Tag Archives: healthy school lunches

Too many American schools are still flunking lunch!

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This summer the City of Worcester ran a kick-ass summer lunch/snack program for low-income/hungry kids at our parks – the USDA’s national Summer Food Service Program! This blue bus (pictured above) could be seen rolling down our city streets, even making stops at our branch libraries! … School’s begun! Hola, Ms. Lunch Lady! Unlike lots of school districts, the Worcester Public Schools work to incorporate fresh veggies and fruits into students’ meals – at every grade level! AND EVERY STUDENT CAN GET A FREE LUNCH! Go, WPS, go!!! – Rosalie T.

By Heather Moore

I don’t care what kids say — the school lunch lady is not trying to kill them. The federal government is. Well, I have my suspicions, at least. Many of the meals served as part of the National School Lunch Program are high in fat and cholesterol and contain considerably more sodium than fiber. They’re a heart attack in the making. I wonder if that’s why the American Heart Association has warned us that atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries — begins in childhood and progresses into adulthood, at which point it can lead to coronary heart disease.

Most American schools serve the same artery-clogging meals that were served when I was a student, and frozen meals still had to be baked in the oven. How can we expect students to take a health teacher’s “healthy eating tips” seriously when their school cafeteria is serving unhealthy foods?

Salisbury steak, pepperoni pizza and chicken nuggets need to go the way of film projectors and hand-crank pencil sharpeners. And fast-food corporations should also be expelled from schools — or at least suspended until they serve more plant-based meals.

As Dr. Neal Barnard, the president of the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, says, “Fresh produce, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are nutritional powerhouses that study after study has shown to be quite literally lifesaving .… [D]iets high in animal protein are associated with a fourfold increase in the chance of dying from cancer or diabetes — making heavy meat and dairy consumption just as dangerous as smoking.”

Responsible parents teach their children not to smoke because cigarettes cause cancer and other health problems. For the same reason, they should make sure their kids don’t get hooked on hamburgers and other unhealthy foods. Let’s put more emphasis on teaching children to eat vegan meals — at school and at home. Kids will gladly eat plant-based meals, such as pasta, veggie burgers and black bean chili, if they’re delicious as well as nutritious.

Knowing this, the Coalition for Healthy School Food created the Cool School Food program to develop, test and implement plant-based meals in school cafeterias. The program — which helped two public schools in New York implement the first entirely plant-based school menus in the U.S. — aims to make it fun and exciting for young people to try new foods and learn about their health benefits.

Food Is Elementary, another school program that was recently featured in VegNews magazine, is also working to introduce children to plant-based foods, which the kids prepare and eat as part of a curriculum established by the founder of the Food Studies Institute, a New York-based nonprofit that helps school cafeterias incorporate low-fat, high-fiber foods into their menus.

We need more programs like these. Students are fed up with the unappetizing, inhumane and potentially disease-promoting fare that passes as lunch in many school cafeterias. Last year, students at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Chicago boycotted school lunch in an attempt to persuade officials to serve healthier meals, including more fresh fruit and vegetables.

That’s hardly an unreasonable request. The school cafeteria is supposed to be a source of nourishment, not disease. This year’s National School Lunch Week, which will be observed in October, aims to remind “parents, students and school officials that a healthy lunch helps students power through the day!”

But how can we expect kids to make it through the day — and learn compassion and empathy — if they’re eating unhealthy animal-based foods? We need to teach children that “v” is for vegan and serve them healthy, tasty, cruelty-free plant-based foods.

From Massachusetts Farm to School

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Dear Friends,

In this season of giving thanks, we have much to be thankful for at Mass. Farm to School. This season is also a time of transition, as farmers mark the end of the harvest season and look ahead to next year. Here at Mass. Farm to School we are also experiencing a time of transition.

After several months of strategic planning, this November we transitioned out of our host organization, Project Bread – The Walk for Hunger, and to a new host organization at Farm to Institution New England (FINE), with fiscal sponsor Third Sector New England. We are very excited to work with FINE staff and partners to strengthen farm to school programs in Massachusetts and to connect with broader farm to institution efforts across New England.

While you, our partners and supporters, will likely notice few changes in our programs or staff, we thought it was meaningful to announce this transition and, very importantly, to give thanks for the skilled and generous sponsorship that Project Bread has offered since 2013. Over the past two years, Project Bread helped us strengthen our organizational capacity and enabled us to develop strong programmatic partnerships with their wonderful initiatives, including the Chefs In Schools program and the Child Nutrition Outreach Program.

We look forward to continuing these partnerships in the years to come. We also want to thank all of you who took part in the planning process which helped us arrive at this transition. We look forward to your continued involvement and the contributions of many other partners as we work to build out a robust Massachusetts Farm to School Network.

We are very thankful that we are now well positioned to make great strides in achieving our organizational goals — to see a thriving local food system in Massachusetts in which all have access to healthy, locally grown food, and local foods procurement and food and agriculture education are ingrained in the fabric of our schools.

We would like to once again thank Project Bread and to thank each of you for your dedication to growing the farm to school movement in Massachusetts.

Sincerely,

Simca Horwitz & Lisa Damon

Mass. Farm to School Program Directors