When was the last time you visited a school cafeteria? In my line of profession as a third grade teacher, I walk into a school cafeteria five days a week. Some days, I am appalled by what I see.
I see children who are handed treys of overcooked and dried out foods that are laden with fat and calories. Pizza, cheeseburgers, corn dog nuggets, and cheese sticks are on the menu at least once, if not twice, a week! Their choices of sides consist of soggy, salty, overly buttered green beans, canned peaches sitting in a pool of thick syrup, and stale tortilla corn chips. All of this is washed down with a carton of—you guessed it!– chocolate milk.
I have on occasion forgotten my lunch at home, and have had to purchase a school lunch. The last time I had to this I vowed I would rather go hungry than eat another school salad ever again. The salad consisted of maybe a handful of iceberg lettuce, with about a half a cup of shredded mozzarella, a frozen tomato, and a tablespoon of chickpeas. I ended up eating the cheese on the saltines that were given as a side. Needless to say, for the rest of the day I was starving and just a little bit on the grumpy side.
This is why I was super excited to see that Jamie Oliver has started a new show called “Food Revolution” where he is working to improve the quality of school lunches across America.
I didn’t know this until doing some research after the show, but Jamie Oliver started this revolution in Britain, and after four years of campaigning, the British government finally overhauled their schools’ lunch program, and are now serving fresh, nutritious lunches in schools across their nation. Although his approach may be controversial, he has proof to show that this can work, because it has!
I have to say that the show truly saddened me at times. I was blown away when the first graders (or maybe they were kindergarteners) couldn’t identify basic fruits and vegetables such as potatoes, broccoli, and tomatoes. However, they very easily, and enthusiastically, were able to identify ketchup, french fries, pizza, and chicken nuggets.
Their teacher, who was obviously disheartened by her students’ inability to identify the produce, started a fruit and veggie study. When Jamie came back to their class later that week, they were able to identify each vegetable he held up for them. Mad kudos to this teacher! In just one day she helped them learn the difference between a potato and a tomato just by drawing their attention to them! 🙂
They were thrilled with their new vocabulary, but imagine how excited they would be if they could actually grow these fruits and veggies in a small garden! I bet they would eat them after working hard to make them grow!
Another part of the show that made my my stomach lurch was when Jamie showed the kids a nasty chicken carcass, and then ground it up with a food processor, and shaped the carcass mush into “chicken nuggets.” The kids were disgusted by the ground up carcass, but were willing to eat it when they saw he made it into nuggets!!!! Unbelievable!!!!
One thing is clear from watching this show, it takes a community to make change. I truly believe that healthy lifestyles start in the home. Parents have a responsibility to teach their children healthy habits, and to ensure they are able to identify a tomato. But schools must also do their part. We can not keep feeding our kids pizza, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets every day simply because it is cheap, quick, and easy.
Legislation must also change. Did you know that under USDA guidelines french fries are considered a vegetable??? No wonder it has been said that our children may be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents!
If you’re interested, here are some links with more information, and ways you can become involved.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution – don’t forget to sign the petition!!!
Anything catch your fancy??? What do you think of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution??