It’s no secret that I love eating delicious food – at restaurants, at friends’ houses, or at home with my family. A few weeks ago, I had lunch at a place I hadn’t been to in years … actually decades. An elementary school cafeteria. I had lunch with my youngest son and got an eye-full as to what the school lunchtime experience is for many kids. My son and his classmates had 10-12 minutes to eat their lunches before getting outside to run around the playground. Most of the kids at the table followed the adage “life is uncertain, eat dessert first” and gobbled their cookies before eating anything else in their lunches. Few kids had much protein or fruit or veg in their lunches or if they did, they didn’t eat it; and many lunches had an abundance of sugar and empty calories. And then, lickity-split, the kids were out the door to squeeze in some playtime before the bell.
Our country has been abuzz recently about school lunch nutrition. In December, school lunch nutrition standards were raised for the first time in 15 years, requiring more fruits, veggies, and whole grains in school lunches and reducing sodium, trans-fat, and starchy vegetables. I thought this before/after infographic from the White House was handy in understanding how the proposed changes would impact school lunches. I also read that some healthy food advocates, like Marion Nestle, think the new standards aren’t perfect but could be a step in the right direction.After my school lunch experience, I was really excited to read about the change in the air at Seattle Public Schools. Seattle’s new-ish Nutrition Director Eric Boutin worked in the nearby school district of Auburn where he led a movement to bring local wholesome food into school lunches. He’s now in Seattle and working to revamp both the composition of lunches (locally sourced, whole foods) and figure out how schools can effectively source and prepare local foods for lunch. Recently Seattle Public Schools became a recipient of a grant, which will pair chefs and operations managers from Tom Douglas’s restaurants with school cooks in order to help retrain school lunch program staff to source and prepare fresh foods. I love it!
So the only downside to this lunchtime story is that my poor son no longer gets dessert in his lunches — he has not invited me back. But maybe I can wrangle an invite once the schools finish their lunch program revamp.