Japan's School Lunch System...A Matter of National Pride

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Posted 1/27/2013 by joyce.k.b. in NSBR Board
 

joyce.k.b.
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Posted: 1/27/2013 3:15:49 PM
This is a great article describing the national healthy lunch program in Japanese schools.

Link to Washington Post article

I sure wish we had something comparable in our nation's schools. Fresh, healthy food...what a concept!


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Posted: 1/27/2013 4:06:04 PM
I'm curious about how they actually do it? And how much does it cost?

Very interesting article -- I don't know anything about Japan's schools. I wonder what it would take to replicate that here.
Japanese children must pretty much eat a similar diet. That doesn't seem to be the case here -- we have so many ethnic variables and styles of eating. (I'm just musing here, because it's something I've never thought about....)

birukitty
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Posted: 1/27/2013 4:25:49 PM
What a great article! Very informative and such a great system! I agree with you joyce k.b., it would be wonderful if such a system was implemented into our American schools.

Debbie in MD.

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Posted: 1/27/2013 5:04:29 PM
i know what we have now is NOT working

the big switch to healthy lunches...and the kids dump them into the trash

off to read the article

gina

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Posted: 1/27/2013 5:15:40 PM
Part of the problem here is that parents don't know how or don't want to eat healthy. Look at how many fly off the handle when the school says only healthy treats on birthdays. And they insist on the damn cupcakes. Multiply that x 20 kids.

I've brought the damn cupcakes. But I've also followed whatever restrictions the school imposed in other instances. Am I perfect? No. But I always support the school's efforts and I try to do beter myself.

Parents are the first and the biggest problem in a lot of scenarios.

And I have gone to the lunch ladies for a recipe. They make the only mac and cheese my DD likes. Basic ingredients. Not boxed crap.


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Posted: 1/27/2013 5:18:35 PM
The part that caught my eye was the comment about food they get at home, not stadium food. That is a HUGE part. How may kids are getting wholesome home cooked meals at home in the US?


Heather



maryannscraps
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Posted: 1/27/2013 5:18:54 PM

Parents are the first and the biggest problem in a lot of scenarios.
That was one of my first thoughts, too. Plus many of my kids' friends have crazy dietary restrictions and allergies.

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Posted: 1/27/2013 5:33:08 PM
One big difference is the amount of staff. The one school has a staff of twelve preparing the meals for a school with 760 students. That's about how many students my dd's middle school has. I believe they have two full time kitchen staff and two part time cashiers/assistants.


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Posted: 1/27/2013 5:37:50 PM
I wonder why they can't bring their lunches to school? The $3 is pretty expensive to me. In our area, the lunches are $1.45 in elementary and a little more in upper grades. Our kids pack their lunches as it is cheaper for us. They don't like their school lunches at all! And our schools don't have any "junk" food. Lots of fruits and vegetables, but they are canned or frozen so that may be why the kids throw them out. My kids love fresh fruit and vegetables, and we can get them for a pretty reasonable cost at walmart and Costco.

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Posted: 1/27/2013 5:39:37 PM
My ds attends a private high school with a Sustainabilty studies program. Last year they grew 2600 pounds of organic food that was used in the kitchen. The kids run the farm and work crew in the kitchen. I can't say all the food is fresh, but a far greater portion than most schools.

I work in a public K-12 school and they try to be healthy but it doesn't compare at all!

Lisa D.

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Posted: 1/27/2013 5:45:43 PM
When it comes to food, Japan has some deeply ingrained advantages. Children are taught to eat what they are served, >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

This is a major key that western parents are not willing to accept at home. And it DOES start at home.

How many threads have we had on picky eaters and peas happily proclaim they are picky eaters and will bend over backward to accomdate their picky eater instead of teaching their kids to eat what they are served? Its like there is a certain sense of pride in having kids who are picky.


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joyce.k.b.
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Posted: 1/27/2013 5:50:00 PM
One thing that struck me so interesting about the article was the way it described the Japanese children's eating habits. How they eat what is put in front of them, or they don't eat at all (exceptions for allergies). Aside from cultural differences (conformity vs. individualism, etc...)I wonder how picky of eaters the Japanese children are compared to U.S. children?

I also wonder about the prevalence of things like gluten allergies? Seems epidemic here. I'm guessing it is not as big a problem in Japan. I wonder how much our crappy diets in the U.S. play a hand in our food allergies and sensitivities?






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Posted: 1/27/2013 5:50:58 PM
There's a difference between a child having a visceral reaction to a couple foods and them not eating anything beside white pasta hold the sauce and only chicken nuggets. I'm not miracle worker and 2 of 3 of my children are not easy personalities. But they have always eaten fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen and canned), fish, chicken and turkey (not breaded and fried), soups, etc. B/c that's what we eat. If they don't like one thing, we have other things at the meal. But they were not getting special meals.

I say this as a former picky eater myself. But I knew I had to eat. If I didn't like everything that was served, I ate something there that I liked and I never asked for something different or raised a fuss.

These kids are eating healthy things they ate at home. Yet here, gina said the kids are tossing the healthy foods. Wonder why? Back to the parents.


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voltagain
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Posted: 1/27/2013 5:53:25 PM
I wonder why they can't bring their lunches to school? < edit > They don't like their school lunches at all!
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Its a whole mind set of being part of the community of school. Lunch is a community activity. You don't bring lunch because bringing lunch removes your child from a major aspect of community and singles them out as different; apart.

You just proved why it wouldn't work in the US.. "My kids don't like their school lunches at all so I will sent them with one" instead of teaching your kids to accept stuff they don't like.


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sues
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Posted: 1/27/2013 5:55:33 PM
I think some of this is fallout from lazy parenting. Parents allow kids to become chicken-nugget-and-buttered-noodle addicts. (Some kids have issues with some foods. I get that. But that's not what I'm talking about.) Too many people take the easy way out and only feed foods of least resistance. When will kids ever learn what they like, if they only eat 2 or three foods from the time they eat solid food?

Then they get to school and hot lunches include different foods...which they won't eat. If they bring lunch from home, it's the same old junk, made portable.

My kids have never taken a 100% healthy and organic lunch. I've never been militant about every little thing they eat. But they will get a reasonably balanced meal with fresh ingredients. Half the week my DD will bring fresh fruit back in her lunch box. When I ask where it came from, she'll say "____ got it with her school lunch but she was going to throw it away. I told her not to- it's a waste." Kids want junk- and stressed out parents in a time crunch (or who don't want to argue about fruit by the foot)will provide it. When provided with things like fruit and vegetables, most kids will throw it out. It's a shame- but too many of them have never been shown a different way of eating.


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Posted: 1/27/2013 6:01:42 PM
Sues, ITA with you. I was raised differently. I'm raising my kids differently. But I don't think we're the norm. So when I see Alice Waters or Michelle Obama going into the schools and trying to make change I love it. But what do you do about parents? Some want to change and don't know how. That's one thing. Some want you to leave them the F alone b/c they don't want you telling them how to parent. We see it on this board all the time.


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Posted: 1/27/2013 6:06:45 PM

How many threads have we had on picky eaters and peas happily proclaim they are picky eaters and will bend over backward to accomdate their picky eater instead of teaching their kids to eat what they are served? Its like there is a certain sense of pride in having kids who are picky.


Yes!
My daughter had a friend who was so picky she wouldn't even eat a hamburger. She was at another friend's house and the father was grilling chicken - she had her mother bring her chicken nuggets. The only foods she would eat were chicken nuggets and cheese pizza.
That was her parents' fault for catering to her to excess.



Rhonda



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Posted: 1/27/2013 6:13:20 PM
My son's girlfriend hates sausage and ground beef (a texture thing, I guess). I try to avoid cooking them when she's here- but I won't go to extremes or anything. When I serve something with an item she doesn't like- she never says a word- she just eats around it.

Somewhere along the line, her parents gave in re: her issue with certain textures - but encouraged her to try other things and eat what was offered to her. She's a perfect example of reasonably picky. I appreciate her efforts.

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Posted: 1/27/2013 6:17:38 PM
I try NOT to repeat meals, vary what we have, AND minimize wasted food!

Fresh (or fresh frozen) over processed in sodium. And more scratch than "kit" meals.

We have favorites from many cultures. And DGD is getting exposed to them at every meal. She does rotate between wanting different types of fruits and veggies. Last week NO green beans & pears. This week, no fresh bananas, and yes to banana chips.

I really do think what kids will try to eat in school does depend on what they had at home and before school.

Growing up none of us (my family, DH's family, DD or DS) really ate many "school lunches." The meals from home were better, oh there was stuff like pizza day, or something special like that. But most of the time, lunch box or brown bag.


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Posted: 1/27/2013 6:27:48 PM
Part of the reason it works, is the culture of food in Japan. Eating is almost sacred there, not something rushed or taken lightly.

It's hard to explain unless you've lived there (I lived there for 6 years).

One example I can give, you don't walk around eating/drinking. Even going thru the drive-thru (yes, they have McDonalds), you don't eat it in your car. Eat something in your car there, you will get stared at, & considered very, very rude. Even walking down the street drinking water will get the same reaction. It's just not done there, food has it's time & place, period.

Food is very much an art. It's not simply to nurish the body.

On the flip side, they are a very obedient society. If the Government says to do it, you obey. This is a well established belief in the Japanese, not one that works in the U.S. Our tendency is to chafe at Government intrusion. Part of why I believe some people have shunned Michelle Obama's healthy eating campaign. She is an extension of Government, therefore "telling" me what to do.

I absolutely loved my time in Japan, & feel terribly grateful that my DD essentially grew up there. So many wonderful things about Japan, but, & it's a big one for me. Even being a visitor lucky enough to live there, I did in fact have issues with the level of obediency I witnessed.
Basically to the level that made Kamakaze pilots.

To me, that's part of the reason there program hasn't been used in other countries. Yes, there are some really great idea's there. Especially involving the children in the whole process.
But you also have to consider that Japanese school hours are a lot longer than ours, so they have time in the day to incorporate food/nutrition into the learning process.

Anyway, I do wish something could change in the U.S. Unfortunately, I think Batya is correct, some of the problem are parents.


ETA- When I lived in Japan (in the 1990's), even cooking fast food at McDonalds required a college degree! Can't imagine that's changed, but it helps in the perspective of understanding Japan & how they view food. And let me tell you, I still dream about the food from McDonalds in Japan. It was so incredibly good!! And, the largest french fry & drink size would equal what you get in a Happy Meal here.

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Posted: 1/27/2013 6:55:02 PM
Ok I can not find the article?? I would like to see it.


Luanne

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Posted: 1/27/2013 6:57:30 PM


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Posted: 1/27/2013 7:13:50 PM

And I have gone to the lunch ladies for a recipe. They make the only mac and cheese my DD likes. Basic ingredients. Not boxed crap.


The sad thing is this only happens in the richer school districts. Our lunch ladies get to the schools in enough time to heat up the new standard of healthy disgusting tasting crap. They aren't given enough hours to make healthy lunches.

Honestly, I don't want money put towards lunches. Our classrooms are overcrowded. My 6th grader currently has 34 students in one of her classes. It's been as high as 42 students because of lack of funding.

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Posted: 1/27/2013 7:16:03 PM
MellyW, you gave such an insightful response...thank you!


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Posted: 1/27/2013 7:27:58 PM
Thanks, interesting article.


Luanne

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Posted: 1/27/2013 7:42:12 PM
My daughter learned about Japanese eating habits when she did her social studies project on Charaben. They most definitely think differently about the entire experience of a meal.

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Posted: 1/27/2013 7:46:16 PM

I wonder why they can't bring their lunches to school? The $3 is pretty expensive to me. In our area, the lunches are $1.45 in elementary and a little more in upper grades. Our kids pack their lunches as it is cheaper for us. They don't like their school lunches at all! And our schools don't have any "junk" food. Lots of fruits and vegetables, but they are canned or frozen so that may be why the kids throw them out. My kids love fresh fruit and vegetables, and we can get them for a pretty reasonable cost at walmart and Costco.


I thought the $3 was a great deal! My girls elementary school lunch is $2.25 so for only .75 more they could have a healthy local meal everyday! They take their lunch about 90% of the time because I don't want them eating the crap that the school serves. But I would pay more for better quality foods.


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Posted: 1/27/2013 8:21:31 PM
Our school went 100% whole grain, fruits and vegetables and lean proteins - really pushing the beans.

They are really proud of their lunch offerings - as they should be.

Many kids still claim it's disgusting.



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Posted: 1/27/2013 9:08:32 PM
For the same reasons stated, not sure this specific solution would work in the US. (My dd just returned from teaching in a rural area of Japan, so funny enough, we've had this conversation before )

Our school district has made great strides in serving healthy food the past few years, but neither of my boys will eat school lunch. That doesn't mean we do not eat good/healthy food at home. They just do not like many of the style/types of foods that are selected.

For example, spaghetti. They love my home made spaghetti, but not what they serve at school. (Other kids their age do like it, so I recognize it's my children) My kids eat vegetables & fruit, but not canned ones (generally).

I guess I don't like the characterization that just because a child doesn't like a 'healthy' school lunch means that they don't have healthy food at home. Rubs me the wrong way.

Not saying my kids aren't picky by not eating school lunch, just that it's not because they don't want to eat good food.

Just my 2 cents worth.



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Posted: 1/27/2013 9:13:20 PM
What Melly said!

We aren't a homogenous country with all the same dietary habits, and we don't have a cultural expectation of conformity. While it may mean our school lunch problem is harder to solve, overall, this is one of the great assets Americans have.

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Posted: 1/27/2013 10:10:36 PM
i can't believe ANYONE is PROUD to have a picky eater. having a picky eater is a PITA!

i have a picky eater. it is a pain in the butt. she was VERRRRRY picky when she was little, but we cracked down a lot when she was about 4. she eats WAY MORE things now than she did then.

we didn't cater to her though. there would always be something she liked. over time she has found more and more things she likes. even at age 18, she is still picky but is still finding new things she likes.

i was certainly NOT ever proud to have a picky eater. honestly, it is more something to be embarrassed about than PROUD of.

i don't get that at all.




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Posted: 1/27/2013 10:14:58 PM


"My kids don't like their school lunches at all so I will sent them with one" instead of teaching your kids to accept stuff they don't like.
Have you actually eaten the current school lunches? Would you eat them daily? Do you eat food you don't like five days a week?

voltagain
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Posted: 1/27/2013 11:20:19 PM
"My kids don't like their school lunches at all so I will sent them with one" instead of teaching your kids to accept stuff they don't like. >>>>>>>>>>
Have you actually eaten the current school lunches? Would you eat them daily? Do you eat food you don't like five days a week?

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

You are asking questions that are of a western mindset and are irrelevant to the Japanese mindset. Which is exactly why their program won't work in the west. It doesn't matter if the child doesn't like the food five days a week. It is what the school serves, what the classmates are eating so you eat it also. Individual likes are immaterial.

If you looked through the photo gallery at the lunch served I doubt most American kids would have touched it, even those who like veggies.


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MellyW
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Posted: 1/28/2013 1:30:15 AM

Another example of the strict obedience to Government was right after the giant Tsunami that caused the nuclear plant to go into meltdown. People stayed, because the Government told them it was safe. While ever so slowly expanding the evacuation zone, those people were put in peril.

Just try to imagine a plant going into meltdown in the U.S (G*d forbid). Can you imagine Americans sticking around? I picture our Government saying it's safe, causing residents to evacuate that much quicker. Honestly, it's something I love about our country, we are free thinkers.

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Posted: 1/28/2013 4:41:49 AM
all three of my kids will not eat the crap at there schools. i do send pack launches. It also gives me a chances to keep a eye on what they are eating. All 3 have a very high risk at becoming Diabetic. So with me making there lunches each day i know there carb count for the meal. So it help me a lot making the other meal for the day..


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Posted: 1/28/2013 5:33:30 AM

And I have gone to the lunch ladies for a recipe. They make the only mac and cheese my DD likes. Basic ingredients. Not boxed crap.

I wish. HaHaHaHaHaHa. Our lunch ladies do not use a recipe lol. That's probably the biggest issue with both the quality and the price of school lunches. They have all this amazing equipment to cook for large numbers of people and all they do warm up frozen food. In fact, if frozen food was suddenly banned somehow, I'm sure we would have to find new lunch ladies as I don't think they know how to cook.

And BTW that boxed crap lunch costs $5 in the high school, $4.35 in junior high and $3.85 in elementary school. Which is not a 'value' at all. ( barely edible too as its mostly over cooked as well ).

I would be first in line to complain if the 'government' suddenly required mine to purchase the school lunch that we have now. ( The 'school lunch we have now' being the key part ) However, if they served real food in real portions for those prices I'd be thrilled. If the food available in Japan were available I'd be fine with it. My good eater would love it, he loves anything, and my picky eater could argue with someone else about what she ' feels like eating' today it would be heaven.

I think there are 2 problems in our country why it would be difficult here.

First the trend toward prepackaged convenience meals and the lack of people qualified to prepare otherwise. I just don't think school lunch personnel are trained in actual food preparation any longer. Sure they are trained in food serving and the myriad or health code rules applying to that, but many of the personnel wouldn't know where to begin if they got a shipment of fresh whole food.

Second the parents of so many special snowflakes. ( food allergies aside ) Ironically, those are the children who like the school lunches we have now ( breaded frozen chicken products and pizza etc. )

saraheliza19
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Posted: 1/28/2013 6:26:34 AM
The menu is dictated by the school districts. The lunch staff is told what to serve and when. Individual schools within the district have little to no input. Our district had a grant( which ended the middle of last year) for a healthy snack. Always fresh fruits and veggies. They exposed the students to different foods, the students loved it. When the grant ended the parents sent in snacks for their children. We stressed "healthy" snacks and they brought in hot fries and honey buns the size of their heads if they brought a snack at all.
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Posted: 1/28/2013 6:40:54 AM
This type of system just wouldn't fly in the US for a variety of reasons. I have duty in the lunchroom and I see first hand what goes on. We have a small private company provide our school lunches. The company follows the current national standards for hot lunch. They also provide free meals for those students who would qualify in a public school.

The lunches are healthy (whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits, non fat/low fat milk etc). They do provide seconds for students and the salad bar is all you can eat. Most kids do not buy lunch on a regular basis. Pizza is still the most popular choice. Parents look at the lunches and make negative comments. We have a fair number of students who will not drink the milk due to it being white.

Truthfully, I don't know how the company stays in business with the small number who order. They use our school kitchen to make lunches for other schools in the city. These other schools are charters and so are qualify under the school lunch program.

All that said most of the lunches brought from home are well balanced and healthy. Parents are able to provide them and that works well for their families. I don't agree with the idea of making it mandatory for families to purchase lunches through the school either.


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Posted: 1/28/2013 7:27:15 AM
I find these school lunch threads fascinating.

We don't have lunch programs in our schools here in Ontario. Everybody brings their lunch from home. Lunches are eaten in individual classrooms, not a giant, communal lunch room.

Sure, we have pizza day once a week (optional) and every so often there will be a fundraiser pasta or hot dog lunch, but on a daily basis, everybody packs a lunch. Yes, some parents pack crap, but the school system is out of that loop and not on the hook for the crap.

At the high school level there is a cafeteria, where kids have the option to buy lunch if they wish. But again, optional, not everybody does it.

And yes, we do have kids that come with nothing. Our school secretary has a stash, and she will pull lunch for a child with nothing any time. We also have a healthy snack program (for all kids, not just needy kids) where three days a week volunteers put out a snack (one day is fruit/veggies, one day is cheese & crackers, and I forget the other!) But two food groups at every snack day. It really encourages kids to try things - like maybe Mom never buys grapes? Or maybe Mom buys green peppers but they won't eat them. They see their friends eating them and they decide to try one with their friends.

It is just a complete unknown for me to read these discussions and the troubles you have.


Kellie

Mom to Julia (18), Hannah (16) & Jonathan (12)

the pea formerly known as 2Gals!



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batya
Making the WWW better, one post at a time.

PeaNut 59,094
December 2002
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Posted: 1/28/2013 8:49:28 AM

The sad thing is this only happens in the richer school districts. Our lunch ladies get to the schools in enough time to heat up the new standard of healthy disgusting tasting crap. They aren't given enough hours to make healthy lunches.

Honestly, I don't want money put towards lunches. Our classrooms are overcrowded. My 6th grader currently has 34 students in one of her classes. It's been as high as 42 students because of lack of funding.


I hear you. I grew up in a class full of 37-40 kids.

In my kids' district which is affluent, you have a strange demographic. You have the wealthier families. But then you have the immigrant families who require ESL and work two jobs to make ends meet and need free lunch and I'm so happy they have the breakfast and lunch program and that it's healthy so those kids can thrive. My DD doesn't need it that way but she enjoys it. She loves her salad or fruit or mac and cheese or soup. But those kids really need it. I wish it was that way around the country and not prepackaged food.


OK. Newbie. This is how it works. If your post consists of 80% sanity, 10% stupidity and 10% all kinds of crazy, we immediately focus on the 20% b/c it discredits the 80%.




basketlacey
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PeaNut 103,805
August 2003
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Posted: 1/28/2013 10:17:33 AM
I don't think you can make assumptions about what kids are eating at home vs what they do and don't eat at school. Our school cafeteria is really struggling with some of the new regulations. The kids are throwing the food away. My kids included. They tell me it is terrible. And the few things that I have sampled, are terrible.

We eat vegetables at home. It's not always the favorite choice on the plate but they eat them (sometimes with prodding). They know they have to. At school, they don't have to.

My kids tell me the new milk being served at school is "gross". These are kids that drink skim, white milk at home so it isn't a matter of them not liking milk.

I think the schools just don't have the budget to do healthy the right way. Frozen veggies nuked for a crowd is nothing compared to fresh veggies seasoned and roasted in a hot oven. Are they even allowed to add salt to anything now? I know my kids said that no salt is allowed to be added at the table.




Basketlacey
Wife to 1; mommy to 3.
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