School Lunches

School Lunches A visit to a school lunchroom at noon would quickly dispel any preconceived view of how lunch goes down in children. Most youngsters will dive for the cookies first eat a bite or two out of the sandwich and the apple, throw away the rest, and turn to the serious business of snack foods. There are approximately 25 million children in 93,000 schools who receive breakfast and lunch through the school cafeteria. Although research has shown that eating healthy at an early age helps youngsters develop good eating habits, these lunches and breakfasts are loaded with fat, sodium, sugar and are low in fiber. A nutritious diet will positively affect the performance of a student work (Sherman 18).

Nutrition is the process by which a living being takes food and supplies it as nourishment to live and grow properly. The government needs to realize that good nutrition and nutrition education are two essential ingredients in a school health program and in education. Beatrice Trum Hunter in her article Upgrading School Lunches says that the Federal government set up the National School Lunch Program in 1946 and later the school breakfast program. The reasons for this is, there was a growing surplus of certain subsidized agricultural products and many children in the country were going through the entire day without sufficient nutrition (Hunter 146-147). According to Barbara Meeks dietitian at Warren Local Schools, during War World II soldiers were so malnourished the National Government decided that children were not being properly educated and nourished.

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The government started the commodities service so that young soldiers would be in better health to fight in wars (Meeks). The programs were administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). While the National Institute of Health, tells people to avoid fats and cholesterol, the U.S. Department of Agriculture feeds kids eggs, cheese and fatty sausages for breakfast.

Through this program, the government bought a surplus of meat, cheese, milk, and butter from farmers (McCarty 22). They provided these products free to school districts. However, even in its founding, these programs offered children foods that were high in fat and cholesterol (McCarty 22). These commodities are not necessarily based on childrens nutritional needs. The fact is, school lunches are more a matter of politics than of commonsense (Krizmanic 98).

The school lunch and breakfast program supplies sufficient nutrients to children who might otherwise not getting enough food at home. The program menu reads like a fast-food restaurant containing such things as cheeseburgers, pizza, hot dogs, and Whole milk, which are all high in cholesterol and fat (Pratt 3). A non-nutritious diet has fostered a multitude of health problems in school age children. The obesity rate among school age children has doubled in the last 10 years (Sherman 18). In a recent USDA report it reveals that school meals have 85 percent more sodium, 50 percent more saturated fat and 25 percent more fat in all, based on the departments recommendation for a healthy diet (Why 28).

Of 545 schools surveyed only one meets the governments guideline for keeping saturated fat under 10 percent (Bricklin 48). A typical school lunch contains about 35-40 percent of calories from fat, relying to much on meat and animal based foods (Cornell). The school menu is a management tool which has a major role in controlling the compliance the compliance of federal regulations, nutrient content, meal acceptability, food and labor cost, food purchasing, food production, equipment use and needs, and the employee training needs (Menu 12). Planning a successful menu requires several areas of knowledge such as the goals, requirements and recommendations of the breakfast and lunch programs, food costs, what foods are available, students food preferences, food preparation and a meal that will be well accepted by the school-age customer being served (Menu 5). It is required that students be offered all five food items of the meal.

When approved by the local school food authority students are allowed to choose three to four food items within the lunch pattern. Because school food service plays such an important role in the health and nutrition education of children, cafeterias are encouraged to reduce fat, sugar, and salt in school meals to the extent that is acceptable (Menu 4). However, cholesterol and fat are essential for a healthy body metabolism, particularly during periods of active growth and development, when energy needs are high (Kowalski 29). Cholesterol, a waxy chemical that is manufactured in the liver, is essential for the bodys proper functioning (Kowalski 29). It helps build new cells and repair old ones.

It acts as a building block for the brain, nerves, internal organs, and several hormones found naturally in the human body (Kowalski 30). Fat, is used by the body as a concentrated source of energy. This permits relatively small amounts of food to be eaten while obtaining the calories necessary to maintain daily activities. In reasonable amounts, fat helps a child grow to his or her full potential (Kowalski 31). Food containing large amounts of saturated fat, discourage the body from clearing away excess cholesterol.

When cholesterol builds up in the arteries, it can block the supply of blood to the heart (Kowalski 32). Based on rules from the USDA, meals each day need to provide at least 2 ounces of protein, three-fourths cup of fruit and vegetables, 8 ounces of milk, as well as 8 servings of bread a week. Each meal totals about 750 calories with 28 percent to 38 percent of calories from fat. For many children, lunch or breakfast at school is their first exposure to making their own food choices. Guidelines from the National School Lunch Act (1994) and the Child Nutrition Act (1994) will go into effect during the 1996-1997 School year (Hunter 8-9).

Exceptions to these requirements would be special medical and dietary needs such as substituting juice for milk with a child that is lactose intolerant. Even more exceptions would include ethnic, religious, economic or physical needs (Hunter). School food should be modified so it contains less fat and more grains, fruits, and vegetables. Heidi Sherman in her article Healthy School Lunches..Finally, states the foods in total, should contain no more than 30 percent calories from fat, or 10 percent calories from saturated fat (18). Also, the guidelines recommend reductions in cholesterol, sodium, and sugar and to add one-third of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) per meal.

This would provide protein, Vitamin A and C, calcium and iron. It is not expected that each meal each day will provide one-third of the RDA of all nutrients, but that when averaged over a period of time, in which a wide variety of foods are served, the guidelines well be met (Menu 13). Many school age children pass the regular school lunch provided for them and eat even less nutritional foods from vending machines. Under current law, food containing less than 5 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance of the eight basic nutrients, such as gum, hard candy, and soda pop, cannot be sold in school cafeterias during lunch hours (The 56). However, they can be so …