Take Your Parents to Lunch Day Oct. 17
If you’re the parent of school-age kids, you’ve no doubt heard by now about higher nutrition standards in school lunches that took effect at the beginning of this school year. Now’s your chance to find out just what’s happening in your local school cafeteria: Wednesday October 17 is National “Take Your Parents to Lunch” Day at schools across the U.S.A. In fact, it’s National School Lunch Week all this week.
You can check out the details on the official website at the link above, where you can also download tools that will give you background information for talking to your school lunch program managers when you stop by the school. (Make sure to check with your school first, because your school may be inviting parents on a different date – or may not yet be on board, in which case you can be the one to help plan for next year!)
As of July 1, 2012, schools must serve more fruits and vegetables, and at least half the grains served in schools must be “Whole Grain-Rich” – which is to say, they must contain 50% or more of their grain as whole grain. Because details of the grain rules were only finalized in late April, schools had to move quickly to find new products and revamp their menus, to respond with foods kids can really enjoy. Looking at school menus across the country, we see offerings such as:
Zesty Asian Chicken with brown rice (Columbia MO)
Chili crispito with wild rice and black beans (Burlington IA)
Soft whole-wheat taco, taco salad cup (Baton Rouge LA)
BBQ chicken on whole grain bun (Holyoke CO)
Whole grain spaghetti and meatballs (Houston TX)
Kim Carter, Child Nutrition Director in San Angelo, Texas, told us this week, “Our students have been very accepting of the change to whole grain products this school year. Several of our revised or new recipes use whole grain wheat flour and the kids love them, especially our whole grain sugar cookie, wheat rolls, and chocolate cake. All of our buns and sliced bread are now whole grain and our students haven’t even noticed the change. Industry has done a good job [of making new whole grain products available] and we appreciate the efforts!”
We hear from lots of hard-working school lunch professionals, all of whom are carrying out a difficult daily juggling act as they balance costs, impossibly-rushed lunch periods, picky eaters, and so many other factors. If you get rattled putting dinner on the table for just four or five people every day, think what they need to do, to serve thousands of meals five days a week!
Check out your local school this week. If you like what you see, make sure to thank the staff – and make sure they enter this year’s Whole Grains Challenge award competition for schools, before the November 1 deadline. If you have ideas for improvements, get involved. Many schools are now involved with the Farm-to-Schools movement, and are working with Chefs Move to Schools. If you believe, as we do, that educating kids about delicious and nutritious food is at least as important as reading and arithemetic, get involved! (Cynthia)