How healthy is school lunch? Depends on who you ask

School bells are ringing. School clothes are purchased, pencils are sharpened. And parents are rioting about school lunch.

That’s right. In addition to the stress related to preparing for the first days of school, parents are getting up in arms about school lunch reforms that were supposed to make lunches healthier.

So let’s blame it on the milk. Milk is a beneficial part of a young person’s diet. It helps grow bones and provides other important nutrients. But lately milk has lost its cool factor. More and more people are being diagnosed lactose intolerant and drinking a big glass of milk has gone out of fashion when compared to sugary sodas. So to convince kids to drink milk, schools tried to make them exactly like sugary soda. Enter in flavored milk. The sugar count is so high that many parents are arguing that is negates the benefits of drinking the milk in the first place.

School lunch has been under fire for years. First Lady Michelle Obama is heading a campaign to fight childhood obesity, and many believe that school lunch is to blame.

Simply, students are given a tray to fill with food. They are given one option for the meal of the day, and then they may choose to add on sides like vegetables and desserts. This is a pretty standard set up for most elementary schools.

But this set up has schools and parents at odds. Schools say that set up helps eliminate waste. Children are encourage to only take what they will eat, so it gives them options on what they want to take. Parents, on the other hand, feel like children will opt to not take vegetables and fill up on dessert, putting a deficit into their diet.

So who does the blame and responsibility go to? Is it the parent’s responsibility to teach their children how to eat healthy on the long term, or is it the school’s responsibility to find innovative ways to convince kids to eat their veggies. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that it is a combination of both. Studies have shown that kids will eat what their parents eat. They follow by example. But if they are constantly taught to eat their greens but mom and dad refuse to, they will follow those actions. Simple, actions speak louder than words.

One editorial article I read had an interesting suggestion. The author suggested to follow other school’s example. Some schools have deviated from the lunch first then recess model by having recess first. Basically, those students would wear themselves out at recess and then eat. And the results were startling. Those pooped out kids were eating more fruits and veggies but only taking what they wanted. To top it off with a cherry: there were fewer behavior problems.

Win-win, right? Better food and less waste? Parents should love that. Things parents hate: food waste, dirty socks, overpaying on health insurance. This seems like a solution worth trying.