A little boy, not more than 7 or 8, looked up at me through his shaggy blonde hair and said earnestly: “Skim milk, please.” The lunch volunteer, I plunked a pint of the 100-calorie, non-fat dairy drink onto his food tray. He walked away, presumably to sit down with his classmates and eat his nutritious lunch. What choice did he have? It was either eat or be hungry.
What a drastic difference from the school lunch menus I grew up with. Back then, french fries with gravy, rectangular pieces of cheese pizza, and ice cream sandwiches dominated. Not so anymore.
Public schools have been pushed into healthier lunches by recent legislation. In August 2012, Congress placed calorie limits on school lunches, a move backed by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity. The menu revolution mandates twice as many fruits and vegetables as former offerings and limits protein and carbohydrates. It has not been well-received universally. A group of high school students in Sharon Springs, Kansas and their teacher teamed up to create a ballad that parodies the new nutrition requirements. The song, “We are Hungry”, is a hit on YouTube, garnering 1,046,964 hits and 3,297 comments. (See video above.)
Even before Congress forced healthier lunches on kids, menus at many Baltimore independent schools had begun to resemble those their parents would welcome at upscale, health-conscious restaurants. Here’s a sampling of lunch entrees at area independent schools this month, courtesy of menus posted on websites: The Calvert School is serving Butternut Squash Soup, Turkey Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries, Peas, and Citrus Sections. Garrison Forest girls can select Chicken Penne Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomato & Fresh Baby Spinach and Steamed Broccoli.
Sounds tasty, right? Maybe to adults. But most kids’ palettes aren’t as, well, sophisticated, and they’d probably welcome back fries covered with gravy and rectangular pizza. But it’s up to the adults in their lives to at least attempt to get them to consume more veggies and less fat, right? Bon appétit!
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