Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A RANT: USDA Changes To School Lunch Nutrition Requirements

A friend shared this article on social media last night regarding changes being made to the school lunch program and I started commenting on the post. Then I realized that I was long past commenting and had moved on to ranting and was hijacking his post. To be polite, I deleted everything I had typed and moved my thoughts over here. 

The short version of the article is this:

  • Schools no longer have to limit sodium as strictly in the foods they serve.

  • School no longer have to serve whole grain foods if they can show it's a "hardship" to serve them. (WTH does that even mean?)

  • Schools can serve 1% flavored milk again.

These changes are being made because they say simply, the kids won't eat the food they are serving and are throwing meals in the trash.

And I would say this is probably true. But it's not because of the healthy food guidelines!! It's because...


I think the problem with proper implementation and kids not eating the food presented by cafeterias boils down to improper funding for healthy food. If we, as a nation, prioritized making healthy food an option, the school systems would be able to afford healthy, tasty foods that easily meet the guidelines. 

And since most school cafeterias, especially around here, are funded by the USDA, then they of all, people should see this. (Don't get me started on the USDA too much because I love a farmer, but why can't we subsidize fruits and veggies??)

When you are trying to meet very reasonable guidelines for nutrition with cheap, industrial food to meet a ridiculous budget, of course it's going to be gross and kids won't eat it!

When you are trying to meet a guideline for x ounces of protein per tray, but no more than x grams of salt or fat with cheap chicken nuggets, there is your big problem! Stop forcing school to meet minimum requirements with crap food! The cost of 6 battered and breaded chicken nuggets is probably less than 3-4 ounces of chicken breast. But I know kids will eat chicken breast if it is tasty! Come on world, let's give kids REAL food!

But let me go back and address the current changes to the program.

Schools no longer have to limit sodium as strictly in the foods they serve.

As a nation, we eat WAYYY to much salt. There is no reason for kids to get a ton more at school. Herbs and spices and good ol' Mrs. Dash can make food taste great. However, if we are depending on PROCESSED industrial food of course it needs salt to hide it's nastiness. Kids won't eat it low salt processed food because it's gross. Get real food back in the cafeteria and salt won't be needed to make it palatable. 

School no longer have to serve whole grain foods if they can show it's a "hardship" to serve them. (WTH does that even mean?)

Instead, they can serve regular old white, cheap bread. As a consumer, I can go purchase a really nice loaf of whole grain bread and it is delicious. If I'm in trying to operate on a ridiculously small budget and feed 500 kids, yeah, the whole grain buns I'm going to be able to purchase are probably going to be disgusting. Duh. And honestly, most people these days realize you don't HAVE to have grains in your diet to be healthy. So here's a suggestion. Scrap the grain requirement and spend that money on lean meats, fresh fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds! (Remember, the USDA is the Department of Agriculture. Agriculture grows grains and it serves their interests to mandate schools serve grains.)

Schools can serve 1% flavored milk again.

Baby cows need milk. Humans not so much. But even if you believe that kids need their milk, they don't need the 18 grams of sugar in strawberry or chocolate milk when the American Heart Association says that children should not consume more than 25 grams PER DAY.

Guys, I don't know how to fix the problem because it's a huge problem. But when you try to build a beautiful house to live in until you and your entire family die, but you use cheap materials and cut corners, things are bound to go wrong. 

These kids can't cook for themselves. They can't shop for themselves. They depend on us, the adults, to look after them. We have to stop putting emphasis on quick, easy and cheap when feeding them. 

**To my farmer friends. I love you guys. I am not hating on you. I am hating on a US government entity that has tied your hands to four crops and doesn't allow you to support your family unless you play their game. I know many of you have a deep desire to get off of the constant hamster wheel that is farming with US subsidies. American farmers keep this country strong and are the reason we have many of the things we have. I just wish you were allowed more crop diversity and were treated like more than a sharecropper.

UPDATE: A good friend addressed this topic on her blog as well. She's a mommy of two little ones and knows first hand how hard it is to get children to eat well. 

Stay Strong Y'all!

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