When I think about the food I ate in school while growing up, I feel angry and sad. Angry because my continuing battle with weight gain is partly due to the high-sugar and high-fat foods served at school, and sad and angry because I know that the current school food situation-while overall improved compared to the recent past-is not all that it could be to help slow down the rise of obesity and other unhappy ramifications of unhealthy food in our nation's children.
There is no question that academic success requires a healthy constitution, which requires proper nutrition. Unfortunately, the way school meal programs are currently funded makes it impossible for our school districts to pay the higher cost for more fresh produce and organic food, and less fatty cuts of meat and cheese without having to take away from the schools' budget for academic expenses. Having to choose between academic needs and nutrition needs is a decision no school should have to make.
Chicken nuggets, pizza, nachos-these are the low quality, highly-processed foods that I ate and children are still eating. Most school programs spend as much on labor as they do on food, even more for overhead. Although the government reimbursement for a free lunch served to a needy child was $2.49 in 2007-08, in most communities, only about $1 of that money could be spent on food because the rest had to go to labor and overhead (i.e. garbage, utilities). As you can see, one dollar is insufficient to provide a nutritious lunch for a school age child, especially one who may not receive much dinner (or nutritious dinner, for that matter) at home.
It is imperative that all students are given fresher, more appetizing vegetables and fruit, and foods that are cooked fresh rather than highly processed items. All this, however, costs more than $1 per meal. With the cost of food and fuel soaring in the past year, the usual 2-3% COLA which school meal programs receive will not be enough to even cover the increased...