School cafeterias. Not one of our fondest memories from grade school. From the dried up tator tots to the lumpy mashed potatoes, school lunches need as much of a makeover as many of the country’s public education school districts.
In recent years, school lunches have been under the radar screen for their nutrition content. And after evaluations, many school lunch programs have received failing report card grades. One teacher from Illinois, who mysteriously calls herself, “Mrs Q,” has pledged to eating a school lunch every day for the entire 2010 school year, just like the students she teaches. And she is posting it on her blog, Fed Up with School Lunch.
Her novel idea has inspired scores of other teachers across the country to take part in the pledge. Their mission is to twofold: To experience first-hand the effects of eating greasy cheeseburgers, nachos dredged in processed cheese and syrupy fruit cocktail and most importantly, to raise awareness for the quality of American school lunches.
Reviews of school lunches have shown them to have sky-high sodium levels, more than the recommended amounts of fat grams, and they are also void of fiber, vitamins and minerals. In fact, a USA Today investigation found that fast-food meat meets higher safety and quality standards than much of the meat that is used in the National School Lunch Program.
Fed Up with School Lunch creator expresses a sentiment that so many other nutrition advocates have voiced. Namely, how can you focus in class after being served a meal packed with salt, sugar and fat?
Her salient question leaves few to wonder why the national average education levels fall far below than those of other countries, many of which don’t have access to the food resources we take for granted. There are other contributing factors to the nation’s education crisis, but nutrition or rather lack of good nutrition, must factor into that intricate equation.
But there is hope. From Mrs. Q to Chef Ann Cooper, the director of nutrition services for the Berkeley Unified School District, who works to transform cafeterias into culinary classrooms for students, awareness over the quality of school lunches is being raised. Let’s just hope the bar starts to lift as well.