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A couple of weeks ago, I received a newsletter from the Food and Nutrition Services Division of the school district where my children attend school. A good portion of the newsletter was devoted to promoting healthy nutrition: educating about childhood obesity, healthy initiatives that support healthy eating habits, and listing recent district-wide nutrition improvements such as taking sugared cereals off the breakfast menus, protein choice on the breakfast menu daily (gee, isn’t that a no-brainer?), introducing baked snack chips versus fried, fresh vegetables and tossed salad offered daily at all schools, fresh fruit, etc.
So far, so good.
Until I came to the student preference survey. Each year, the Food and Nutrition Services Division does an annual survey to find out what their “customers” ie: students, are enjoying. The results are used in monthly menu planning(!)for the district. Here are the results of the survey for 2003. And I am not making this up.
Elementary “Top Ten” Choices
Donut/Long John, Cinnamon Roll, Pancake & Sausage, Bagel & Cream Cheese, Breakfast Burrito, Breakfast Pizza, Cereal & Toast, Biscuits & Gravy, French Toast & Ham, Scrambled Eggs with Ham & Cheese
Burrito, Chili Fritos, Corn Dog, Hot Dog, Nachos & Cheese, Hamburger/ Cheeseburger, Chicken Nuggets, BBQ Rib Sandwich, Soft Taco
Middle School “Top Ten” Choices
Donut/Long John, Cinnamon Roll, Egg O Bagel w/ Sausage & Cheese, Bagel & Cream Cheese, Egg O Muffin w/ Ham & Cheese, Egg O Bagel w/ Ham and Cheese, Cereal & Toast, Pancake & Sausage, Biscuit & Gravy, Breakfast Pizza
Pizza, Chicken Nuggets, Baked Chicken, Burrito, Chili Fritos, Corn Dog, Nachos, Hamburger/ Cheeseburger, Chicken Fried Steak w/ gravy, Chicken Patty Sandwich
I about dropped my drawers. Serving donuts, long johns and cinnamon rolls as a healthy choice for breakfast?? And please don’t tell me that “chili fritos” are Fritos corn chips with chili sauce on top. Can you believe it? In fact most of the food preferences are in fast food heaven. Might as well turn the school cafeteria into a Mc Donald’s. It practically is anyway.
The clincher for me was this statement in the newsletter that followed the survey results: “The data above represents a slight shift from previous year’s survey’s where healthier selections were voted more favorably in November 2003. This is AWESOME news, as together we’re making small steps in the right direction!!!”
THOSE preferences were healthier? What were the choices in previous years - sugar cubes dipped in lard? I know I’m ranting here but did anyone notice that not one of their “nutrition improvements” were listed in the top ten? Remember, the menu choices are selected based on preferences.
I’ll never understand school nutrition standards. Perhaps the fast food chains are in cahoots with the school dietitians... OK, lets not go there....
On a much brighter note... I asked my 5th grader how many students in his class ate the school provided lunch and he replied, “ About half... but I don’t want to!” Intrigued, I asked him why and he said, “Because that stuff is gross!”
Yippee Ki Yea!! He’s getting it.
And then, a few days later, on his own initiative, he asked me to help him create a couple of highly beneficial breakfast and lunch options that he can prepare for himself. Boy of my dreams. So we sat down together and looked at all the beneficial foods for his blood type (A) and looked at the menu options in both Cook Right and Eat Right. He has his breakfast choices on a menu card and is working on lunch options.
I might never be able to change the face of school nutrition, but I can teach my own what I know to be true. And maybe some of it will rub off where it is most needed...like in the school cafeteria.
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