Is Your Child’s Hot Lunch A Hot Mess?


Remember your favorite hot school lunch? For me, it was a toss up.  Mashed potatoes and hamburger gravy, as the main entrée (with a side of salty, buttered dinner roll), and Hamburger Day!  I admit, I don’t recall much in the way of vegetables or fruit, but I’m sure they were represented – somewhere.  Of course,  J.E.L.L.O!

It’s not news that many are pointing at school lunch programs as part of the obesity problem which plagues America’s youth. Some estimates suggest the number of obese children in this country has more than tripled in the past 25 years. But are school lunches to blame and are they really any more ridiculous than they ever were?

I think we can agree there are many factors which drive such shocking obesity statistics. But should schools take the blame? Or should they be more diligent and effective in providing nutritious meals and snacks to children while they’re under their control?

Well, one man believes they should, and can. Jamie Oliver, the young, rough and tumble British TV chef who loves to cook ‘fresh’ and makes delectable dishes right out of his garden (that’s backyard for all you Yanks). If you can get past his chauvinistic endearments (love, honey, sweetheart), he uses when speaking to women twice his age and often in authority, you will find that he possesses an earnest desire to change the healthy eating landscape, beginning with your kids.

His new show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution , has been airing for a few weeks. I caught the first episode last night. Jamie’s quest to introduce healthy eating  to schools across America is commendable no matter how you look at it.

Last night’s episode  took Jamie into the school kitchens of West Virginia where he met with naysayer’s, bureaucracy and kids who don’t want to give up their fries. I’m not a Pollyanna, but it was a bit shocking.

Not his first adventure into good works, Jamie Oliver has been working with youth  and healthy living for several years.

If you have time check out an episode and if you’re further moved, sign his petition then tell us what you think. Can and should schools do more? Are government mandates working, or should we hand over the job to a British TV chef?


10 responses to “Is Your Child’s Hot Lunch A Hot Mess?”

  1. Heather says:

    School lunches have never been good for you. They’re not good now, and they weren’t when I was a kid. And sure, it would be better if school lunches were more healthy. But school lunch is certainly not the culprit for making kids who are 6, 8, 10 years old 20 pounds overweight.

    But if we blame it on the schools, then it’s not our fault and we don’t have to change a thing. The lack of personal responsibility in this country drives me insane.

  2. Chef Lisa says:

    As a former elementary school music teacher, I can attest to the fact that school lunches are sad. And I was teaching at a great little school in the Green Mountains, where they served real juice, homemade rolls and cookies, and a decent amount of fruit and veggies. But still, so much of the dishes were processed and battered/fried.

    There are two big obstacles to healthier food in the schools: school budgets are constantly shrinking, and making food from scratch is more expensive (and more difficult) than buying in those tater tots and chicken nuggets, when you consider the extra labor that is needed to prepare it. The second is what kids are used to eating at home. It has to start there to get anywhere. Blaming it on the schools is far too easy, and far too much of a cop out.

  3. Jaime says:

    Good luck, Jamie Oliver, with a great endeavour. Sad that it is such a struggle to find a way to feed kids well. Hardly surprising though, when there is such an uproar surrounding a proposed tax increase on sugary drinks!

  4. Cindy says:

    Hey Lis – the points you bring up were handled relatively well in the Jamie Oliver piece. It’s true, the problem is more difficult and there’s no easy solution. I think for many it’s awareness. I really wonder how many adults (parents or not), are cognizant of what’s being fed to their children every day.

  5. Cindy says:

    I missed your post, Jaime. Gee, you were first up this morning. Funny thing is, at first glance I thought, ‘Wow, Jamie Oliver is responding to my post.’


  6. Kerry says:

    Cindy, I agree that this show has really created a buzz about child nutrition, even for those without children. It’s great to hear people talking about it!

    I think economics is an important factor in the school system’s ability to provide quality nutritious food, and a parent’s ability to provide that food at home. Many families may be struggling to buy groceries for the household, and others may have the resources to buy quality plant based foods, but don’t know how to prepare them and struggle to find the time. Showing families in practical terms how they can make positive changes is important.

  7. Lisa in Jersey says:

    I haven’t seen the Jamie Oliver show but did read this dissenting opinion the other week:

    My kid’s school lunches are definitely a hot mess. They’re brought in from some outside company and heated up at school. Chicken nuggets, French toast sticks and the like. They do offer cut up veggies or applesauce as the healthy portion. :/ Once a month (last Friday) they order pizza from a local place, and on those days I send her in with her $2.50 to buy a slice of pizza and an Icy Juicy. But yeah, we pass the rest of the time. She went through a kick of wanting to try it out but she got over it and prefers the sandwiches I pack (cut out with a butterfly cookie-cutter. Aww).

    Now, the school where I used to work was a different story. They did have a lot of processed crapola, BUT they also had two full time old-timer women who were the real deal. There was a full industrial kitchen and they would actually make soups and other actual food. My absolute favorite was when they would serve roast chicken. They did this about twice a month, and EVERYONE (students and faculty alike) would order it. They brined the cut up chicken pieces in the giant steel sinks all morning and put them in to roast around the middle of third period. Mmmm… roast chicken. Sadly one of the ladies passed on about 7 years ago and the other one retired shortly after. They were replaced with the food service. 🙁

  8. love2eatinpa says:

    around here, our schools try to make things healthier by serving fresh fruits and vegetables each day and by offering skim, 1% and 2% milk options. however, unless the kids learn at home to choose/eat those things, most kids, when left to their own devices, will choose something less healthy. i think the schools really need to offer less crap so the only options are healthy ones.

  9. Cindy says:

    Your story, Lisa, mirrors what I saw in the J. Oliver episode. I realize that families can choose to make lunch for their children every day (butterfly sandwiches – you’re awesome!), but I’m not sure packing healthy lunches is the only answer. Not to over-dramatize, but it seems a little bit like giving in. “Hey, if you don’t like it, turn the channel.”

    I appreciate the sentiments of the author of the blog post you referred us to. Hey, Jamie Oliver is not an expert in the field of anything but food preparation and chef-ery and I’m not his advocate, but, I do think he shines a light on the issue, and whether you’re fat or not – it’s about eating healthy and eating well. Afer all, school is there for our education. Why should it stop in the lunchroom?

    Roast chicken…mmm.

  10. Cindy says:

    Good point, Heather. I don’t think we can pin everything on anyone. We all have to be accountable for our choices. Logic suggests school lunches were less than nutritious when we were kids (oh so many years ago), and the number of obese kids was negligible. It’s a complicated problem.

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