Salon.com just published a fantastic interview with “Free for All” author Janet Poppendieck, a sociology professor at Hunter College, about the problems with today’s school lunches. She says the National School Lunch program — which is supposed to provide “subsidized meals to the country’s impoverished children” — is serving about 31 million unhealthy, un-tasty meals per day.
The article reports the most popular lunch meal is pepperoni pizza, nachos, a peanut-butter cookie, and, for a drink: diet soda. It all adds up to no veggies and approximately 1,116 calories and 51 grams of fat.
Now most of us don’t have fond memories of school lunches, but was it always this bad? Poppendieck wondered what was to blame and found that the sad situation comes down to budget, “in-school competition from food conglomerates,” and federal rules about calories and fat that don’t always work together to create a nutritious lunch. (Sometimes adding an extra dessert, of all things, helps the schools create a cheap meal with enough calories to comply with the guidelines.)
Poppendieck agrees that at one time, parents — especially stay-at-home moms — were mostly responsible for teaching healthy eating habits. But as more parents are forced to work, or to work even more, she says our institutions need to share this responsibility. For great suggestions on how we can all work together to improve school lunches and educate kids about nutrition, I suggest reading the entire article. Bon appetit!