We’ve already written about the need for Universal Free School Lunch, but an equally urgent (and oft-overlooked) issue is the need for those lunches to be NUTRITIOUS. Our schools are growing young hearts and minds, and adequate nourishment is an indispensable aspect of any child’s thriving.
That is why we were deeply upset by the news that Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (no relation to the chicken) decided to relax school nutrition guidelines set out by the USDA in 2010. Patricia Montague, CEO of the School Nutrition Association (whose sponsors include General Mills and ConAgra), defends this measure, saying that it provides schools with local control to create meals that “are both nutritious and palatable.”
Montague goes on to say that “some of our schools are actually using that food waste as compost. That shouldn’t be happening.” Since food waste is an inevitable outcome of any food service operation, the fact that schools are composting their food scraps instead of throwing them into the trash is actually heartening. The idea that nutrition and palatability are mutually exclusive is a non sequitur that we need to stop indoctrinating our children with. Under the newly relaxed USDA guidelines, schools are allowed (or even encouraged) to serve 1% “flavored” milk as a “healthy” option to boost milk consumption by children. Yes, that means that chocolate milk is being marketed to kids as a necessary part of a healthy diet.
Rather than addressing the underlying causes of why children may find whole grains and non-flavored beverages un-appealing, this new policy degrades school’s nutritional offerings while perpetuating the myth that in order to be tasty, food needs to be bad for you.