Did you know that this week is National School Lunch Week?
I came across an interesting book at our public library the other day. It combines my interests in school, blogging, and healthier eating. Fed Up with Lunch is a grassroots expose of school lunches - grassroots as in, written by a teacher! Which, in my opinion, was a pretty gutsy move on her part!
Sara Wu, aka Mrs. Q, started noticing how sluggish many of her students were in the afternoon. After she forgot her lunch at home one day and resorted to eating a school lunch, she started to wonder about the connection. She made a decision to eat a school lunch every day for a year and to blog about it. The blog developed a following and a lot of attention from celebs like Jamie Oliver, and the final result was this book.
A quote that summarizes her mission:
"I wondered if any researchers had looked into the connection between inadequate school lunches and academic performance. And I wondered if parents and the general public knew what the schools are feeding kids. Sure, the parents might be receiving monthly menus, but the descriptive power of plain text pales in comparison to the grim reality of school food. The colorful names of the entrees put a very optimistic spin on the food-like items that the children are consuming on a daily basis."
That made me think of years ago when the food service in a district I worked in added nutritional info to the back of the monthly menu. The fiber content of the chicken nuggets was so sky-high that it confirmed what we'd long suspected - those babies were probably just wood chips held together with a little chicken!
Wu's book is loaded with interesting sidebars on topics like positive nutrition education programs, school gardens, childhood obesity, and food additives. Here's an eye-opener... according to Wu's research, food dyes are petroleum-based and all of the food dyes found in American products (and school lunches are full of them!) have been banned in Europe! Yikes!!
Although it's fact-packed, Wu's writing is also witty, with chapter titles like these: "Pizza with a Side of Paranoia", "Put a Spork in Me; I'm Done!", and "Mrs. Q goes Undercover (Like a Beef Patty Masquerading as Meatloaf)".
You've got to love a teacher who dedicates her book to "lunch ladies everywhere". Maybe your school has crossed the great divide and is already serving nutritious and appealing lunches. Whether that's true or there's still work to be done, thank a lunch lady this week and wish them "Happy School Lunch Week". After all, they're not the ones making the decisions, they're the ones out there in the trenches and getting the kids fed. Kind of like teachers in a lot of ways, actually, don't you think?
Here's a free and easy way to give an extra thanks to the lunch ladies this week. Have your students choose and complete one of these writing ideas, and bind them up into a little book or put in a specially kid-decorated envelope to present as a thank you!
Do you have a favorite school lunch that you remember from growing up? What do you think of the lunches served now as compared to that lunch?