***Below is the email I sent to our senator this morning. I encourage you if you feel the same to write a letter to your congressman!
I am from ********* and I am very concern about our school lunch programs. When I went to school at ********** the lunches provided were less than nutritional at best. You had four choices.
You could go through the lunch line. This was usually the path least traveled unless you were on free and reduced lunches program in which case it was very obvious because you were one of the only students eating school lunch everyday! On this line you usually saw three main meals with others scattered within. 1) "Nug Day" consisted of chicken nuggets (and remind what part of the chicken is the nugget again?!?) mashed potatoes, and a roll. Mind you the roll was very delicious! We would often ask for extra rolls or potatoes rather than chicken. Since the lunch lady liked me she would usually secretly oblige! 2) Pizza was served in rectangle cut outs. There is just something not quite right about rectangle pizza. From my understanding this particular brand of pizza had almost 50 ingredients listed, although I have not seen the ingredients myself. Usually pizza was served with corn. Although not a great combination at least there were trying! 3) Beef Fritters. What are beef fritters you ask? Your guess is as good as mine! I have yet to see the fritter part of the cow. They really did try to provide a healthy salad, but failed. The salad was usually shredded brown lettuce and ranch dressing was provided by the gallons, defeating the whole purpose of a salad. It wasn't our schools' fault. I assure you this is a better lunch than some of the schools I interned at during college. They were simply doing the best they could with the resources given to them.
The second choice was vending. This is usually where I found myself. 60% of my middle school and high school lunches consisted of a Mt. Dew, some type of chocolate, and a bag of chips/cheese crackers. In my mind this was not really that bad. I had the right balance of salty and sweet washed down with the sweet nectar from the mountain springs.
The third choice was Mazzio's pizza. This was only offered 3 days a week if I remember correctly. I would sometimes forgo the vending room for this choice. I would get a slice of Pepperoni and a slice of Alpine (cheese with alpine dressing rather than tomato sauce). The caloric intake of the combination was well into 600s. However, this would also be combined with Mt. Dew and usually something chocolate. Putting the calories in the 800s at best.
The fourth choice for lunch was to bring your own. My family was not wealthy, nor were we poor; however, my parents worked very hard at their jobs and often were doing good to stop at the gas station for a donut for breakfast on the way to school and put hamburger helper on the table at night. My mother worked probably 50-60 hours a week and so there was little time for her to make our lunches. Most days my dad would leave my sister and I $5-$10. This was supposed to be to get a donut on the way to school and to split between us at school for lunch. Plenty of money to buy junk at school.
None of these choices are good in my opinion. As an adult now, my sister and I have both struggled with our weight, as well as my parents. No one ever taught us what healthy meals looked like. All of this on top of doing away with fitness in schools. (But that is a whole difference subject one of which would require another whole email!) I have completed college with a Mathematics degree, so I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent. It is simply that I learned too late in life the problem with eating this way. Living on campus during college did not help matters. We were required to buy meal plans, yet there were not many healthy choices offered at the school convenience stores, restaurants, or cafeterias.
The solution is as hard to swallow as the beef fritters were. We have got to allocate more money to the school lunch programs. It is a well know fact that over-processed high calorie food is much cheaper. I know this from my own experience. It takes money and energy to provide nutritious meals for your family. I commit hours each week planning and shopping for my family. I know money is not something that we have a surplus of right now, but look at it this way. The healthier we are as a state and nation the less money that needs to be spent on health care! It is a win win situation. So rather than spending time and money on health care lets get to the real root of the problem! Less crap food means less heart disease and obesity. Less heart disease and obesity means less of a need for health care! It seems obvious to me!
Thank you so much for your time and for being a senator who listens to his constituents. I hope that you will help take the lead in this matter and help our children before it is too late. When kids are healthier they learn better. When they learn better we all benefit!
Thank you again,
Amy M. Hasler