of protein. This is usually because the bulk of what you are getting in a container of Beefaroni is pasta, not meat.
  • 700 miligrams of sodium – and it’s processed sodium with all the minerals removed.  When you hear that sodium is bad for your health, it’s due to the overly high sodium content of processed foods. When you salt food at home, you don’t normally add this much to your home-cooked meals.
  • “Flavorings” are an excitotoxin. On a basic level, these substances cause damage to neurotransmitters in the brain, among other health problems.

2. Yoplait yogurt ingredients:

Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Lowfat Fat Milk, Sugar, Strawberries, Modified Cornstarch, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Nonfat Milk, Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Tricalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Pectin, Colored With Carmine, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3.

  • This is a highly processed “food” which contains mostly chemicals and sugar. Milk is from a factory source from cows pumped full of steroids, antibiotics, hormones, and fed genetically-modified feeds (grain, soy, corn). Milk is pasteurized, low-fat, and non-fat which renders nutrients in the milk denatured (damaged) and removes important enzymes and fat-soluble vitamins necessary for digestion.
  • When this “food” is stripped of its few nutrients from processing, the synthetic ones are added back in. Again, these elements aren’t recognized by the body and are mostly unabsorbed.
  • High fructose corn syrup and modified corn starch – see Chef Boyardee Ravioli above.
  • “Natural flavorings” are an excitotoxin – see Chef Boyardee Ravioli above.
  • Sugar – what can we say about sugar that is good? Nothing. Like other sweeteners, refined sugar is hard on the pancreas and causes insulin resistance, and eventually heart disease and diabetes. If fruit is one of the ingredients, why does this need sugar? And then it also contains high fructose corn syrup!
  • Strawberries are from a conventional source, and strawberries on the conventional market are heavily treated with chemicals and pesticides. These substances are known to cause neurological, reproductive, and endocrine damage, and birth defects.
  • Pectin – another ingredient that makes the excitotoxin list in Dr. Russell L. Blaylock’s book, Excitotoxins, The Taste that Kills
  • Carmine – an insect-based additive used for coloring and pigment color that causes allergic reactions and even anaphylactic shock in some individuals.

3. Goldfish (Pepperidge Farm) ingredients:

Unbleached Wheat Flour, Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron,  Thiamin Mononitrate, Vitamin B1, Riboflavin,Vitamin B2,  Folic Acid, Cheddar Cheese, Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes,  Water, Salt, Vegetable Oils, Canola Oil, Sunflower Oil, Soybean Oil, Salt, Yeast, Sugar, Yeast Extract, Leavening, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate,  Ammonium Bicarbonate, Spices, Annatto Color, Onion Powder.

  • This product is one of the most unnatural you can buy! Where to begin – extruded, genetically-modified grains, all the worst oils (vegetable – canola, soy, sunflower, which have too high Omega 6 content) from genetically-modified sources – plus, even though the label might read “no trans-fats”, the very method used to process these industrial oils causes them to be a trans-fat! Pasteurized milk from factory sources (see other two items listed above), about a half a dozen synthetic nutrients, sugar, and other artificial ingredients and color. Oh, and ammonium bicarbonate – an industrial ingredient used widely in the rubber and manufacturing industries and as a fertilizer, it is cheap replacement for baking soda, which contains – you guessed it – ammonia.

Back to the drawing board. What can we feed our kids that is delicious and nutritious? Here are some ideas:

  • Organic fruits and vegetables with homemade or organic salsas, almond butter, or plain, organic whole milk yogurt (made from raw milk is a plus!)
  • Grass-fed meats or pasture-raised poultry, range-raised game meats, pasture-raised pork and lamb, and eggs from pasture-raised poultry – dark and organ meats are a very important source of nutrients as well
  • Kids need real, whole fats and proteins – whole, raw dairy and meat with the skin and bones, lard from bacon, and tallow from beef. See our article about The Importance of Dietary Fats
  • Organic, whole, sprouted and soaked grains – breads, hot cereals, home made granola, and home-made, healthy desserts
  • Healthy oils – extra virgin, organic olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, real butter

To read more about nutritional wellness for families and some snack ideas for children – read our article here.

As much as you can, eliminate the following from your kitchen (if the temptation is gone, it is much easier to make a transition effective):

  • Boxed cereals, pop tarts, and frozen breakfast items
  • Fruit roll-ups, “food bars,” packaged desserts, cookies, frozen desserts, and candies
  • Processed breads, flour, and pastas
  • Soy foods unless they are fermented like tempeh or miso soup
  • Chips, crackers, pretzels, rice cakes, packaged popcorn
  • Lunch meats and processed fake cheeses
  • Low-fat, homogenized and pasteurized dairy products like yogurt, milk, cheese, cottage cheese
  • Canned and boxed “meals” like Chef Boyardee or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (as well as generics)
  • Frozen fast foods like pizzas, chicken nuggets, taquitos, veggie burgers, and other soy products
  • Soft drinks, juices, energy drinks, flavored waters, and other sugary beverages

Wondering how to make the transition? Here are some hints:

If all organic isn’t in your budget, buy it when you can and stop buying processed foods. Even conventional fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy are somewhat better for your child than buying processed, packaged foods. Making everything from scratch doesn’t have to be difficult if you plan ahead, and it is so much healthier for your child. You’ll notice a difference right away if you make just a few basic changes.

Don’t assume your children won’t eat real food. If they have spent any amount of time eating a lot of processed foods from the SAD (Standard American Diet), realize the transition won’t occur overnight. My son was one of the most finicky eaters and it took some time when we converted from our SAD to traditional foods.

  • Patience and persistence is the key. Just keep exposing your child to new, nutritious foods. Sooner or later they will start to develop a taste for healthy foods that you want them to eat. I’ve talked to many parents who say, “my child would never eat that.” But the fact is, they are not giving their children enough credit, and kids need time to change and adjust.  Realize too, that you are the parent and are in control. If you make good food available to your child, and make it a fun, educational experience, he or she will start to become interested in eating healthy foods.
  • Remember, if you continue to offer special or processed meals full of salt and sugar to your child when he or she is eating, you are training your child to be a picky eater that won’t eat wholesome foods.

Keep eating out at restaurants to a minimum. Have you ever wondered why restaurants have special kid’s menus? Children are accustomed to ordering salty, processed, deep fried items that are nutrient-depleted when they go out to eat. If you give your kids junk, pretty soon all they’ll be satisfied with eating…is junk.

  • For the most part, restaurants are not known for using healthy ingredients. If you are in a restaurant with your children, an alternative to a kid’s menu selection would be to order an adult meal and split it with he or she, or if you have more than one child you can split an adult serving between two or more people.
  • You can count on most restaurants to serve processed food. The more processed foods they eat, the more damaged their digestive tracts become. First a yeast overgrowth will take over their immune system. Then it will slowly start to invade their whole bodies. And this yeast needs to be fed. That’s where sugar cravings come in. Your kids are just giving in to the yeast that has taken over.

If your child has behavioral or mood issues, keep a journal of the foods they are currently eating for one week. Then make a switch the next week to a healthier diet. Keep track of the foods he or she has changed, and observe whether the behavior or mood issues start to improve.

  • Many disorders such as ADD, ADHD, and irritability, fatigue, lack of focus, hyperactivity and even Autism are directly related to diet. If you are seeking answers to your child’s health disorders and suspect he or she might have some of these issues, check out the following video by Donna Gates and Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and the GAPS diet philosophy.
  • This same idea applies to children who have other health problems, too such as digestive disorders like IBS, gluten-sensitivity, celiac disease, acid reflux, headaches, frequent colds and flus, cold or canker sores, and much more. When children stick to a diet that eliminates processed, refined foods with sugar and eat a diet replete with whole, traditional foods, health problems are kept to a minimum.

My son used to get terrible canker sores fairly frequently when we were eating the SAD (Standard American Diet). I could always trace the occurrence of sores back to processed, sugary foods he had recently eaten. When he is eating healthy, he does not get canker sores, period!

I am also happy to report that in the past, by this time of year my son has come down with a stomach virus, cold/cough/sore throat combo or some other illness that keeps him down for at least several days with a high fever.  So far this season, he’s been completely healthy!

Need even more ideas?

Nutritional Wellness for Families

Breakfast Makeovers

Recipes

Fluoride in the water

School lunch topics

This article is part of Cheeseslave’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and read all the other real food articles linked there.

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Your Voice Can Make a Difference in the Way Children Eat School Lunch

Obesity. Diabetes. Heart Disease. High Blood Pressure. Auto-immune disorders. Allergies. Food intolerances. Are you familiar with any of these illnesses? Chances are, you know someone who is suffering with one of these problems. Maybe silently. Maybe it’s you!

We hear statistics everyday in the media about these health issues and how they are on the rise for people living in developed countries. It’s now affecting our children, and we need to do something definitive about it. Here are the statistics:

  • According to one survey (a report published by The US Department of Health and Human Services), 14% of adolescents in the United States are overweight. In the last 20 years, this number has nearly tripled.
  • Among overweight children and teens between the ages of 2 and 19, 36.7% state that they have been told by a health care practitioner that they were overweight (for children between the ages of 2 and 5, this percentage was 17.4%)
  • Children are now not expected to outlive their parents. This should be unacceptable!

These problems are occurring for a variety of reasons – because our food is no longer food, and corporate interests and profit are taking precedent over human health like never before in recorded history. It is unfortunate that issues like these don’t seem to get the airtime and promotion they deserve until someone famous becomes an activist. Here is the Public Service Announcement which calls for action from citizens for the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act (this is an effort that is in conjunction with the film Food, Inc.)

I’m here to urge everyone to help save our children’s lives – children (and adults, for that matter) all across America eat toxic, unhealthy foods right in their own school lunch rooms. It’s time we took a stand, as lawmakers, taxpayers, parents, grandparents, politicians, lobbyists, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, neighbors, and citizens to demand that our children are served healthy food to give them a fighting chance at growth, development, academics, and health. Real food should not be a luxury item that people can’t afford.

Our constitution states:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

When we talk about establishing justice and promoting the general welfare, does allowing the manufacturing, selling, and feeding of toxic food to our children and citizens seem like a breach of these tenets? It should!

We are not showing patriotism, ethics,  integrity,  morals, nor justice when we allow something as broken and trampled upon as our health care and food systems to remain in the condition they are in. It is time to stop letting the authorities that be – the USDA, the FDA , government lobbyists, special interest groups, and bloated corporations controlling most of our food supply dictate these critical factors of everyday life and well-being – our health and our food.

As part of the film Food, Inc., this petition is available on the web site to ask Congress to change the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to make it mandatory that real food be available in the school lunch environment to nourish our children. Place your name on it and let your voice be heard.

It’s time for us to insist our children to be served healthy food, and to demand that schools stop serving hormone-filled milk from factory farms, industrially-produced meat, starchy, trans-fat containing, refined carbohydrates that are devoid of nutrients and that cause toxin build up, weight gain, and poor health. Sign the petition to give our children the chance and future they deserve. Please don’t delay in being an activist in one of the most important causes you could ever be involved in.

What else can you do?

  • Buy local foods from organic, sustainable farms where you know how your food is produced.
  • Boycott processed foods of all kinds – you’ll save money in your bank account now and on health care costs later on down the road.
  • Grow your own food chemical and toxin free.
  • Become an activist and let your voice be heard – tell others, maintain a blog, sign petitions, attend rallies in your community, see the film Food, Inc. and other important films about food, have discussions to help others who are less informed, and join committees and groups where making safe food a priority is the theme

For more information on school lunch initiatives:

Hormones in the Milk – Do You Know What Your Kids Are Drinking?

Changing the Face of School Lunches – There’s Still a Lot of Work to Do

You Decide: Is Junk Food GOOD for Children?

Disturbed About What Your Kids are Eating in School?

Meals for Children – Restaurants and School Lunches are Lacking in Nutrition

Also check out these important resources:

Visit Chef Ann Cooper, Renegade Lunch Lady and a revolutinary who is making changes all over the nation

Better School Food – Dr. Susan Rubin

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Disturbed About What Your Kids are Eating in School?

Almost one year after the beginning of our quest to improve school lunches and children’s health, we are ramping up for our meeting with the school district in our city (Boise, Idaho on June 17th, 2009). We want to bring the school lunch initiative to the forefront of our citizens’ consciousness, both locally and to the wider communities. This initiative seeks to do what other communities have already brought to their districts – notably led by pioneers in this movement such as Chef Ann Cooper, Alice Waters, Amy Kalafa, and Dr. Susan Rubin of Better School Food.

Last year, we brought the film ‘Two Angry Moms‘ to our city in the hopes of delivering an important message to parents, food growers, school district employees, and the community at large – the foods we are serving to children in the school environment and the attitudes we foster about nutrition are contributing to the following health disorders – obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, attention deficit disorders, hyperactivity, decreased test scores, learning issues, depression, and cardiovascular disease. We still have a long way to go to implement our desired program goals – but we’re on our way to showing our district and our city just how important a change like this will be and what it will mean to our children’s future.

This Huffington Post article from 2008 by Amy Kalafa discusses some of the many reasons why changes need to be made – the massive meat recall of February 2008 and Mad Cow Disease, farming practices which focus on profit not health, contamination in the food supply, and agencies that fail to take accountability for their production practices.

To make a difference in your community, start by talking to fellow parents, food growers, health experts who understand the critical importance of this issue, and school board officials. Generate an interest to bring Two Angry Moms to your community and encourage a panel of speakers involved and interested in food issues to attend. Get in communication with members of the local legislature – representatives and senate – and partner with them to create legislation which will make it mandatory that children are eating healthy food in school.

For another informative article about school lunches and why they are unhealthy to consume,  read Meals for Children – Restaurants and School Lunches are Lacking in Nutrition. Also, check out our Do You Feed Your Kids Junk Food Archive for an important bulletin about hormones in milk and another school lunch article.

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Meals for Children – Restaurants and School Lunches are Lacking in Nutrition

What’s for lunch? We ask this question every day, and it becomes challenging at each and every meal to come up with something nutritious and interesting to eat. Think about what it must be like to serve meals to kids every day of the week and how difficult to come up with foods that help young bodies grow and appeal to their typical finicky tastes.

Children have become finicky eaters over the years because their diets have been reduced to junk foods in all their menu choices – s0 it is simply because they are not exposed to a wide variety of nutritious foods. Instead, they are offered the same things over and over again; and much of the choices for children’s meals in schools and restaurants alike is processed, chemically-loaded, nutritionally devoid items.

The only saving grace with restaurants is (hopefully) they are used more few-and-far between as people generally don’t eat out each day. School lunches present a much bigger problem since many children eat them daily or several times a week in their schedule of meals.

I’ve noticed that many parents and others assume children won’t eat vegetables. When children are not expected to eat healthy foods, they seldom ask for them and/or refuse to eat them if they are offered. A good example is restaurant menus. If you go into an eating establishment, you can see that mostly children’s menus are separate from everyone else’s, and the choices are less than nutritious: hot dogs/corn dogs, hamburgers and french fries, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti noodles with marinara sauce are common selections. Children are given a variety of deep-fried and processed foods with little to no vegetables or whole grains.

The only whole food I’ve consistently seen on menus is the occasional fruit or carrots, but kids are already getting so much sugar in the main course items, it’s just more of the same with a little fiber. Any type of bread or bread food served is often the processed, white variety and no real whole grains. Whole grains are those that are not ground up and are actually “whole”, something you will rarely see in most stores or restaurants that sell bread and bread products.

The school lunch program available in public schools is another example of poor choices offered to children. Kids can only eat what is available, and generally won’t make good choices for themselves if other unhealthy items are repeatedly served in the lunch line. Here is a sample lunch menu for one school week:

Monday – Corn dog or macaroni and cheese, breakfast pocket, build a salad, fruit

Tuesday – Pepperoni cheese bread or teriyaki chicken and rice or half bagel and yogurt, fortune cookie, build a salad, fruit, vegetable blend

Wednesday – Soft shell taco or fruit and yogurt plate or deli turkey sandwich, snickerdoodle, tortilla chips, lettuce, tomato, cheese, fruit

Thursday - Toasty cheese sandwich or Chef Boyardee Ravioli or deli ham and cheese sandwich, vegetable barley soup, fruit, variety crackers

Friday - New York Style Pretzel or burrito or baked potato, cheese sauce, chili beans, vegetable toss, fruit, flour tortilla

At a glance, many of these meals may seem fine. These do contain some vegetables and fruit. Aside from those few whole foods, the rest of the selections are processed and unnatural as can be. Foods like Chef Boyardee Raviolis are one of the most processed products you can find, and are enriched with synthetic vitamins and minerals to make up for their gross deficiency in nutrient content. The meat and dairy selections (which are pasteurized) are undoubtedly from factory farms, and there is nothing good to say about the quality of factory-farmed meats and dairy products which are laden with chemicals, steroids, antibiotics, hormones – without even mentioning the types of feed given to the animals who are slaughtered for food. Grain products (corn on corn dogs, bread on which pepperoni cheese sits, crackers, pretzels, tortillas, bagels, etc.) are also highly processed and enriched to make up for lack of nutrition. It is virtually impossible to take a food that is nutritionally empty and “enrich” it with vitamins and minerals it otherwise wouldn’t contain, and then label it as “healthy”. School lunches contain exorbitantly high amount of carbohydrates, so adding desserts is completely unnecessary.

Here are the ingredients for breaded popcorn chicken, a popular meal item served on  school lunch menus across the country:

Chicken Breast with Rib Meat CONTAINING: Up to 20% of a Solution of Water, Salt and Sodium

Phosphates.

BREADED WITH: Bleached Wheat Flour, Yellow Corn flour, Salt, Spices, Leavening

(Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate),

Nonfat Dry Milk, Dried Whey, Soy Flour, Dried Whole Eggs, Sodium Alginate, Partially Hydrogenated

Soybean Oil, Dextrose, Garlic Powder, Mono and Diglycerides and Dried Yeast.

BATTERED WITH: Water, Wheat Flour, Yellow Corn Flour, Dried Whey, Dextrose, Spices, Salt, Leavening (Sodium

Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Sodium Alginate, Soy Flour, Oleoresin Paprika, Nonfat Dry

Milk, Dried Whole Eggs. Breading set in vegetable oil.

ALLERGENS: EGG, MILK, SOY, WHEAT

Do you really want your children eating this garbage?

One of the biggest problems with sources of food for school lunches is that the supplies for feeding children come from government subsidies which purchase mostly lowest quality foods from wherever they can be found. Foods are packaged and shipped all over the country, and little to no consideration is given to natural, organic, or local selections for children’s meals. The recent massive meat recall in February of this year, 2008, should be a wake-up call to parents and other consumers alike who believe this type of food is safe to consume. I hear a lot of rhetoric about how to reform school lunches, and most call for changes falls under one of the following:

  • To reduce fats and calories – low and non fat foods like reduced fat dairy and meats are not going to help children’s health because they are not whole foods and will only contribute to the rise in health issues our nation is currently experiencing such as obesity and Diabetes. Consumption of pasteurized and low or non-fat dairy causes malabsorption of nutrients and actually leeches calcium from the bones. Proteins and fats are denatured and rendered toxic for the human body. For more information, see Why The Consumption of Milk is Harmful to Your Health on this site.
  • To offer non-dairy solutions (I can only assume they mean soy, rice, or almond products which are no better than their chemical-filled counterparts because they are processed, and not whole foods)
  • Because everyone just wants to lie down and accept that “children won’t eat vegetables”, I have seen proposals that school lunches start to include more fruit, but don’t bother so much with vegetables. This is not a solution, it is just adding to the problem that children are not getting the nutrients in vegetables they desperately need, many of which cannot be provided in just fruits.
  • To replace menu items like hamburgers, pizza, and hot dogs with so-called “healthier alternatives” such as grilled cheese sandwiches (with processed, enriched bread), peanut butter and jam on “whole grain” breads (which couldn’t be farther from whole grain), and bagels with low-fat cream cheese. These foods are just as processed and empty of nutrients as the ones that have been on school lunch menus for 50 or more years. And they include NO vegetables. Come on people, wake up! Generally speaking these items contain not more than a little protein that can actually be absorbed, processed carbohydrates, and chemicals.

Why should our children be eating differently? Overwhelming amounts of research tell us that nutrition is the foundation of our children’s health, including brain function and cognitive abilities. Children need calories, protein, good carbohydrates, and fats — wholesome, unprocessed fats with which to perform in school and be physically active. But what they are getting in school lunches, and a great deal of other eating environments, is processed foods. How can a child be expected to behave and be successful in school when the food he or she eats is not wholesome or nutritious? Children who are ill-mannered, hyperactive, depressed, moody, or lethargic could well benefit from changes in diet.

In an ideal world, our children would be given the best available. So, here is my proposal for changes to the school lunch menu for a one week period:
Monday -Grass-fed beef stew with organic potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, peas, and celery
Organic salad bar with at least seven different types of vegetables which could include the following: spinach and/or romaine lettuce, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, bell peppers,snow peas, and beets.
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as organic apples, bananas, and pears
Whole-grain, sprouted (live grains) from Ezekiel bread with raw butter.
Tuesday - Free-range roasted organic chicken, organic mashed potatoes, squash, zucchini, onions, and carrots.
Organic salad bar as listed on Monday’s menu.
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as berries, melon, or bananas
Whole grain, sprouted grain rolls
Wednesday – Spaghetti and meatballs (from grassfed animals) with meatsauce and sprouted whole-grain Ezekiel pasta. Alternatives provided for those with wheat allergies.
Organic salad bar
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as organic grapefruit, pears, and apples
Thursday – Grass-fed, organic hot dogs on sprouted grain buns
Boiled pasture-raised chicken eggs
Hearty vegetable soup with organic vegetables and
Organic salad bar
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as raspberries or blackberries and grapes
Friday – Fancy fried rice with brown rice, choice of free-range organic chicken or pork, organic carrots, peas, mushrooms, onions, organic free-range eggs, bell peppers, and bok choy.
Organic salad bar
Two or three selections of seasonal fresh fruit such as organic pineapple, oranges, and kiwi

What’s that, you say…we’d have to raise taxes substantially to accommodate this? Perhaps, perhaps not. It would really depend on how the program was set up. Local foods should cost less than those shipped all over the country. But if taxes were raised, I cannot think of a better cause than investing in the health of the people who will be running the world someday. This is an extreme problem contributing to the downfall of our health, and an extreme problem requires extreme action. A return to truly healthy, slow foods is at the epicenter of answers to our health crisis.

What could be better than reducing the amount spent on pharmaceuticals, hospital fees, and doctor bills in this country – especially by starting at the ground level which is in our schools where the children are? Think of the savings in health and insurance costs alone due to a regularly consumed, healthy lunch. It may seem insignificant, but the effect would actually be enormous given the amount of children who eat school lunches and the frequency of which these meals are served.

Compare the first school lunch menu in this article to the one shown above with local, organic, and chemical-free alternatives. When you live a healthier lifestyle, you are not burdening health care and insurance systems as heavily, and therefore are not contributing to those rising costs. It is also very important to place children in an environment where they are offered and educated about real choices in health and healthy food. If everyone made the effort, we could institute healthier lunches for our children, a sound investment for the future.

For more information on how you can change the future of school lunches, visit the following sites:
The Food Museum – great discussions on slow food and school lunch reform
Lunch Lessons with Chef Ann Cooper – an activist who is definitely on the right track in altering the face of school lunch environments, one school at a time. Get on the bandwagon!
Suggested reading on this topic: The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children by Carol Simmontachi, CCN (Certified Clinical Nutritionist)

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