Healthier School Lunches Lynched by Lobbyists

healthy school lunch

Based on the 2009 recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences and endorsed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the Obama administration, the USDA has proposed to limit potatoes, restrict the use of sodium and increase the use of whole grains in school lunches. This, in an attempt to reduce the growing incidence of childhood obesity.

While these proposals may appear “healthier” to some, this is totally misguided. If the goal is to indeed reduce childhood obesity, much much more has to be done. More like a total revamping of the USDA guidelines. Throw out the white bread, the sugary cereals, snacks and condiments and especially the low fat milk.

Listen to the video below of Sally Fallon Morell (Founder of the Weston Price Foundation) addressing the new USDA Guidelines in a press conference this past February 2011 and get the real deal for healthy eating. Here is the second part of the talk. It is really worth the time.

Learn why butter and salt are good for you. See why the USDA-recommended “low-fat, high-fiber, low-salt diet,” is contributing to cancer, heart disease, obesity, infertility, low-growth rate, diabetes, and a whole host of other health problems — and, according to Sally Fallon Morell, “impossible to eat”.

This Valentine’s Day Press Conference was held in Washington, DC sponsored by The Weston A. Price Foundation, and included the Nutrition and Metabolism Society and members of the Healthy Nation Coalition.

The conference was held to expose the flaws and misuse of science in the formation of our nation’s dietary guidelines, which have resulted in a 30-year decline in our nation’s health. The Weston Price Foundation is extremely concerned about the health of Americans, especially the children. It’s mission is to teach appropriate food choices based upon the wisdom of traditional cultures who enjoyed superior health.

The final version of a spending bill released this week diminishes the standards proposed earlier this year. Specifically, the bill would:

-Block the Agriculture Department from limiting starchy vegetables, including corn and peas, to two servings a week. The rule was intended to cut down on french fries, which many schools serve daily. They are also fried in rancid vegetables oils which no one seems to notice.

– Allow USDA to count two tablespoons of tomato paste as a vegetable, as it does now. The department had attempted to require that only a half-cup of tomato paste could be considered a vegetable. Federally subsidized lunches must have a certain number of vegetables to be served. Some still think high fructose corn syrup ketchup is a good vegetable!

-Require further study on long-term sodium reduction requirements set forth by the USDA guidelines. Apparently they don’t know that humans and all mammals require salt and salt is not the reason for childhood obesity.

-Require USDA to define “whole grains” before they regulate them. The USDA rules require schools to use more whole grains. Here is where they can sort of make it up as they go along, with bogus definitions of what a whole grain actually is.

Not surprisingly, the lobbyist for the potato growers, frozen food manufacturers and other food conglomerates that provide school lunches have fought long and hard against any changes.

This agreement ensures that nutrient-rich (my italics) vegetables such as potatoes, corn and peas will remain part of a balanced, healthy diet in federally funded school meals and recognizes the significant amounts of potassium, fiber and vitamins A and C provided by tomato paste, ensuring that students may continue to enjoy healthy meals such as pizza and pasta.

said Kraig Naasz, president of the American Frozen Food Institute. Who does he think he is kidding?

They ignore how quickly these starches become sugar. They ignore the issue of GM corn. They ignore all the additives in frozen school lunches. And they ignore the fact that if we continue to do exactly the same thing, childhood obesity will continue to rise.

USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe said that the department will continue its efforts to make lunches healthier and she stated,

While it’s unfortunate that some members of Congress continue to put special interests ahead of the health of America’s children, USDA remains committed to practical, science-based standards for school meals.

If it wasn’t so sad it would be laughable. This generation of children doesn’t stand a chance. My solution has been to send my kid to school with lunch from home. But that doesn’t help the other children who will eventually suffer from the poor quality food they eat. What are you doing to teach others? Please leave a comment and let me know!


Photo Credit

This post is shared at: Simple Lives Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Creative Juice Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fight back Friday, Friday Food, Fresh Bites Friday, Sunday School, Monday Mania, Homestead Barnhop, Tasty Tuesday Tidbits, Hearth & Soul Hop, Traditional Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Healthy 2Day, Sustainable Ways, These Chicks Cooked

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  • Michele November 17, 2011, 10:36 am

    As a middle school teacher, I see the effects of poor food choices. Our students can’t sit still, can’t read and can’t problem solve. The lack of fresh air play, active parenting and nutrient rich food is spelling doom for our future generations.

    • Jill November 17, 2011, 7:46 pm

      Hi Michele,
      I just wish teachers would be more proactive about nutrition — when my son was in elementary and middle school the teachers would give jolly ranchers as prizes. He was asked to turn it in at home for something else (better snack or toy) and that is what he did.

      I remember one child’s mother was asking the teachers not to offer candy as her child was diabetic. They still would not give that up as a way to control behavior. So sad.

  • Heather G November 17, 2011, 11:16 am

    My kids are a few years from school now, but I’ve been trying to support farm-to-school and student garden initiatives.  I feel if we can get kids involved in knowing and liking fresh produce, rather than HFCS tomato paste and french fries, it will open the door to improving nutrition.  From there we can work on eliminating additives and work our way towards traditional foods. 

    • Jill November 17, 2011, 7:46 pm

      Hi Heather,
      I think the farm to school programs are a great way to start the conversation with the school administration.

  • Beyond The Peel November 18, 2011, 1:33 am

    Jill, I really don’t know what to say. The whole thing is so desperately sad. I grew up in Canada, and none of our schools has cafeterias that served food. They were basically massive rooms with tables to eat at. The only food that was consumed was food we brought from home. Of course that was 15 years ago. I guess we were really lucky that way. I see what is happening in the lunch rooms of North America today and it’s frightening.

    • Jill November 18, 2011, 2:31 am

      Yes, it is so sad for the children who are really hungry and do not get good food at home. They come to school and get more of the same garbage.

  • gogardengirl November 18, 2011, 5:46 am

    Change can happen one classroom at a time.  My students plant a garden each spring and the following year’s students harvest and prepare a meal for those who planted it.  We make applesauce, cook pumpkins with apples, cranberries and raisins for a harvest next week.  I never give food or candy as a reward.  Just like every parent does not take responsibility to feed their children, teachers come from various backgrounds and philosophies but parents can volunteer to bring healthy food experiences into classrooms.  As far as school lunches, in our district the food is contracted out–and the company is in it to make money, not for nutrition and health.  Continue to advocate and support folks who are making changes.

    • Jill November 18, 2011, 1:03 pm

      Hi Gogardengirl,
      Thanks so much for sharing what you are doing. So true, change can happen through individual actions.

  • Kim November 20, 2011, 2:12 pm

    This was so timely because our school just started a Health and Wellness committee and I volunteered to be on it, and the first meeting was the night you posted this. Because of this post, I decided to bring something to hand out to the group members – not knowing where all of us would be in our real food journeys. I printed off a great thing from Jamie Oliver’s website (an article written by the “renegade lunch lady” Ann Cooper – took it to the meeting, and the group agreed that it was an excellent outline to start from (things like making real food, doing Farm to School, planting a school garden (which we already have), no HFCS, etc. I was so nervous because I don’t like to talk in front of groups, but the article spoke for itself!! I couldn’t have been happier with the way things turned out because the lunch ladies had been so resistant to change over the years. The saddest part was hearing the lunch lady read what they get from the commodities program – breaded pork patties, chicken nuggets, chicken fried steak, sausage – not one thing was healthy, and that’s without even getting into where the meat comes from that is in the food. We’ve got a long way to go, with little help from the government!!

    • Jill November 20, 2011, 5:38 pm

      Hi Kim,
      Thanks so much for sharing your story. It sounds like you had a great start! Keep forging ahead and hopefully some of the other moms will support you. You are a great mom for doing this!

  • Kgwaite November 20, 2011, 5:59 pm

    This is so frustrating.  Just heard that local public schools have 1.30 to spend on each child’s school lunch.  When we start paying the trust cost of food, our nutrition will improve.

  • Becca November 22, 2011, 4:56 pm

    I understand your frustration with the low quality of school lunches and the influence of the unhealthy-food purveyors, but I can’t agree that the regulations originally proposed are “totally misguided.”  They aren’t enough to fix the mess, but they would be a start!  Potatoes should be eaten only in moderation, not every day and certainly not fried in rancid oil–any change that replaces some potatoes with other vegs (which usually aren’t fried) is an improvement.  Whole grains are healthier than refined grains.  And while we do need some salt, we do not need anything like the absurd amount of salt that is in many of the meat products, potatoes, canned vegs, soups, salad dressings, and ketchup served in school lunches.  Salt may not have any connection to obesity, but excess salt harms the heart, brain, kidneys, and bones.  Most children eating school lunches are getting too much sodium already from the meals they eat at home.

    As for low-fat milk: When you’re starting with healthy milk, it may be better to leave it alone than to remove anything.  But the milk served in schools is the lowest quality of milk allowed for human consumption, loaded with pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and environmental pollutants, all of which concentrate in the fat–so as long as they’re serving that kind of milk, it may be safer to reduce the fat so as to reduce the toxins.

    My bigger concern with milk is that most schools offer sweetened, flavored, artificially colored milk, and most kids choose that over plain milk.  There is nothing healthy about artificial coloring or the white sugar and/or corn syrup used to sweeten.  Schools should offer a choice of plain milk or WATER.

    My son is in first grade.  He brings his lunch.  The school lunch is not only nutritionally horrifying but also prepared at a central facility for the school district, packed in polystyrene foam trays with PVC overwrap, and then REHEATED IN THOSE TRAYS which leach carcinogens and endocrine disruptors into the food!  There is a lot of activism at his school trying to improve the lunches, but since it’s a federal program (with very few of the important decisions made locally) it is difficult.  I am grateful that the school has an Edible Schoolyard gardening program and sensible restrictions on what is a “healthy snack” for kindergarten and first grade where families take turns providing the afternoon snack.

  • Jill November 22, 2011, 7:26 pm

    I guess there is always something to be grateful for. But for children whose parents are not savvy about real food, the small fixes in the original proposal would not do anything towards alleviating the obesity problem.

    I do agree that the low fat milk is a huge problem especially with all the flavorings added. This will not change and only makes matters worse.

  • Dana November 23, 2011, 6:49 pm

    I watched a documentary (maybe even 60 minutes) on a school that was for the trouble kids (kicked out of conventional schools. They took the kids and gave them home cooked meals for lunch (real food) and took out the soda and junk food machines. There was an amazing change in the kids’ attitudes! All this junk they feed the kids in schools is not good for brain development. They wonder why so many kids have ADD and ADHD. I know if my daughter gets refined sugar or red dye she looks just like an average ADHD kid.

    • Jill November 23, 2011, 7:31 pm

      Hi Dana,
      Yes I heard about that school. I think it is in Appleton Wisconsin. I have to look in to that further…

  • MomsSundayCafe November 29, 2011, 1:02 am

    School lunches need a drastic overhaul, thanks for sharing with the Hearth and Soul hop.

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