School lunch: What is the best food for thought?
I was listening to a radio talk show while driving the other day when the topic of the school lunch program came up. The basis for the dialogue was Michelle Obama taking on childhood obesity and wanting to improve the quality of food being presented to our children in schools by limiting the number of calories kids eat.
Then I got to thinking — why is it the schools' responsibility to feed our children in the first place? Who feeds our kids during summer break or holiday breaks? Who feeds our kids on the weekend? Why do we need the schools (or rather the US Department of Agriculture) dictating what our children put into their bodies?
I am not a big fan of the school lunch program. It's not just that I am not a fan of the food (which I am not); I am not a fan of the program. I do not believe that we are a one-size-fits-all culture.
What do I mean by that? I mean that for optimal health, some of us may be better off eating some foods over others. Are schools really successful at accommodating special diets for children with food allergies? Should they even be required to do this in the first place?
For those who qualify for the reduced or free lunch program, credits could be given to those families to supplement their food budget. This would put the control back into the parents' hands regarding what their children eat for lunch.
Would we not be better served as a nation to have parents decide what their children eat — especially those with food sensitivities — not only from a fiscal perspective but also at a nutritional level?
Why is it that we think a government panel of "experts" knows better than we do what to feed our children?
When I was a kid, the food pyramid was the government standard for how to eat a so-called "balanced" diet. In reality, it was unbalanced because it said that we should eat more carbs (bread, pasta, rice) than fruits and vegetables.
Arguably, the government's food pyramid has contributed to our obesity epidemic. In June 2011, the pyramid was finally replaced by the nutrition "plate" — which shows a more balanced diet.
But how did we get to a place where we are relying on our government to direct us about diet and nutrition? My cynical answer is that the food lobby wants to dictate policy and create a place to market processed food. An even shorter answer is: money.
I grew up with a single mother who worked, and yet she made my lunches every day — lunches made with real food and from scratch. She knew what was in the food I was eating.
Do you know what the ingredients are in the foods your kids are eating at school? How much of the foods are filled with artificial flavors, artificial colors (some of which may contribute to attention deficit issues), preservatives or are genetically modified?
Is your child's lunch the best food for thought?
Kevin Cotter is managing general partner at locally owned New Earth Market in Yuba City.