I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what changes would make school lunch better for students. Here’s what I’ve got so far (I might be shooting for the moon here):
1) Commit to offering pizza only once per month and removing hot dogs from the menu.
2) Offer a piece of fruit at every meal in place of a fruit cup, fruit juice or icee. The fruit part of the meal should be actual fruit and it should be sliced so that kids can grab it and eat it.
3) Allow parents, educators, and students access to nutritional information for each meal. It can be online.
4) Offer greens (spinach, salad, etc) in a salad bar to students every day and educate them on how to make a salad.
5) Remove pre-packaged items (bagel dogs, peanut butter sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, etc) from the menu and replace with casseroles, soups, wraps, or fresh-made PB&Js (all of which are cost-efficient and can be made in very large batches).
6) Commit to a 50% to 75% reduction of plastic/paper containers and remove all styrofoam from the cafeteria. Install dishwashers in all schools (like it used to be).
7) Offer more options geared towards students with allergies and intolerances (lactose, wheat, nut, etc). Might as well educate students on what “lactose intolerant” means and what “allergy” means so they can be on the look-out.
8) Every school has a fully operational kitchen with dishwasher and cooking staff. If it means hiring more workers, let’s think of it as a “stimulus plan.” It’s worth it not to truck in all of this stuff.
9) Every school incorporates new nutrition-based cooking curriculum to students of all ages and requires the students to enter the kitchen and learn basic snack and meal prep. Even pre-schoolers can spread peanut butter or soy-nut butter on celery and put little raisins on top.
10) Teach students where their food comes from by taking a trip to a farm or planting a school garden so that they can be invested in food and have an experience in DIRT! “Dirty” is not a bad word.
11) Actively incorporate recycling into the school program and instruct students on how to recycle and what can be recycled and why it’s important.
What do you want for students’ lunches? I’m going to write a School Lunch Bill of Rights based on my thoughts and your feedback/ideas.