So I was all happy and excited that the school lunch program under the USDA law required healthier lunches, but now that I see the reality of it at my daughter’s school, I’m not so happy.
It’s great, that my daughter sees two vegetables, a fruit , a carbohydrate, protein and milk on her trays but she has started to tell me that she wants lunch from home just because it doesn’t taste good. I was joining her for lunch with my 1 year old for the majority of the time and I tasted the food on her lunch trays. How can our kids enjoy the food if it isn’t cooked correctly or not appetizing in certain ways? For example, take the green beans. I tasted it and honestly it really didn’t have any taste! It was soggy, which is understandable considering the possibility that the managers chose this type of cooking method to cater to the elementary school kids who are losing teeth. Next, consider the main entrée which is the pizza. It’s too hot for her to bite into, so she waits and tries the other foods on her plate. She then takes two more bites of the pizza and stops. I taste it to see why she has stopped and I see it is not very appetizing. Also now time is up.
I also went through the tray line with my daughter, and I noticed that the food service workers seemed quite tired, disgruntled and rather unapproachable. When my daughter reached out to pick her fruit, her favorite fruit banana was taken up by the child in front of her. She asked for a banana, but the food service worker said nothing and merely pointed to the fruits that were left. Knowing that my child is very picky about her foods due to her sensory issues, my heart was saddened but I did encourage her to take what was there even though I knew she wouldn’t eat it.
When I got back home that day I recalled my college years when I worked in the food service industry. I recall working 8 hour shifts and feeling tired by the end of the day. I remember thinking “I wish I was paid more for the amount of work that goes into this job.” Then I remember telling myself what an easy job it is. My coworkers would chant “mucho travajo poquito dinero!” meaning “lots of work and little money!” Haha so true!
So I began to think , if the USDA has made such positive changes to change the food trays and to make them healthier, what if they could also increase the wages of the food service workers in the industry? Wouldn’t that make a difference? Wouldn’t training at all levels make a difference aswell? I definitely think it would. A person would be happier at their job and probably pay more attention to how the food that is served to all the children is cooked. Paying attention to the small details in food such as temperature, display, size, color makes a big difference in it being appealing to a human being. I do see the school’s food service manager always having a smile on her face and encouraging the kids to try the “harvest of the month.” I’m sure this is one of the school’s nutrition/healthy eating initiatives, which is great as I see a harvest of the month newsletter sent home as well.
To add to my thoughts, when I did my internship at the Head Start program in Chicago, I really enjoyed my time there as I saw the recommendations for schools turns into reality in the classrooms and at lunch time. For example, according to consistent research, family meals were encouraged in food settings. I saw that the director had decided to implement this recommendation in her school. It was great to see the food service worker “the cook” take the meals in big bowls on a tray to each classroom, the teachers would offer a spoon from each bowl to the students, and they would accept it into their plates. That was considered the family style approach to eating. The teachers were also encouraged to eat the meals with the children in the classrooms. Another recommendation that was implemented was the teeth brushing. However, that did not do so well. The teachers had already implemented the handwashing prior to and after meal time, but to add tooth brushing after mealtime seemed to take much longer for the children to do. The teachers complained how this new job duty was not helping and was only making it harder for the 2-year-old classroom kids to fall asleep during nap time.
This reminds me that maybe all the recommendations that come from scientific research cannot be successfully implemented in society or real lives. It would take trial and error to see what works.
So back to the lunch trays. I wish the foods were more appetizing! I wish they were served at the right temperature! I wish the school lunchtime was longer! I wish the little ones had just a little more time as a lot of time goes into standing in the tray line, opening up the bottles, utensils and so forth.
I know I’m not the only one who thinks along these lines! An additional link on this topic: