Changes in school lunch leaving bad taste in her mouth

My daughter attends middle school in the Elk River School District. Recently, parents received a letter regarding changes in the school lunch system. The first change is the increase in cost. A secondary school lunch is $2.50. Milk is 55 cents. There are also à la carte items available for additional cost. The biggest change are the new lunch “guidelines,” prompted from Michelle Obama. Under the new guidelines, the kids are to be offered more of a variety of fruits and vegetables, lower-sodium meals and more whole grains.

On any given day, the kids are offered choices of a main entrée, a whole grain, fruits/veggies, and two sides. They are also offered pizza every day for those who don’t like any of the main entrees. With the new program, it is mandatory that the kids take a half cup of fruit or vegetables. If they don’t take it, it is my understanding that we parents need to pay more than the $2.50 price.

Please correct me if I’m wrong. In the past, they were only “offered” the fruit/veggies, and it was up to them to make the healthy decision. So now I’m paying more money if she doesn’t take the fruit/veggies? Why? How much? Has that been explained?

I am a big advocate of healthy eating. Rarely do you see junk food or soda in my refrigerator and cupboards. I understand offering the healthy choices. The obesity problem in this country is astounding and I realize we need to do something about it. Not to mention diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

That being said, I am not sure “making” the kids take a veggie/fruit cup every day is the answer. Over half the kids won’t eat it. Just yesterday my daughter came home and told me there were several uneaten apples on top of the garbage in the lunchroom. So now we have more food in the garbage than we had before. Making the parents pay more must be an offset for the waste of food there will be.

I checked out the choices of main entrées offered by the school district. They do leave a lot to be desired. The nutrition facts I took right from the district website are far from “nutritious.” I did not see any low-sodium choices at all.

Say my child picks the following for lunch: grilled cheese sandwich, half cup of tater tots, half cup green beans, half cup of fruit, bread and milk. Total nutritional facts for this meal are 715 calories, 2,010 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of fat. Unfortunately, sugar content and nutritional value of the bread was not posted. Just one slice of the ever-popular pepperoni pizza is 350 calories, 780 milligrams of sodium and 23 grams of fat. Just the pizza, not including sides.

Sodium/salt is one of the main contributors to stroke, high blood pressure and heart disease. The Institute of Medicine recommends children ages 9–17 have a maximum of 1,500 milligrams a day. By eating hot lunch on any given day, my daughter would be well over her daily sodium intake just eating this one meal.

High sodium intake should be offset by high water intake. A person should drink eight cups of water during the day. I have been told that the water in the drinking fountains at school is orange and “gross,” and that the kids don’t take showers after gym because the water comes out brown. Water is for sale in the cafeteria at $1.25 a bottle, but some teachers frown upon having water in the classroom. To top it all off, the kids are supposed to get 30 minutes to eat their lunch. The lines are so long that by the time they sit down to eat, they have 10 minutes to gobble up their food. One day, a friend didn’t even have time to eat.

I am not saying I have answers to any of these issues, I just wanted to point out some eye-opening facts to other parents who may not be aware of what their children are eating. I, for one, will be sending more lunches from home. — Sheila Skogen, Elk River

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