Saturday, September 01, 2012

Lead a horse to water…

I’m a big fan of the Obamas, both Barack and Michelle.  I think they have brought a dignity to the White House that hasn’t been seen in decades.  (You may not agree with his policies, but you have to admit there have been a lot fewer embarrassing blunders than the last few presidents.)

And I wholeheartedly support Michelle’s campaign to have school lunches offer more healthy options for my students.  But, as often happens in education, the people who make the implementation protocols have little, if any, knowledge of how things work when you are dealing with hundreds of teenagers.

“You can lead a teenager to healthy food, but you can’t make ‘em eat it.” - Old English proverb, tweaked to fit this post.

Our lunch ladies are required to make each and every student take 2 servings of fruits or vegetables along with their entrée.  The students are not allowed to leave the line without them, and if even one does when we’re being audited, the school is fined the entire amount of our Federal Lunch Program funding for that day.

Sounds good?  Yeah.  Every student getting two servings of fruits and vegetables at lunch.  Theoretically, and excellent idea.

Can anyone guess what’s really happening in lunchrooms across America? (Other than me eating a lot more produce at lunch, because I like that kind of stuff.)

G’head, think about it.  I’ll wait. … … … … … … … …

Yup.  Our trash bins are filled with discarded fruits and vegetables.  And since fresh produce is more expensive, the serving size of the entrées is smaller.  This I know to be true, because I often do lunch duty and am down there in the lunchroom watching it all happen.

What I suspect is also happening is that the students are spending more money at the vending machines, eating food that is less nutritious than the entrée they had for lunch.  And I’d bet that high school students are going to the nearest fast food restaurant for lunch.

So, since every good bitching deserves a reasonable alternative, here are my suggestions:

  • Have all those great fruits and vegetables available to the students, but don’t force them to take what they are just going to throw away.
  • Continue to serve smaller portions of the entrée, which will make the students more inclined to choose and eat the fresh produce.  (Teens are more likely to eat something if it is their choice to take it instead of having it forced on them.)
  • Use the money you’ll save by ordering less produce to make more nutritious entrées, not just go back to bigger portions.

Just a thought.


Lisa Shafer said...

Your solution is, of course, the obvious one. But it will not happen because the people who make these rules have no idea about schools. They are rather like our lovely local lawmakers who think it's a good idea to force kids to say the Pledge of Allegiance every stinkin' day. Even the most patriotic among us get tired of doing it every single day, as it makes it less and less "special" and into something to be mocked and/or ignored. Yes, I set a good example and stand immediately to say the pledge energetically, but after only 5 days, my students are whining about it.
(and they're not eating their veggies either!)

Max Sartin said...

Oh yeah. Forced patriotism is always a good thing.

Karen S. said...

Too funny! I totally agree! It is like my mother said, if you're hungry you'll eat. Eventually the peas do get eaten!
Here other reply (works good for school lunches too) When I said I didn't have a thing to wear! She always say, Then you have too many choices! There went my idea of hey a shopping trip and new clothes! :) Enjoy your Labor (free) Day Weekend!

lailani said...

I do not work in the school system, but I know at home making a teenager that does not care for veggies eat veggies is hard enough, let alone expecting him to eat them at school! I am just glad he eats! He is quite a pill when he doesn't.

I agree with your theory, too bad your theory could not be tested. The USDA has some funny rules though, so you might have to continue seeing the waste - that is sad.

Max Sartin said...

Karen - I love that response - "Well, then you must have too many choices." Great comeback.

Lailani - That's one of the worst parts about it - seeing all that good food in the trash.

Rita said...

When I was a kid in a poor southern school, we got a lot of government surplus. One was gallon cans of honey. The lunch ladies made yeast rolls by the tray and put large urns of honey on each table. When we went though the lunch line we got tablespoon size servings because the ladies were taking most of the food home. But, we could have all the rolls and honey we could eat. We also got barrels of apples but the ladies picked out all the good ones and gave us mostly rotten ones. On apple day the schoolyard was littered with rotten apples.

Rita said...

My SIL does lunch room duty and the stories she tells about the expense and waste in her school is enough to make you scream with outrage at the school system.

I personally know about it from experiences with my children an grandchildren. I have the pickiest grandson living and most of his meals end up in the trash unless he can buy ala carte which is unbelievably expensive. Since he is in high school it would be cheaper to allow him to go to the local fast food and he would not always be hungry. Since he is in high school he will no longer carry his lunch like he did in elementary school. Apparently, that gets him teased.

I do not understand the school rules about lunches here at all. He can leave campus for the fast food but he can not come to my house for his lunch and I live next door to the school and closer to the school then the fast food places.

I do have to question how many of the school administrators have ever been parents based on some of the extremely stupid things they dictate.

Alexia said...

What a bizarre rule! of course they won't eat them - unless they want to. I have to say though that most of my lovely senior students eat very healthily, and we don't seem to see the problems with eating disorders of 5/10 years ago.

Max Sartin said...

Rita - One of my biggest complaints about education is that most of the rules are made by people who haven't spent more than the occasional half hour in a school for decades. Like yours about being allowed to go to the local fast food place for lunch, but not home. They just don't get it.

Alexia - Glad to hear your kids are eating better. And I really like the idea that they are making lunches healthier, but like you said, they are not going to eat them if they don't want to, and forcing them to take the food is just going to make them want to eat it less.

Jannx said...

Hello Max. Wow, it has been a while. Ever since I bought my smartphone and tablet, I have been using my desktop computer less and less.

This is a very interesting blog entry. Oh, the stories I could post, but a couple of years ago, I decided to ... uh, ... keep the focus on myself.

Well, it is late, I need to be in bed now. Bye for now.