School Lunches Just Got A Whole Lot Healthier

By: Ashley Bode

Last week, school lunches made great strides toward becoming more healthful. The USDA announced new guidelines for subsidized school lunches, showing the first changes to the program in over 15 years, changes that have become part of The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The Act is a piece of legislation that allows the USDA to improve lunch and breakfast programs for school children through nutrition and a hunger safety net, a first in over 30 years.

Mark Bittman chronicles the pros and cons in his opinion piece for the New York Times, continually providing readers with an educated discussion on the way food systems operate in the US.  He is quick to note that the new rules, which lessen the importance of protein-centric meals and increase fruit and veggie portions, are less than perfect, but also are the biggest step made toward a nutritional based program for children in desperate need.  They are, of course, one in a series of food-related policies suggested or promised by Obama, and one of the few to find somewhat success. While these steps are significant and admirable to those concerned about nutritional welfare and childhood obesity, critics will point out that there is still progress to be made.

Comparable to other hot-topic issues like healthcare and finance reform, lobbyists still have a firm grip on what passes through the doors of Congress. So often it is the case that lobbyists alter the way legislature is passed, finding reason for amending original policy to benefit themselves instead of the greater good. In the case of childhood obesity and public nutrition, there should be no argument. It is common sense to want every generation to have a better quality of life, a product of eating right. Nutrition is defined by the principles of science, facts that can't be argued.

There is obviously, no telling what kind of nutrition children receive outside of school and one would hope that parents do their best to keep the diets of their young ones balanced and vitamin enriched, but reality is that this is not always the case. While some parents may be blissfully unaware they are failing to provide an adequate foundation, there are others that lack the resources to make every meal the best it could be. As many parents also lack the skills to teach topics like science and mathematics and rely on specialized teachers to educate, nutrition should be no different, beginning with the meals kids are given when outside the home. Learning the importance of health and wellness should be just as important as studying the ins and outs of the constitution or proper grammar.

It should be easier to communicate to children and adults the importance of healthful living, much simpler than the verbiage bureaucracy and food factories have created. For now, let's be thankful for what has been accomplished and hope that this is merely a stepping stone to awareness.

Photo: Bread for the World

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