'Fast food' in schools not good nutrition, citizen says
Karen Andrews came into the Carbon School District board meeting last Wednesday ready to address school board members concerning the "What Counts" process set up a couple of years ago to evaluate the district's operations in relation to students. Specifically she addressed the board on the school lunch program.
"When you set this up with the citizens, the biggest concern was school lunches," she said. "I had hoped through that to see the school lunch program improve, but it has not."
Andrews, a resident of Sunnyside, said she has substituted at Bruin Point Elementary a few times and said she thought was she saw served for lunch was "poor."
"Fast food is not a good meal to start our kids out with," she stated. "To me the meals are basically horrible."
She said even the attempt at doing something right is not working well in the elementary schools.
"I have heard the salad bars in the secondary schools are wonderful," she stated. "But the ones in the elementaries are very limited and poor."
She said that someone talked her into eating one of the meals one day and she regretted it.
"How can you ruin a ham and cheese sandwich?" she asked the board. "Well they did. The meat was all just gristle and fat. The processed meats that are being used have a lot of sodium in them."
She said the idea of using a fast food model to feed kids just makes her mad.
"I hope you take my comments seriously," she continued. "I think that we are currently feeding children into obesity and diabetes."
The board listened intently to Andrew's statements, but did not respond other than to thank her for her input. However, acting superintendent Patsy Bueno did respond.
"Part of this is that we have a very strict federal program we must follow," she stated. "But we will check on your concerns."
Bueno's comments relates to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). It is a federally- assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools. It is supposed to provide nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946. The Child Nutrition Act of 1966 changed the program, extended it further and added new dimensions to it.
However over the years the program has come under constant criticism for what is served. And some of that stems from the times. Lunches served 50 years ago are much different from the lunches served today. Those who run the programs realized at one point in the 1980s that much of the food served to students was being thrown away and never eaten, because kids didn't like it. That is when the menus began to change and more "fast food" kinds of items began to appear on menus. But at about the same time salad bars also began to appear in school cafeterias.
Patti Rigby, Director of Child Nutrition for the district, explained in an interview Monday that the "fast food" marketing of school meals is a calculated effort to get kids to eat. "It's what they're eating, what they're driving downtown to buy," she stated. "Remember, if they don't eat, they get zero nutrition."
The district's meals, however, are planned to provide lower fat and higher nutrition than similar restaurant or retail foods. Fat, for example, can't provide more than 30 percent of the calories in school lunches each week. That means that some days the fat content may be higher and other days it will be lower to keep the weekly average below the limit.
The menus and the dietary information for each school are no secret, she said. Everything is on the nutrition section of the district website.
Also, there is no difference in the fruit and salad bar offerings at elementary and secondary schools. "It's the same food. We serve the same thing everywhere," Rigby said.