Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cafeteria Food -OR- How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fat

Let's talk about food.  I've been eating lunch at the MS cafeteria most days out of a twisted desire to immerse myself in the environment and be a visible person.  There's a problem; the food is dreadful.  Pizza is served every day, and it's bad.  Chicken sandwiches come from Tyson (the notoriously evil and I-can't-believe-they-call-this-chicken market dominator), and they're bad.  I even tried some "popcorn chicken bites" that were so rubbery they squeaked when I bit into them.  This is a mammoth problem for students' health in, as I see it, three ways:

1) Immediate Consequences — When students have pizza and slushies for lunch every day, they are not getting adequate nutrition.  Plain and simple.  I don't think any of my readers need that lecture.

2) Decision-making Consequences — Students get used to eating bad food with inadequate nutritional value that satisfies their taste buds and their brains.  This effect appears to be more than a bad habit, but rather like an addiction.  It doesn't take much to realize that even if in the HS students are given healthy options, their habit/addiction from MS will make them extremely unlikely to make nutritious selections.

3) Long-term Consequences — Schools have classes that teach students about proper nutrition.  Doesn't that indicate an educational desire to guide kids toward health?  An analogy: schools intend to teach respectful behavior, and they understand that in order to do so they must model respectful behavior constantly; it seems logical to me to conclude that in order to successfully educate students about nutrition, schools must model the wisest behavior!

Oh, I almost forgot, schools have tight budgets.  That must be the brick wall separating our youth from healthy lunches.  Wrong, nutritious food programs can be enacted on the same dime.  It's being done in Baltimore.  It's been done in Wisconson.  It's being done in Pittsburgh.  It's been done in Minnesota.  It could be done here.

A disclaimer:
This has nothing to do with what I think of the people working behind the cafeteria counter.  I have great respect for them and am convinced that they share my desire to see healthy students.  I also am no expert on what this particular district's policies, options, budget, considerations, and future plans are.  At this cafeteria, there is a salad bar, the meal of the day, the hot dogs and Tyson sandwiches, the pizza, the milk, the gatorade, and the slushies.  Somebody had to think of the salad bar, but I promise you that is not where the crowds gather.

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