Posted by Patrick Maness
Who can forget eating school lunch? The crowded tables, the unidentified meat, the mush, the long-awaited pizza day, the clanging silverware and, of course, those little milk cartons.
Though school lunch is a big part of growing up in America, many people take it for granted. And while school lunch programs have been in place for more than a century, evolving with the times and changing from region to region, the modern school lunch program as we know it came into effect in 1945.
Though much has changed in the last 70 years, one of the main ideas behind the 1945 bill — to provide affordable meals to all students, regardless of income — remains the focus of today’s school lunch program.
And while few would question the benefits of feeding children, many of which come from low-income situations where their families might not be otherwise able to afford meals, the school lunch program has not been without controversy.
One point of contention is concerned with the quality and the nutritional value of the food being served. Too often, for instance, the meals have come in the form of starches, simple proteins, sugar and carbs. Sure, these fill children up, but they are far from healthy.
Plenty of people have pointed fingers at a number of culprits. But whether it’s problems with a budget, efficiency, poor administration or the mystery meat that is prevalent throughout many school cafeterias, most have agreed that there has been ample opportunity to improve the school lunch program.
Healthy school lunches
Reforming the school lunch program has been a notable story for the past ten years. On one level, this generation of parents is much more health-conscious and aware of how sugar, empty carbs and cheap food affect their children’s mood, academic performance and behavior.
Add to this Michelle Obama’s child nutrition program, part of her Let’s Move initiative, which aims to curb childhood obesity by encouraging kids to develop healthy eating habits at a young age. As a result, more fruits and vegetable are in school lunches, and fewer high-calorie food options like french-fries are included.
This increased visibility has brought forth major reforms in school cafeterias across the nation. How we think of serving a large number of people — and serving them on a budget — is undergoing a radical change.
In this series of blogs, we’ll explore some of the most pressing issues concerning cafeteria food service for kids and in large-scale community settings. Topics will include:
What is MyPlate?
One of the most popular programs in the government's current initiative to help children eat better is called MyPlate. One of the principle ideas behind MyPlate is that eating healthy is a journey. It takes time to develop a taste for the fruits and vegetables that promote a healthier, more active lifestyle. In this blog, we’ll look at how this program has been used in schools across the county and consider how it is influencing a generation of eaters.
Food portioning for kids
Portion control involves monitoring how much food is served to students and making sure they get the proper amounts of certain types of food. We’ll take a look at how schools can help kids learn proper portion control and avoid overfeeding them.
Creating sustainable school menus
All around the country, there has been a push for the food industry to adopt more sustainable practices. Is it possible for schools to participate in this movement as well? We’ll visit some schools that have made sustainability a priority. Additionally, we’ll consider how schools are getting students involved with growing and sourcing local food for the meals they eat.
Limiting food waste in schools
If you've ever worked in a cafeteria, you know that food waste in schools can be astonishing. Serving hundreds of students a day provides ample opportunities to devise strategies for how to deal with such excessive food waste. In this blog, we'll discuss some of the most successful strategies.
Though these blogs specifically deal with situations in school cafeterias, they point to larger trends in the food industry that restaurant owners, caterers and more will want to know about.