When parents stand in the way of better school food

by Christina on June 8, 2010

I’m a journalist, which means I balk at reporting anything before I can suss it out. So I was going to post about this after I’d attended a meeting planned for tonight and talked to more of the people involved and done all those other reporter sorts of things. And I still will. But in the meantime, the parent-blogger-food activist part of me wants to speak. So I’m sharing what I know so far:

A school where I live has managed to fight the tide and introduce healthier lunch options, things like grilled-chicken wraps, bean and cheese burritos, whole-wheat pasta and pita pizzas. There are more whole grains, more fresh fruits and vegetables, and the school encourages kids and parents to submit healthful recipes to be prepared by the food-service folks. Progress, right?

Except now a group of parents (though no one knows just how many) has started a campaign to bring the old food back. 

They call themselves “Traditional Lunch Choices,” or “TLC” for short. (If that’s not irony, I don’t know what is. When did “chicken nugget” become a traditional food?) The crux of their argument is this: Their kids don’t like the new food, so they’re not eating it, so they’re coming home hungry.

And since the old food meets USDA nutritional guidelines and already excludes trans fats and includes some whole grains, well, that’s good enough. If the school wants to offer “healthier choices” (their words, not mine), that’s fine, so long as the “traditional choices” are offered, too. Because, the group claims, schools are responsible for providing the food, but not for dictating what that food is.

I get the part about hungry kids. That stinks. And hungry kids don’t learn. So if these kids really aren’t eating, something needs to be done about that. But how much of that is a self-fulfilling prophecy? The group is basing its claims in part on a small survey of kids and on comments from parents, including this one: “My little girl is only in kindergarten right now. She will be eating lunch at school next September, and I know she will not like anything on the ‘newer’ menu.”

This little girl doesn’t even eat in the cafeteria yet, and yet this parent already knows she won’t like the food. 

But, OK, let’s say some of the kids really aren’t eating the food. Does that mean you go back to pumping kids full of sugar, artificial colors and other additives that have no place in developing bodies? Food with very few nutrients (despite the USDA’s definition of “nutrition”)? Food that in no way is helping them learn, and in all likelihood is hindering it? 

No, it means you visit the lunchroom and see what and how your kid is eating. You encourage him or her to try new things. You don’t talk bad about the new food. You take advantage of the opportunity to submit some recipes you think your kid will like. You work with the school to do what’s in the best interest of your child.

And you realize that while you may have a different opinion, your opinion is not fact. And the fact is that our kids are dying young and developing horrible diseases because of the way we feed them. And if you can do anything — anything at all — to prevent that, why wouldn’t you?

Here’s the group’s website so you can see the argument for yourself. But because these things have a way of disappearing from the web, I’m also sharing some excerpts below (capitalization and punctuation as is):

“The school districts’ responsibility regarding food, is to meet the nutritional USDA guidelines that are set for schools. Beyond that, we should also expect that the district would not allow vending machines to sell soda and candy. After that, the school’s job is to TEACH READING, WRITING, MATH, and other academic fundamentals! THAT is what school is for!”

“Our elementary school has 1st – 5th graders. Ages range from about 6 – 11 years old. They are young children and some are more PICKY when it comes to eating than others. Also, families have varied tastes and choices when it comes to the foods we serve at home; we are all very DIFFERENT and like DIFFERENT things.”

“ADDING healthier choices to the menu is a great idea as long as the hot traditional choices are offered as well!”

What do you think about all of this?

For an eye-opening inside view of school food and those USDA guidelines, check out this article by school-food consultant Kate Adamick. And this one by journalist and food activist Ed Bruske, who guest-posted today over at Fed Up With Lunch, where anonymous teacher Mrs. Q blogs about eating school lunch every day. Also see my post about the school-food movie “Two Angry Moms.”

Update on June 9: Based on changes made to the TLC website this morning, it’s pretty clear the TLC folks were at the meeting last night, but they didn’t reveal themselves even when asked. On the website, they’ve now added objections to the school buying fresh food and to teachers offering food and nutrition education in the classroom (two topics discussed last night). I’ve contacted the TLC folks to see if they’d like to add anything here.

Update on June 11: The TLC website has been edited down to just a few paragraphs. Not sure what that means. I’ve also been e-mailing back and forth with someone (still anonymous) who replied to the e-mail I sent. She has declined to comment. (Everyone at that meeting, except for one principal, was a woman, so I don’t think I’m stretching to use “she.”) But she did share some e-mails that TLC has received privately. They’re nasty, which is unfortunate. I’m grateful the discussion here has remained (mostly) civil and thoughtful.

This post is linked into Fight Back Fridays, Food Revolution Fridays and Vegetarian Foodie Fridays.

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{ 157 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dr. Susan Rubin June 8, 2010 at 1:55 pm

This is INSANE! These parents haven’t a CLUE as to what they are doing to their kids by allowing them to eat such crappy packaged, processed foodlike substances!

I have to ask, is this school district self operated or is there a food service management company running the show?
I’ve seen ignorant parents in my 14 years of school food advocacy, this group takes the cake!

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2 Judy June 8, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Sigh – I am so glad you are coming tonight. :) These people have made their picky eaters, and now we’re supposed to cater (literally) to them. They want their old menu back, and I want the menu to move forward. I just don’t understand them. More ironic to me is their use of the idea of TLC – tender loving care isn’t brown processed breaded food, it’s teaching your child to make smart choices, to enjoy a variety of healthful foods… I could go on, but I have to save it for tonight.

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3 Sandra June 9, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Judy makes a point I wanted to bring out: These parents have *made* their picky eaters. They can be taught otherwise.

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4 Christina June 9, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Since the topic of picky eaters has been a recurring theme, I wanted to point interested folks to an earlier post in which I make the case for banning the phrase “picky eater” and giving kids credit for being able to eat a broad variety of foods.

Let me note, too, that I’m not talking about kids with allergies or sensory issues or other serious conditions that make feeding truly difficult.

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5 Judy June 8, 2010 at 1:57 pm

This is a local school district with its own food services staff.

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6 Dr. Susan Rubin June 8, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Who are these parents? Are they in poor physical shape themselves?
I can tell you that they’ll be the ones giving their kids alcohol in high school. Obviously they have a poor Food IQ and let their kids run the show.

Best advice: GET THE INGREDIENTS of the popcorn chicken and the fluffy buns. I’m happy to help you break them down and make a health based argument. If I didn’t live 5+ hours away from Rochester, I’d drive up there and give them an education!

do you have any school nurses or teachers as allies?

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7 Christina June 8, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Judy, in case you don’t know, Susan is one of the “Two Angry Moms” in the movie. (Susan, they’re showing excerpts from the movie at the meeting tonight.)

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8 Alyson June 8, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Wow. That’s heartbreaking. Literally makes me feel sick reading it…those poor kids. If the kids won’t eat the healthy choices and want their nasty pizza and nuggets, I don’t guess the parents could look inward at the home environment they’ve created that fosters that choice, huh?

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9 Judy June 8, 2010 at 2:10 pm

We have a Fine Dining Committee, and it’s made up mostly teachers and yes, the school nurse, who is extremely knowledgeable and supportive. I don’t know these parents – I am new to the committee (this school year – I have a first grader) and no one will tell me who they are. Even if they are in decent physical shape themselves, we’re talking about a broad societal issue, not them or their little Johnny specifically (that is how I look at it).

I have said the same thing – if their kids asked for beer at breakfast, would they give it to them just because they preferred it? It’s the same idea. They also argue that their children need a hot lunch (which I think is wonderful when it’s hot, nutritious, homemade food!), but who wants to bet many of these kids get a cold PB&J when they are not in school?

Dr. Rubin, I sure wish you did not live five hours away, but believe me, you will be there in spirit tonight! I appreciate your encouragement.

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10 Christina June 8, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I puzzled that “hot lunch” business as well. For some reason “hot” has come to equate with “healthy,” but I’ll take a wholesome real-food sandwich over a processed hot-lunch-from-a-box any day.

My theory: “Hot lunch” is a buzzword to try to bolster their case.

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11 Judy June 8, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Hahaha, no, I did not realize that – which makes it even funnier that I said you’d be there in spirit! Thanks, Dr. Rubin, for making this film. It will be my first time viewing it, and had our committee not already offered to purchase it for the school, I would have purchased it myself for tonight’s viewing.

THANK YOU.

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12 Melissa B June 8, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Very good topic, and well presented. Thanks, Chris! What I can’t stand is that, as I hear it, this same “group” has suggested that those parents who want their kids to eat better should pack a lunch. Well, if you want your child to eat junk, why shouldn’t you be the one packing? That frees the school to at least lead by example.

All of this being said, I do think it’s an interesting look at the psychology of eating and the emotional meaning that humans relate to what they view as traditional food. Tradition, however each person defines it, can have such a powerful hold as to erase objectivity.

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13 Mark from the Marsh June 15, 2010 at 10:00 am

When watching Jamie Oliver’s special, one of the issues he had was that the “brown bag” lunches were even worse nutritionally than the “hot” lunches he was trying to get rid of at the school. He lamented that none of the kids even had a sandwich! not even PB&J. All of the Lunchables and bags of chips etc. that the kids were bringing in had zero nutrition.

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14 Christina June 15, 2010 at 10:14 am

It was crazy, wasn’t it? In Huntington, after the school changed to the new menu, some parents said their kids weren’t eating the food, so they started sending lunches instead. But, yes, those “lunches” were awful. To me, that made a very clear and important statement about the role of parents in perpetuating unhealthy food habits.

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15 Amy June 8, 2010 at 2:16 pm

The fact that the TLC group exists and makes those claims makes me want to scream. Loud. At them. While watching them eat the “food” that they think is better for their kids than the healthier alternatives and then asking them how they feel afterwards. Grrrr..I wish I could go tonight, but look forward to doing a screening in my own community.

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16 Frugal Kiwi June 8, 2010 at 2:17 pm

This reminds me of being in the grocery store the other day. My darling man picked up some budget cookies and started to put them in the basket. I stopped him, saying, “Don’t buy those, they make them in the lab, not out of food!” The school lunches I had as a child were certainly made in the lab.

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17 kristi June 8, 2010 at 2:29 pm

This is revolting, of course, but confusing as well. This group seems to equate “hot lunch” with “nutritious lunch” and obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. Since when is a “hot lunch” a necessity for students? And even if this is part of their argument (“Almost all of the Traditional hot Lunch Choices were removed. Very few hot TLC’s were left on the menu and are not offered as a choice on a regular basis.”) there are many hot items on the new school food list (whole wheat pasta, turkey dog, etc.)

This district is on the east side of the city, and is fairly affluent. I am assuming (perhaps I am wrong), that the parents are highly educated as well, which is also what makes this whole thing so surprising.

I can’t wait to hear about what goes down tonight, Chris.

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18 Christina June 8, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Sadly, being affluent and educated does not guarantee that people will have informed themselves about food. Nor does the converse apply. This is a universal problem that crosses class lines.

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19 Lauri June 8, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I’m a dietitian and mom to a child who will be entering the public school system this fall. As a professional and parent, I know that it is our responsibility to provide our kids with a variety of healthful foods throughout the day and from there, it is the child’s responsibility to decide what to eat from what is offered. This goes for school, too. If schools are going to offer up a lunch program then it is our job to see to it that they are offered the same in school. And note: kids will NOT starve. In fact, kids will eventually try new foods upon repeated offerings and discover that they LIKE them!

Second, I am really saddened to see so many parents outraged at the prospect of changing a school food menu to reflect better choices for their children. WHY would anyone be upset over offering up better school lunch fare to their kids?

I suspected that maybe the new foods being offered up were a little too “green and clean” for kids? I have a picky young one, too–I get it. So I looked at the menu preparing myself to see a selection of green smoothies, tofu, and edamame–foods that kids accustomed to nuggets and fries might really greet with an ewwww (that said, I know several 3 and 4 year olds who love that stuff). Not so! The new foods include veggie burgers, whole wheat pasta, bean and cheese burritos and turkey hot dogs. Seriously? These are the foods causing parental meltdowns?

I’m guessing there are many parents who take the change in the improved school menu personally–and that is the real cause for the uproar. I’m guessing that maybe some parents are feeding these same foods at home, too. So if the community comes together and says that the school lunch food is junk, then some parents have to deal with the fact that they are also serving up junk at home, too.

We all want the best for our kids. Lets do better by them and stop feeding them junk.

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20 Christina June 8, 2010 at 3:32 pm

“So if the community comes together and says that the school lunch food is junk, then some parents have to deal with the fact that they are also serving up junk at home, too.”

I think you nailed it.

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21 treen June 8, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Gag, gag, and GAG! They’re calling that garbage “traditional”? EWW! I like Michael Pollack’s term for it – “edible food-like substances” because it certainly isn’t FOOD!

“Picky” kids who eat only that kind of junk do it because that’s what they were trained to eat by parents who gave it to them. My kids are picky too – they turn up their noses at chicken nuggets at friends’ houses (I don’t say anything when it’s offered – just go with the flow) and go for carrot sticks and fresh fruit. It’s all what the parents start them on.

Good luck at your meeting – fight the good fight!

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22 Judy June 8, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Lauri, you said, “The new foods include veggie burgers, whole wheat pasta, bean and cheese burritos and turkey hot dogs. Seriously? These are the foods causing parental meltdowns?”

When the veggie burgers did not go over well (and it was the brand, as I believe they used a different brand later with success), the head cook at the school used them to make a veggie chili – so it’s not like the school isn’t being responsive when the majority of the children truly did not like what was offered.

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23 Lauri June 8, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Judy, I think that is great that the school is so responsive! I hope you read my post right, I think that the new foods offered are really great. I just couldn’t believe that foods like kid-friendly burritos, whole wheat pasta, and veggie burgers would seriously cause parents to so strongly oppose the new menu. It sounds like the school is doing a great job by coming up with these offerings, testing them out, and then using the kids and parents input to make changes that benefit all.

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24 Catherine June 8, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Christina suggested I post my comment here. Offering a difference of opinion. Not that I disagree with healthy school lunches — far from it. But I think there is quite of lot of judgement directed at these parents that’s not particularly helpful to advancing the cause of healthier food in schools. Rather than assuming that these parents are ignorant, uneducated, fat, unhealthy, lazy or that they clearly don’t care about their kids’ health and would likely serve them alcohol at parties, can we start by giving them the benefit of the doubt? That maybe their kids really are particularly picky. That they’ve chosen — because of some other issues and outside pressures that may be more pressing to them and their kids — that letting their kids eat chicken nuggets is not the worst thing they can do. That chicken nuggets are better than no lunch. It’s great if you’ve got a great diet and kids who eat well, and, frankly, the time to devote to this cause, but not everyone is in your particular situation. I’m I don’t think there’s a lot of scientific evidence that kids who eat chicken nuggets or boxed foods will grow up to be completely unhealthy and diseased. My mother made everything homemade and for years I wouldn’t eat anything she made. I lived on chef boyardee spaghetti and jelly omelets (my dad made for me). I turned out fine. I did well in school. I’m fit and I eat well. Actually, I pretty much eat everything (except things like red meat, fast food and soda). Personally, I think it has everything to do with the fact that my parents never made a big to do about it. If you want to get more parents on board with healthy eating, maybe it would help to tone down the judgment and assumptions about other parents motivations?

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25 Christina June 8, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Thanks for this perspective. I think people get very passionate about this topic, and it can feel like we’re battling insurmountable obstacles, so to make progress and then have it undermined (no matter the reason) is extremely frustrating.

I know many of us grew up eating less-than-wholesome food, but I think we need to keep in mind a couple of things: First, the processed food today is far worse than the processed food of 20 years ago. Same with factory-farmed animal products. Second, as a society we are eating far more of this kind of food. And there’s more of it. And it’s places it didn’t used to be, including in schools. Which is why diseases like diabetes are on the rise and why science is now pointing to reduced lifespans for kids born today.

I agree wholeheartedly, though, with the importance of parents not making too big a deal about this. I do think kids need to be part of the conversation — there’s just too much crap out there masquerading as food to let them eat blindly through life — but we need to strike a balance between education and obsession. That’s what we strive for with our daughter, and we’ve seen it pay off.

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26 Sandra June 9, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Yes many of us grew up on junk food and survived just fine, but the junk we survived was not as processed or genetically modified as it is now. I’ve seen a photo of my friend’s mother, 8 months pregnant, cigarette in one hand and vodka in the other. My friend is brilliant and healthy. But would we want to continue that practice?

I DO, however, agree that we should not be overly judgemental of the opposing parents. They may need more education on health and food, but we should not assume they are ineducable.

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27 Christine June 8, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I came over from Kristi’s post on facebook and just find this so disheartening. And frankly, if your child won’t eat anything but junk (even though it seems that they’re not even giving their children the option of healthier choices) the answer is for them to pack the kids a lunch. Seriously. If I had a ridiculously picky eater, I wouldn’t ask the school to make my kid white pasta with butter daily, I would pack something that Jr. could eat.

It sounds to me that the school is actually doing a great job with the school lunches. I hope that they are able to keep up the good work in the face of ignorance.

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28 Terry June 10, 2010 at 11:19 am

Finally! I keep wondering when someone will make this point. Thanks Christine.

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29 Judy June 8, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I read you post right; what I did was try to write while multitasking too much. I knew what you meant, and I agree with you – parental meltdowns over what?! I apologize for not being clear, Lauri!

And to add about the comment of education and affluence… sigh. It’s true what Christina said, it doesn’t always matter. I know some very well-educated people who feed their children truly appalling food-like substances. It sickens me and I am frightened for their children’s future.

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30 Stephanie June 8, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Remember that being highly educated doesn’t equate to having knowledge about healthy food choices. There’s a whole lot of knowledge out there to learn about and unfortunately there’s very little time spent in academia discussing what equates to healthy eating. I’ve spent a lot of time the last several years trying to educate myself and have been surpised by how little I actually knew prior. It sounds as if the parents need some education on healthy eating….

Also, I know how much of a struggle it is for schools to get in just the academic lessons needed as our kids grow, but why isn’t nutrition more of a focus…after all kids who make healthy food choices have better attention spans to learn everything else!

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31 Amy June 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm

“So if the community comes together and says that the school lunch food is junk, then some parents have to deal with the fact that they are also serving up junk at home, too.”

I agree that this just about hits the nail on the head in terms of the uproar. NO parent (myself included) likes the idea of their parenting skills being called into question and this move by the school is maybe too large of a mirror for these TLC parents to see themselves and their actions in. If an education authority deems that “food like substances” aren’t good for kids, then it’s going to make them take a look at what they’ve been serving and maybe there is some fear there.

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32 ToddA June 8, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Wow! So sad. I grew up next door in Fairport. To think that people in Penfield could be so willfully ignorant and willing to abuse the the health of their children.

I heartily agree – this calls for more education of the children. It also appears to call for education of the parents, as well!

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33 Denise June 8, 2010 at 4:54 pm

This is heart breaking! I don’t understand why these parents can’t pack a lunch for their kids if their kids don’t like what is offered. That is what I will be doing for my kids if we don’t get healthier food in my school district.

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34 justamominmesquite June 8, 2010 at 5:27 pm

From the moment you drop your kids off at school, to the moment you pick them up, the school should be educating. Period. That means that everytime they hand your kid a nugget, and teach your child it is good for them, they have compromised your child’s education. They have taught your child to make mis-informed food decisions that will last into adulthood. They are teaching your children that fruit swimming in high fructose corn syrup is healthy “‘Cause, hey! It is fruit!” Remind the board that lunchtime isn’t a free pass to stop educating. When the popcorn chicken lovers scoff at this…point to them and say “See what I mean? Look at what you have taught them about healthy food choices. They think the nugget is traditional. These people are the product of you slacking off and not educating every second you have.” Btw…food falls under “health and education”. The cafeteria itself has become a “social studies” lab. You may want to let that group know.

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35 sarah June 13, 2010 at 11:56 pm

ITA with this. Every minute a child is awake they are learning even while you make them lunch. Sorry,but I consider most of the new changes junk food also. Not that we don’t ever have a turkey dog,but it has it’s time and place. There is a huge difference to roasting a dog over a campfire or serving one for lunch every week. So while I agree this is a step in the right direction it’s not really the lesson I like to teach. When my DD used to attend school she got to buy lunch once or twice per month. All the other days she had her sammich made on fresh baked bread with home made jam, leftovers from the last nights dinner in a Thermos, yummy soups that mama made and even some crazy stuff like veggie kabobs withhummis dip. Some she liked and some she refused. Most were offered again.
BTW my dd has major sensory issues that go along with her Asperger’s. She is still offered a wide variety of homemade foods. If I let her sink into a chicken nugget and chocolate milk slump (and believe me she could live off that) I would have given into and fed her gluten and casein intolerence. I would have been making her sick. She is ona very difficult diet for a 5yo to follow- GF/CF. Her two younger sisters too who also have ASD. I applaud anyone who challenges the “new traditional” kid cusine.

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36 justamominmesquite June 8, 2010 at 5:58 pm

There is nothing *hot* about a warming tray…its merely to satisfy the four hour rule. Tell them their “baked nuggets” were previously fried during processing. They are only *baked* (aka…warmed) at school. Reheating a fried nugget is doesn’t take away the fact that it was still fried a few months ago. If that were the case, I could just reheat fast food french fries and be in the clear.

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37 justamominmesquite June 8, 2010 at 6:41 pm

One last thing @Catherine:
What parents fed their kids after school is entirely up to them. My issue is that too many parents can’t afford, nor have time to prepare super healthy meals. With that being said, too many people just don’t have the option, so that means kids are getting these foods three times a day. The schools have the chance to take that down to only once a day (by providing a healthy lunch and in many cases, breakfast)
There is vast amounts of scientific research relating to health and over processed food. Google * nitrates + nitrites + cancer * . Sodium nitrites are scientifically proven to be carcinogens. When combined, nitrites and nitrates can become carcinogens. Look at a typical lunch tray and see how many foods that day have these. Now look at the week….then the month…then the year. How many carcinogens are these kids eating daily? Look at the rise in cancer rates since the rise in over processed school lunches. They have all the information necessary for an epidemiological study…they just don’t do it.
There is a law in place called the delaney clause. Foods containing known carcinogens *like a schools extra extended hotdog* are not supposed to be served…yet this isn’t being enforced.
I’m not talking about obesity, ADD, or allergies….this is cancer. Being served. Daily.
We need to make sure kids aren’t unnecessarily eating this at school. If we could cut one or two meals out a day with these additives….the change would be vast.
And that’s just the nitrites….

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38 Pat June 8, 2010 at 7:30 pm

I have to take exception to your statement, “…too many parents can’t afford, nor have time to prepare super healthy meals.”

That is really not true. As a single mother, I raised four children on a painfully tight budget. The argument that junk food is cheaper than healthy food is nothing more than an excuse for bad eating habits. I could have bought my kids burgers, fries, and soda off the dollar menu for about $15 for all five of us. Instead, I chose to feed them fresh veggies, whole grains, and lean meats for about half as much as the dollar menu meals would have cost.

As a single parent, I *had* to give conscious thought to my shopping. I was out to get the most nutrition for my buck; I was not out to get something easy to throw on the table. This took some effort on my part, but it was not really hard despite the fact that I was working and I had four kids to help with homework, drive to activities, etc.

Having “no time” or “no money” is an excuse. Using that excuse is just plain lazy.

My kids, even as toddlers, would eat broccoli, beets, spinach — without argument. They are in their 20s now and still snack on fresh fruit and veggies. They are strong and healthy, and are not overweight. Anyone who is unwilling to make an effort to properly care for their kids should not be upset that the schools are willing to take up the slack for them, at least during school hours. They should be grateful.

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39 Christina June 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm

All of us who saw the movie “Food Inc.” saw the family who chose fast food over fresh food because, according to them, it was cheaper. But I keep hearing from people like yourself who say that’s just not true. Thanks for sharing your story.

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40 Michele Hays June 11, 2010 at 9:56 am

I’ve been working on “The Food Desert Project” on my website – creating scratch-made, healthier recipes from foods you can find at a drugstore, dollar store, or convenience store. Largely due to WIC, you’d be surprised how much better you can do than burgers and fries.

There are two other websites I can think of right now, http://povertygourmet.blogspot.com/ and http://onfoodstamps.blogspot.com/ that take on the challenge of healthy eating on a foodstamps budget. You and Pat are absolutely right, with a little education and creative thinking, anyone can beat the prices of the drive-thru dollar menu.

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41 sarah June 14, 2010 at 3:04 pm

As the blogger who maintains the poverty gourmet blog, I’d like to add my 2 cents:
I rarely, if ever, ate school lunch. My parents and I would look at the menu and if a dish appealed to me, we would mark it as a day for me to buy lunch. This probably happened twice a month, if that. I remember bringing my lunch money to the kitchen in the morning to order my lunch and seeing the cooks pulling baking sheets of fresh rolls in/out of the oven and stirring homemade tomato sauce on the stovetop. That was at the private elementary school I went to. When I started attending public school from 6-12 grade, I could see a clear difference in the quality of food. There was so much grease on the fries that it took more napkins than they provided on the cafeteria tables to even sop up half of it. Our snack bar was stocked with snack cakes and fruit drinks (not to be confused with fruit juice).

Not that the food I ate at home was much better, though. When I went vegetarian during my freshman year of high school, my mom told me two things: 1) I still had to eat seafood, and 2) she would no longer cook for me. I fed myself on veggie burgers and various frozen meals. In fact, I never knew the joy of vegetarian cuisine to its fullest degree until my junior year of college, when I lived with my friend molly, a fellow veg and foodie.

My family is not accepting of my poverty-foodie lifestyle, which is something I’ve come to terms with.

The point to all of my rambling, though, is that the joy of eating healthy, home-cooked food has to be learned. We need more positive influences out there, and it has to start at a younger age. I see so many overweight children at the school I work with eating junk food. If we feed them more produce at an early age, we can set them on the right track for the rest of their lives.

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42 Melissa B June 9, 2010 at 8:55 am

Pat, you totally rock and I commend you. You are proof that no one is “forced” to eat junk by economics or any other pressure. However, from what I’ve read, *per calorie* the junk is, in fact, cheaper. So, at the grocery store, if your only real objective is to get everyone to feel full, the junk saves money. Minor point, though.

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43 Christina June 9, 2010 at 9:29 am

You know, I’ve read that “per calorie” thing as well, but I’ve also read that while cheap food might make you feel full initially, it then takes more cheap food to keep you feeling full. Nutrient-dense real food, on the other hand, is more filling, yet in smaller quantities.

So you actually need more cheap food to feel as full as you would on less real food. Which probably wipes out the cost savings.

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44 Melissa B June 9, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Makes perfect sense!

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45 Pat June 9, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Right — my emphasis is on most nutrition per dollar, not most calories per dollar. If the goal is to get the most calories, no wonder we have an obesity epidemic!
: )

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46 Liam's Grandma June 8, 2010 at 6:46 pm

I was going to write UNBELIEVABLE, but then I remembered I live in America. It is embarrassing when you look at the health stats for other countries and what they serve in their schools compared to the United States. We are a progressive country? NO, we’re not. I take the extra time everyday to provide my family with fresh vegetables, legumes, fruits and grains. My kids, now 28 and 26, have rarely been sick throughout their lives. I now have a 2 year old grandson who I am teaching good eating to. He loves legumes, loves salads and grains. Quite honestly, he hates soda, chicken nuggets, etc., because he had a good foundation. Even for the kids who have crap offered up at home should have to eat properly in school. It is ridiculous that people put their heads in the sand and want to give their kids what they are screaming for. We are destroying a generation. Look at the childhood diabetes that reigns in this country now. I could go on and on. It is INFURIATING. Don’t give up the fight. You have a new fan at your blog.

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47 Viki June 8, 2010 at 7:03 pm

I guess I’m a food snob. No we don’t eat really expensive food, we just eat REAL food at our house.
I can’t wait to hear how this board meeting turns out and I will be thinking about you all night!

A few sentences really hit home. The picky eater theme, all kids are picky. If they are picky because of a food sensitivity or allergy that is one thing, it is a whole nother ball game if it is just something they are not used to. My oldest took her lunch to school because of allergies and sensitivities. The youngest took her lunch because her older sister took her lunch and they were serving reheated cr@p in the lunchroom by that time. If they had been serving real food, the youngest might have actually eaten school food.
I have some highly educated friends who used to feed their kids mac and cheese from the blue box while they ate Real Food. I was so upset when I found this out. I don’t care if it was what they thought their kids would eat, I thought they were short changing their children in many ways, nutritionally, intelligence, choice…look at what they were teaching them. That they weren’t good enough or old enough for Real Food. That Real food was for “big” people. I lost a lot of respect for them.
My kids of course were puzzled, they had never had mac and cheese from a box. I let them read the box in the store. They put it back on the shelf.
Another friend once told me that some people eat to live and others live to eat. Meaning, to her, that to some people it doesn’t matter what they put in their bodies as long as they are full. Then there are those of us who really care, we are the ones who live to eat. We are the ones who buy organic, plant our own tomatoes and cook dinner every night, not warm something up out of the freezer that has 60 ingred. in it that you can’t pronounce.

Oh, and my 16 yr old would Love to eat the food this school is serving!!
I asked.

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48 Amylouise August 28, 2010 at 4:10 pm

I’ve heard and said ” some people eat to live and others live to eat ” but I always took it differently. The eat to live folks (like me) eat food so that to carry on with energy and health and get on with my life, where as the live to eat are the folks who really love food, love eating and love making it, it’s why they are here. My mom lives to eat, she is always eating, reading cook books, thinking of food. I like so many things and have to remind myself to eat (“oh gosh, it’s 1 pm already, I better eat lunch, ugh”). That being said, I’m vegan and grab some nuts, fruit and a couple veggies so have energy to get back to what I’m doing. I’m trying to teach my sons the same, although my 7 mo old is a “live to eat” type, lol, he LOVES eating. Like you all, I’m glad the school is trying to improve their food, I cringe thinking about my (now 4 yr old) son fending for himself at the school cafeteria in a couple of years and planned on only packing lunches.

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49 Heather Cook June 8, 2010 at 8:57 pm

I think it’s silly that schools feed lunches at all. Maybe it’s because of where I grew up (Canada) but we only had a cafeteria from grade 10-12 and for the rest of our school lives our lunches came from home.

We make lunches for the kids every day. Food from our own kitchen. I much prefer controlling the food that goes to school with my kids. I don’t want them to have their own choice at school because even though we eat healthy at home there’s a “cool factor” to eating junk food and if offered they would eat nuggets and ketchup over apples and wraps.

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50 Cameron June 8, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I following is an email I sent to TLC…

Change sucks doesn’t it. Especially when you are swapping out a cheese burger for a chicken wrap…which isn’t that bad really. There will always be those who resist change for many reasons but if you leave the “traditional” lunch choices on the menu beside the healthy ones children are going to go for the higher calorie, high fat one every time. I know choice is key but children do not possess the ability to properly understand the future impact of their current actions. They are ruled by the moment. If there is dislike for the new food it is simply because they have little or no exposure to it. If you were talking tofu dogs and kale then you would have a case. But this is still all very kid friendly.

By teaching children young about proper choices around nutrition and making them readily available you are doing a world of good. The role of the school is to act “in loco parentis”. To act in the place of parents. They are not knowledge factories, they are places where children are nurtured socially, emotionally and cognitively. You should be thrilled that your school has gone above and beyond the give your children incredible nutritional opportunities to allow them to grow and function as effectively as possible. You are so lucky that your school even offers hot lunches. I am a teacher and in my area such a thing does not exist.

If your child will not eat anything from the health menu then send a lunch. There will always be picky eaters! It seems TLC feels that the hot lunches at your school are a right, yet it seems that it is more of an amazing privilege. I applaud your attempt to take action for what you feel is best for your child but you mentioned that it is the role of the school to teach. So I am curious how much of their energy is being used dealing with your complaints about their attempt to feed your child highly nutritious food instead of focusing on the children. The school’s focus was on the children when they set this menu now it is not.

I am unsure of the size of your school but a sampling of a dozen students, most of whom are most likely children of people who already have a negative take on the new menu, is not really compelling evidence that the entire school despises the menu. School really isn’t a democracy. If a group of parent’s didn’t feel that algebra was in their child’s best interest to learn could they then protest it and have it removed from the curriculum. Highly educated people with the best interests of the children in mind (well, except for Texas) make decisions as to how to best act “in loco parentis”. If you do not like their decisions you have every right to move your child to a private school or home school…or you could just pack a lunch and be happy that your school is one of the most progressive and child centered around.

I look forward to further developments in your plight!

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51 Christina June 8, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Thanks for sharing this e-mail. I hope you get a reply. Or perhaps someone from the TLC group will respond here?

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52 Judy June 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Cameron, what a great letter you wrote! Please do let us know if they reply. :)

I remember the part in Food, Inc. where the family said it was cheaper to buy fast food. I sure do. I believe this was one of the many segments which made me cry. This family also said they paid a fortune for diabetes meds for the father each and every month. With exercise and healthful eating, many people with diabetes type II need fewer meds, if any at all. But somehow they were convinced that it was better to buy the cheap food yet pay out a lot of money for the meds.

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53 Mrs. Q June 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm

The TLC website is pretty “low rent,” which means it’s probably one individual who is uninformed OR it’s a front for a corporation. I’m not going to get my undies in a bundle over this. If they want to have a good look at “traditional” food choices, come on over to my blog. I’ve got some great photos of processed food.

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54 Christina June 8, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Great to have the famous Mrs. Q here. For those who don’t know, Mrs. Q is a teacher in Illinois who blogs every day about the school lunch she’s eating. Fascinating reading (and pictures).

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55 Maggie June 8, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Saw your link on Mrs. Q’s blog.

Another thought, perhaps. It sounds like there is not anyone asking to remove the new choices. While I see you are passionate in your concern to be sure all children eat in the way you advocate, perhaps it is possible that students will – see the new choices, see their friends eating the new choices, give a new choice a try. Perhaps not as quick of a process as “no choice – eat it – it’s good for you” but maybe a more meaningful change in the long run.

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56 Christina June 8, 2010 at 10:56 pm

That’s an interesting idea, and normally one I would advocate, as I believe kids need to be taught to make choices for themselves. I think what bothers people here is the way the group has gone about this; for instance, the website but no meetings or conversations with other parents.

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57 Lauri June 8, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Maggie, Really good point. I thought the same thing, too. And I think allowing kids to make choices is great for giving them independence and boosting self-esteem. But then I thought, why should chemical-laden, processed food stuffs even be a choice? If anyone is familiar with Ellen Satyr, I love her books on feeding children and her philosophy on not making a big deal about food, which a few others have commented on. Her philosophy is that as parents, we decide when our kids will eat and what we will offer them…they decide what to choose from and if and how much they will eat. So I agree, let the kids choose. But lets set them up for success by giving them great choices to pick from–in this case, real food!

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58 Maggie June 9, 2010 at 7:40 am

Yes, I’m familiar with that philosophy.

I do think the issue gets a bit more complex when we’re providing food for a group. It is no longer just our family, with our choices.

It is hard to know where to draw a line between personal freedom and “for the good of everyone” sometimes.

A very interesting discussion!

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59 Elizabeth McInerney June 8, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Hi, I found that parent website very interesting. I served on the district
wellness committee in Brighton a few years ago, in an attempt to improve our school lunches. We were not sucessful for a few reasons, all outlined beautifully in Jamie Oliver’s show Food Revolution, but mostly because more people in Brighton are happy with the processed lunches in Brighton than are not. So I have envied people in the Penfield school district.

I actually feel I have something in common with these angry dissenters. They are frustrated that they cannot have access to food they want in their school cafeteria. I certainly understand that! And angry that other people with different values are controlling the show. Again, I hear ya!

Although I feel the food they want is unhealthy, I have mixed feelings about controlling access to it. We are a family of raw milk drinkers, and have been negatively affected by the general concensus that what we are consuming is unsafe. What raw milk drinkers want is free choice, exactly what these people are asking for.

But if the district gives in, and provides this choice, then all children in the school will be exposed to the processed food, not just the dissenters children. It is tough to know what to do.

I have been very frustrated lately with my own attempts to cut out food I view as junk, only to have my youngest son continuously exposed in his class, after baseball practice, at cub scouts, etc, etc. It is clear that I simply do not agree with the other parents. So lately I have just been bringing our own food everywhere.

It looks like these people are heavy into carbs. I can see why they would not like the new selection. Perhaps the solution is to find a middle ground and offer something for everyone, by finding some high carb additions for the menu (bagels with cream cheese?). It seems like the only reasonable options are to have a cafeteria that offeres something for everyone, have 2 cafeterias, or have no cafeteria.

Just some rambling thoughts….

Elizabeth Mc

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60 Christina June 8, 2010 at 11:11 pm

As I just replied to Maggie, I believe kids need to be taught to make choices for themselves, so your argument is compelling. But I think there’s a key difference between something like raw milk and processed school food.

If New York would just legalize raw milk already, then people could choose it or not. It wouldn’t affect anyone else. But if this school offers both the old and new foods, then we have to be prepared for kids to make choices based not just on taste or what they know about the quality of the food (the things they should be considering), but also based on what their friends are eating. And then that’s not really choice. That’s peer pressure.

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61 Melissa B June 9, 2010 at 11:31 am

I think it is interesting to frame it in these terms: What if the choice given to these kids was that they could either eat a sandwich or chocolate cake? No one would expect them to choose the sandwich—at least not most children, well-informed or not. I don’t think there’s much of a qualitative difference between the nutritional value of the cake compared to the fried carbs.

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62 justamominmesquite June 8, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Heeeeyyy! Easy Cameron….I’m from Texas! ;-)
@Pat….my mom was a single mom,too. Like you, she did everything possible to make sure we ate nutritious food. Fast food wasn’t an option for us growing up. She made the time and made it a priority… and as a mom today…I’m so thankful for her doing that. Your kids will be, too;-)
When I mentioned the “no money” part…I meant it literally. We have kids in our school *and district* that are so poor and hungry, that they have been caught eating out of garbage cans and off the floor AT SCHOOL. This meal at lunch really is the only one they will be getting. I can’t make their parents care/make good decisions/pack lunches/etc….but I can demand that the one meal that day counts. It has too.

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63 Pat June 9, 2010 at 2:21 pm

If this is the only solid meal they are getting, all the more reason it should be a healthy one!!

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64 Deanna June 8, 2010 at 11:06 pm

I will first confess: my preschooler has had blue box mac and cheese. She has had chicken fingers off the vile kids menus at chain restaurants. She has even had a Frosty or two, courtesy of grandma. But she knows that these foods are the exception, and she knows why. She can tell you that foods that don’t “come from the earth” aren’t healthy because there are too many chemicals in them. She would pick fruit over almost anything else to snack on. But can I be sure that she would pick the healthy options over the “traditional” food? I think so, but when I watch her slurp down the occasional birthday-party juice box without so much as raising her mouth from the straw, I wonder! I think my job is to set the expectation that she eat healthful meals for the majority of the time. It’s my responsibility (and I believe it is the school’s responsibility as well) to provide her with those healthy choices. She rarely complains about what is for dinner, but if she does, she is not offered a “kid food” alternative. Why should children be offered such an alternative at school? Some kids may resist the new school food at first, but if parents continue to support the idea that eating a healthy lunch is expected and important (and teaching why), the kids will (eventually) eat it! If a child resists other health-related expectations- like brushing teeth, getting a shot, or taking medicine – do these parents just say, “ok, you don’t have to?” without taking the time to teach about why these things are important? This is essentially the same thing. What a shamefully missed opportunity to teach kids important lessons about health and well being.

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65 Christina June 8, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Such a great point about brushing teeth and taking medicine. Reminds me of the part in the “Two Angry Moms” movie where someone says that we don’t provide unhealthy reading in schools, so why do we supply unhealthy food?

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66 Melissa B June 9, 2010 at 11:33 am

Deanna, wow. I could have written that word-for-word. We’re in exactly the same vein at our house, and I also completely second (well, third) your analogies. Thanks!

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67 Christina June 9, 2010 at 12:31 am

Just posted this update above, but wanted to also add it here for anyone getting comment notifications…

Update the evening of June 8: Not much to report, I’m afraid. If the TLC folks were at the meeting, they didn’t reveal themselves. But the parents in attendance watched excerpts of “Two Angry Moms” and discussed further improvements to their program. I’ll keep tabs on their progress, and I’ve also contacted the TLC folks to see if they’d like to add anything to the discussion. Someone updated the TLC website tonight, so it’s slightly different from when I posted the link, but mostly it’s the same. And that is that.

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68 Jenn June 9, 2010 at 1:09 am

Well, you have found another angry mom. I am a Cobbles parent, and I was at the meeting this evening. I am not responsible for the TLC website, but I am guessing from your comments that you all would put me in the ‘ignorant and poorly educated mom that is killing her kid’ camp. I have seen the TLC website, and I truly went to the meeting to simply hear from the other side – while there, I heard about the blog, and decided to check it out.

I have an Ivy League education, as well as a PhD, and I am a cancer researcher. I will be the first to tell you that I most certainly do not know it all – not about cancer, and certainly not at all about parenting or nutrition. But despite my education, I do let my daughter eat macaroni and cheese, I let her eat chicken nuggets, and I let her eat hot dogs. She is a picky eater and she is aware of this. I have made not one single demand that Cobbles cater to her pickiness – my husband and I pack her a lunch almost every day. Kudos for the menu changes to date – I applaud the offerings of healthy choices, and apparently you are all better parents than me for getting your kids to eat it. I wish that my daughter would take advantage of the new salad bar every day for lunch. We do in fact keep working on this at home, and my husband and I (along with her physician) are confident that she will outgrow her pickiness. However, you can not possibly propose that daily, fresh, all-organic lunches with only local produce is possible (I wish I could get that at work –sounds delicious), but a ‘chicken nugget’ along with it as an alternate choice isn’t. From my read, I don’t think that the TLC website is insisting on a processed nugget – last time I made ‘chicken nuggets’ at home I started with fresh chicken breast, added some light breading, and baked it up – no red dyes or anything!

And, surely, you should look a little further into the human medical literature before telling me that I am giving my child cancer when I let her eat a hot dog. While I certainly have not done a full literature review, I did not have to dig far to find some evidence that would indicate that your statement may be a little too strong. The CDC Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry website has a page on nitrates/nitrites (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/nitrate/no3literature.html). Under carcinogenicity, I found the following: ‘Epidemiological investigations and human toxicological studies have not shown an unequivocal relationship between nitrate intake and the risk of cancer (31).’ Furthermore, when I did a quick search on pubmed.com, a repository for the peer-reviewed medical literature, I found a 2009 article in which the authors conclude that their data ‘call into question the rationale for recommendations to limit nitrate and nitrite consumption from plant foods; a comprehensive reevaluation of the health effects of food sources of nitrates and nitrites is appropriate. The strength of the evidence linking the consumption of nitrate- and nitrite-containing plant foods to beneficial health effects supports the consideration of these compounds as nutrients” (Hord et al. Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiologic context for potential health benefits. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;90(1):1-10.) Now, I realize – these are just two papers from a quick search (and I am definitely not trying to advocate for daily hot dogs…), but they tell me that there may be more to the story.

I watched your movie. Step 1 was to form a committee, and get school parents engaged in the movement, right? Do you honestly think that you are going to gain my support by calling me an ignorant parent in poor physical shape that ‘made’ my picky eater, and being so bold as to assure that I will be serving my child alcohol in high school? I wish you luck, but I do think that you may want to consider modifying your approach.

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69 Christina June 9, 2010 at 9:23 am

Jenn, thanks for visiting. While some of the sentiments here have been rather strong (and I would ask people to consider that as they comment…), I hope you’ve also seen the many thoughtful comments throughout the discussion.

One thing: So far as I could tell on a re-read of all the comments, nobody here said anything about “daily, fresh, all-organic lunches with only local produce.” Perhaps you were thinking of the discussion at the meeting last night (during which that was mentioned in the ideal what-if sense)?

Also, I’m curious whether anyone knows if we are indeed talking about a chicken nugget loaded with additives or a chicken nugget prepared as Jenn describes. There are plenty of people who think chicken nuggets should be banned in any form (since they perpetuate the false idea that there is such a thing as “kid food” apart from “adult food”). But certainly fewer people would object if these were real breaded chicken and nothing else.

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70 Melissa B June 9, 2010 at 11:49 am

I agree that tone is incredibly important, and if any of what I said contributed to your anger, then I sincerely apologize.

I think the basic issue here is that it’s tough for moms who are very excited about the kind of progress being made in this school district to see others actually fight that progress. And the “resistance” in this case does seem to be coming from a source that is under-informed, at best. I think *most* of us would agree that judging other parents for their personal choices in their own home is NOT cool. But the specific topic here is community based.

From a personal perspective, I am sure it is very difficult to know how to feed a very picky eater and enough of a struggle to find your way without feeling judged. However—I hope you don’t mind me asking—what would your daughter eat if those foods you mention were unknown to her? Surely something? This is meant with sincere curiosity, not as a dig!

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71 Christine June 11, 2010 at 11:51 am

Jenn,
I apologize if my comment contributed to your anger, but (at least my) use of the term “ignorant” did not mean undereducated, but rather, I don’t see why something patently unhealthy should be a choice at school. Even if I might serve it at home. Even though the other night I served black bean burritos (and it’s just me and the husband) hey I’m not above a hot dog night or anything else.

I think you are taking the right approach. To me it seemed that the other parents were angry because their particular child wouldn’t eat the offered choice, to which I say, “then pack a lunch.” As a child who generally had a hot meal for lunch up through sixth grade at home (we lived around the block, and my mom worked at the school- we were lucky), on the days I ate in the cafeteria I wouldn’t touch the lunches they offered of strange looking meats and mushy pasta…we packed a lunch.

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72 justamominmesquite June 9, 2010 at 2:58 am

Sorry for the confusion…I was referring to processed foods containing carcinogens…not plant foods that contain them naturally…
http://www.preventcancer.com/consumers/food/hotdogs.htm
Ill post some more links to you in the morning:)

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73 Lisa Suriano June 9, 2010 at 7:06 am

While reading about this sickened me, it did not at all surprise me. I have been playing tug-of-war with healthy vs. “traditionalist” (I’m being nice here) parents for five years now. I once lost a battle to offer chocolate milk everyday instead of once a week – a sad day for me. I really just don’t get the line of thinking: We just want them to eat. Kids will get healthy foods if it is presented in the right way. If they are exposed to it – empowered, encouraged and educated.

What really bothers me here is what TLC said about education. That is the truly ignorant part of their argument! The one thing that we will all do everyday of our life is EAT. Why should we not be taught how to do that properly? It seems SO obvious to me but clearly that is not the case. That’s why we all need to continue making noise.

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74 Maggie June 9, 2010 at 7:54 am

Lisa, I think I recognize you from Mrs. Q’s blog.

Education and school food service – that’s a interesting discussion. My experience has been that the fact that students need to be served food is more of a problem for administration that anything.

Teachers are off-duty during the student’s meal/recess half hour. Supervisors must be hired. How fast can we schedule meal times? A statement from a teacher at a meeting when a community member asked if teachers remained with students at lunch – “We drop them at the door and run”…followed by laughter.

It would be wonderful if meals was considered an integral part of the school day. I do think using the meals/meal time as an educational opportunity is yet another component of the whole process. There are so many parts to this issue…the food itself (obviously), education, time/atmosphere…more I’m not thinking of right now, I’m sure.

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75 Lisa Suriano June 10, 2010 at 9:25 am

You are right! I am a HUGE Mrs. Q fan!

You are also right in that time, atmosphere and staff support are major factors in improving food and nutri ed in our schools. The entire school community needs to be behind the efforts if they are to be successful. Teachers need to be encouraging of their students to try new things and eat healthy foods. Food service staff need to be engaging with students and projecting the same encouragement.

The one thing that makes me more frustrated than parents opposing positive food changes is hearing educators and kitchen staffers be negative in front of the children. Honestly, it makes me want to bang my head against a cafeteria table! :P

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76 Christina June 9, 2010 at 9:12 am

Another update for those of you getting comment notifications…

Update on June 9: Based on changes made to the TLC website this morning, it’s pretty clear the TLC folks were at the meeting last night, but they didn’t reveal themselves even when asked. On the website, they’ve now added objections to the school buying fresh food and to teachers offering food and nutrition education in the classroom (two topics discussed last night). Still wrapping my head around those objections. I’ve also contacted the TLC folks to see if they’d like to add anything here.

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77 Judy June 9, 2010 at 9:51 am

Teachers are already teaching (mandated?!) nutrition education in the classrooms, and it can be improved. The school doesn’t need a registered dietician (not that it wouldn’t be nice, mind you) when it already has excellent resources available (teachers and Cobbles’ wonderful school nurse), and curriculum already built in to the program. Just like teachers attend courses to learn to teach new methods in math (as my daughter’s teacher did last summer), they can attend courses to more up-to-date information and methods about teaching nutrition education. And yes, this kind of education belongs in the schools.

As for offering both healthier and less healthier choices, it gets expensive to do both. The budget for school breakfasts and lunches is already small enough, and stretched far enough. Additionally, the USDA guidelines will be getting an overhaul very soon, and those other, less-healthier choices may not even be a choice soon enough.

I do not believe I called any one person ignorant (and if I did, shame on me, and I apologize), but it does seem like there is some ignorance about what’s healthful and what’s not. (Which is what the big “food” industry wants.) However, there is so much information available, so much data about the health issue facing our children, and the causes, that it really suprises me that the ignorance exists. Ignorance – the meaning – carries the connotation of duty, “A willful neglect or refusal to acquire knowledge which one may acquire and it is his duty to have.” When someone has a child, I do feel it’s his and/or her duty to learn about nourishing that child, both in body and in mind.

We have all been – and are – ignorant about *something* at some time, and we all have the opportunity to learn and grow. I think the anger many of us feel comes from the wall that seems to be thrown up, the wall that says, “No, our kids don’t need this,” or “No, the schools don’t have this responsibility,” when it seems that our kids do need it, and our schools do have it.

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78 Viki June 9, 2010 at 10:50 am

check out these playing cards to help teach children about nutrition.
http://www.foodfun4kids.com/

No I’m not involved with the company…wish I were.

I think we all have to take a step back and realize how what we say online, with out the facial expressions may sound to someone who can’t see us, and doesn’t agree with us, can “sound”. Don’t want to sound like I am above other people, I just want people to start reading and learning and stop feeding chemicals that are bad to our kids.
In the past have my kids ever eaten fast food: Yes…now: not very often.
Have they ever had a hotdog? Yes….now: neither will Eat Hotdogs, they are old enough that they know what they are made of and wont touch them or bologna or most lunch meat in general.
As Michael Pollan says: Go ahead eat “Fast Food” but make it yourself. Then you will know what is in it.
So those homemade chicken nuggets…fantastic! Baked, even better.
Lets get those on the menu at the school. Real chicken, not a nugget that is 50% chicken.

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79 Melodie June 9, 2010 at 11:49 am

I run a family childcare where I serve the kids lunch. A hot, nutritious vegetarian lunch, but I get the parents to pack snacks, so when their kids chooses not to eat something I serve them or doesn’t like it, they can fall back on their snacks. I try to enforce healthy snacks only but I don’t think a lot of parents understand that fruit loops, chewy granola bars, processed cheese smeared on crackers with a red plastic stick and dunkaroos are not healthy! I love that I can provide a healthy lunch to these kids and I love that their little bodies are obviously craving this good real food and they ask for seconds! Everyone eating the same healthy food is good for kids and the parents who don’t eat the way I do at least support what I am doing as I am quite passionate about it. I think schools need to keep it healthy – teaching kids about health is just as important as if not more important than academics. And it doesn’t have to be “taught” per se, it can be shown. These picky kids will soon start eating this food if they aren’t given a choice. It’s too bad these parents are giving their kids that excuse to go hungry to prove a very silly and unhealthy point.

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80 justamominmesquite June 9, 2010 at 1:11 pm

@ Jenn…
For some reason, your comment has been bothering me all morning. I think it’s because I don’t want you feeling like you’ve been attacked, judged, etc. That just isn’t the case. I also don’t want your school’s success to be overshadowed by personal feelings. All of these comments have been made by many people across the country…please don’t hold Christina and what she is trying to do accountable. From what I see…her goal is to help get kids *yes…even yours* on the right track that will benefit their lifetime. You guys should be working together…I’m sure she and all of the pther parents would love to help you and your family find a way to introduce picky eaters *not just your’s* to healthy foods.
Every parent that I know let’s their kids eat things like nuggets, hotdogs, etc. The point, however, is that, like you, it’s in moderation. There is nothing wrong with that. Nobody thinks they are better parents than the next! We’re in this together:-)
I didn’t mean to insinuate that everytime you gave your daughter a hotdog, you were giving her cancer. What I had intended, was that, the overprocessed *nitrate/nitrite* containing school lunches far exceeds any measure of moderation. Consider the amounts children are exposed to on a daily basis 190 days a year…at school. I am not referring to the occassional one at home. Schools and the USDA have made efforts to set minimum *nutrition* requirements…yet, they haven’t considered setting a limit on additives and foods containing possible carcinogens. Even in a small amount….it adds up over time.
You’re right…there has not been any conclusive evidence, but that’s because there hasn’t been any standards to go by, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks. The government isn’t allowed to test these things on humans and have to base things off of random studies done on rats, mice, etc. Most *inconclusive* studies on additives are inconclusive because they couldn’t gather enough evidence *due to the untimely death of the test subjects*…they can’t get long term results.
Again, nobody thinks you are a bad parent. Giving your daughter a hotdog isn’t a cancer sentence. Just keep in mind that everyone is truely and passionately worried about the long term effects of all the kids. Nobody thinks you are uneducated…. we however, have all been *mis-educated*….at some point in time. (I love what Judy says about this)…
If you want, Jenn, I would love to share with you studies that I have come across…and I would love to see your findings. Sadly, we are kept in the dark about these things…so any new info helps!
Again…please don’t pull away from the great things your school has already accomplished because of a cumulation of comments. Work with Christina…in the end…its not about you two anyways…its about your kids.

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81 Christina June 9, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Thanks, Mesquite mom. Just want to jump in and say — in case this hasn’t been clear — that this is not my daughter’s school (or even our school district). I’m just a parent and blogger trying to raise awareness.

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82 Melissa Graham June 9, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I wish that I could say that I was surprised. My son’s school went to hot lunch in January – he loves it and it’s pretty consistent with how we eat at home, healthy and varied. Only a handful of his friends buy it because their kids won’t eat it. And then they lament about how their kids will only eat buttered noodles and hot dogs. I want to ask, as I do during my healthy eating talks for organizations, who brought the noodles and hot dogs in the house in the first place? For a lot of reasons, kids are anxious to try new foods, when that fear is only reinforced, whether by picky eating parents or parents who relegate their responsibility to feed their children well, their food phobia will only continue.

When my son was two, he went through the no-green stuff phase. We kept at it, didn’t give in, and guess what? He got hungry. Just two nights ago, he was shoving his mouth with lettuce from our garden, stuffing it into his fish taco – and no that fish wasn’t fried.

I wonder when feeding your children well became optional. Indulging picky eating, is akin to pulling you kid out of school because he doesn’t like it. Stop letting the insane run the asylum.

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83 Michelle (What's Cooking) June 9, 2010 at 5:54 pm

As a former high school biology teacher, the insinuation that schools should not be teaching nutrition reminds me of people saying that evolution shouldn’t be taught there either. It’s ridiculous. What about providing information to kids and their families and then letting them make a decision from there.

My traditional classroom teaching days are over and I have owned a cooking school for children for the past 7 years. Nutrition (and sustainability) have been cornerstones for my curriculum ever since the beginning. Of course kids are wary of new foods – it takes 10-15 exposures to a new food before many kids will accept it. But if parents prevent their kids from being exposed to new foods, they will be obese before they even get the opportunity to discover that they actually enjoy fresh produce.

I should mention that I am also on a task force to change the food that is being offered in our school district – positive changes are happening…People stop me on the street to thank me for helping to get real food into the school. For many kids (over 50% are on the free and reduced lunch program), the food they get in schools is the ONLY food they get. Isn’t it up to us to be sure that they have suitable fuel to grow and learn? We plan to launch salad bars next year and I’ll be doing assemblies and tastings with all of the students so that they learn about the new ingredients and get excited. I have no doubt that it will succeed. But then again, kids RISE to the occasion. Time for parents to set their sights higher, don’t you think?

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84 Michele Hays June 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm

I’ve been writing about and advocating for better food and school lunches for some time and I will say this: parents are the ones who are driving the current lunch menus. They are the ones with the dollars, and the “most popular” lunches are the ones that are least healthy; they are the ones who are letting their kids choose to eat stuff like brunch for lunch – and that’s why it stays on the menu. The large majority of parents assume that if the school offers it, it’s appropriate and don’t look beyond that.

Ask any nutritionist – if a food doesn’t sell, it’s taken off the menu. We could revolutionize school lunch simply by organizing parents to allow their kid to eat only the healthiest meals (and could even do so without interrupting the free and reduced-price kids’ meals.)

That being said – if you look at what the parents are saying on that website: I do agree that it’s wildly inappropriate to publicly shame kids about food choices they have no control over – that seems like it would encourage eating disorders – I would hope that statement is hyperbole on the part of the website creators. Schools should have a specific policy regarding foods, and snacks, and should offer nutrition education, but they don’t have the right to police what parents pack for their own children.

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85 Christina June 9, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Just an FYI: That note on the TLC website — about teachers commenting on kids’ snacks — was added today. There was no mention of that last night, however. (And it seems the meeting would have been a good forum in which to raise that concern, no?) So I can’t attest to its accuracy. Maybe someone with firsthand knowledge can weigh in.

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86 Sandra June 9, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Just a note on the new choices: Healthy can be made unpalatable which will only hurt your cause. Our school, at the prodding of students, offers salads now, but the “lettuce” appears to be the white rib meat from iceberg lettuce only. Our school also offers veggie burgers of a brand that I eat and enjoy, but the school cooks and and keeps them heated in such a way that they are inedible. The wraps have been successful, but the chicken wraps appear to be left over, chopped-up nuggets with some lettuce added.

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87 Judy June 9, 2010 at 8:20 pm

I know of no cases at Cobbles where a child was made to feel badly about the food he or she brought, ate, discussed. I don’t know all of the staff, but I can’t believe any teacher or staff member would consider doing such a thing. I know I have witnessed lunches – both brought from home and purchased at school – which were definitely less than wholesome, but I have never and would never make a child feel badly about what they were eating. If there has been a case of this, I hope it was dealt with appropriately.

BMI is a topic brought up to parents (if it’s brought up to the students, it must be with older children, as it’s never been discussed with my 1st grader) because the school requires physicals every other year, and most (all?) physicians indicate the BMI right on the physical form. (This could even be a state law, I don’t know.)

Like their deal with the need for a hot lunch, I believe that it’s just something to add to the website, just another roadblock. The group (however small) seems willing to add one roadblock after another to their webpage, but they won’t even introduce themselves at a meeting (it is known that at least one member was there last night, and the group has been invited to Fine Dining Commitees previously and has chosen not to attend). This is how it feels, anyway. It’s hard to work with someone/a group when you can’t sit down and have an honest conversation and find what you CAN agree on and how you CAN work together, and agree that, despite difference, we all love our kids.

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88 Christina June 11, 2010 at 9:05 am

This troubles me, too. Shaming/criticizing children is a serious claim to make, so if this group truly believed this was a problem, then the meeting the other night would have been the perfect place to bring that up. Not only were other parents there, but also two principals, a school nurse and a phys-ed teacher. If that’s not an audience, I don’t know what is. Really, the anonymity is puzzling. How effective can you be if no one knows who you are?

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89 Timmay June 10, 2010 at 11:08 am

What ever happened to “you’re not leaving the table until you finish those vegetables” I mean come on… Parents need to quit pandering to kids, get a backbone and practice some good old fashioned discipline!!

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90 H.P. McKay June 10, 2010 at 9:46 pm

It’s that easy is it? Consider yourself fortunate that you have never dealt with a TRUE picky eater! I can tell you from first-hand experience that “waiting them out” doesn’t work with everyone… Given the choice of eating something unappealing or not eating they will choose not eating. I believe my personal record as a kid was somewhere between 3-5 hours sitting at the kitchen table (till well past bed-time) being “force-fed” one piece of corn at a time and violently gagging on each and every piece.

I know, I know, I was just a stubborn kid who would eventually grow out of it right? Uh, nope. Went to college and the meal plan was “you eat what we offer tonight or you don’t eat”. You know how they talk about the “freshman +15″? Well how about the “freshman -25″? I went from a healthy 5’8″ & 155lbs down to 130 in approx 3 months! When I came home for the holidays my mother said I looked like I was just released from a concentration camp.

I’m now on the “wrong side” of 40 and I STILL won’t eat veggies or seafood and my weight is within 7 pounds of what it was when I first left for college at age 18.

I have no objection to ADDING more healthy choices to school menus. I’m all for it. However, I find it incredibly distateful (no pun intended) when “food nazis” command that only the foods that they deem appropriate can be served and any parent who doesn’t agree with them is ignorant or a bad parent. If you don’t want your kids eating certain foods on the menu that you deem unhealthy then tell your kids not to order them for lunch. After all, all YOU need to do is “get a backbone and practice some good old fashioned discipline!!” with them. Or perhaps when the shoe is on the other foot it’s not so simple?

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91 Christina June 11, 2010 at 9:33 am

I think it’s important to recognize that the changes made at this school are hardly radical. Just as there are people at one end of the spectrum who would rather have the nuggets back, there are other people at the opposite end who see these changes as positive but still not in line with their beliefs about what’s healthful. In each case, those parents can choose to pack lunches for their own children.

But for most people, these changes are not extreme. Not in the least. We’re talking about good, basic nutrition (whole grains, more fruits and veggies), and getting rid of dangerous ingredients (trans fats, high-fructose corn syryp, food dyes). That’s the sort of thing people should be happy about, you know?

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92 Christina June 11, 2010 at 9:09 am

Well, “sit there until you finish your food” kind of went out the window with corporal punishment… Seriously, there’s good evidence now that force-feeding kids is not an effective way to teach healthy habits, and in fact may have the opposite effect, creating food aversions that last into adulthood.

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93 justamominmesquite June 10, 2010 at 12:59 pm

I just wanted to share this link with you guys. It was sent to me from an aramark school consultant in defense of marketing food to children and *the infamous picky eater* (I don’t think he sees the difference between this company’s mission and aramark’s cool*caf). Regardless…I just wanted to share with you guys because they are branching out in your area, I think….(you may have already seen this?)

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1982347,00.html

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94 justamominmesquite June 11, 2010 at 2:10 am

@H.P. McKay….
I just want to start with *I do not mean anything offensive with what I’m about to say*…..have you checked out this website…
http://www.pickyeatingadults.com/
I had actually seen some show on pbs about really picky eaters…*there is actually a gene in some people that makes them unable to handle certain foods* …because of your age and you never grew out of it…maybe its your genes….and not so much that you’re just being picky??

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95 H.P. McKay June 11, 2010 at 10:47 pm

I’ve already babbled so much, but I just couldn’t not respond. Not an ounce of offense taken :) The sight was interesting. And I totally know where they are coming from. I know I’m a picky eater. I genuinely wish I weren’t. My life would be easier in SOOO many ways. Unfortunately, many many foods completely disgust/revolt me. Sometimes I wish I could make myself eat stuff, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. What’s so frustrating is that so many people just don’t get it. It’s like they think it’s as simple as Green Eggs and Ham.

And for the record, my father didn’t eat ice cream till he was in his teens and he didn’t eat pizza or lobster until his mid-50s. There may be something to the genetic argument. I myself have never had an issue with ice cream (although I wouldn’t eat any kind of cake until I was around 7 – see, it’s not just healthy food I had issues with) although I still rarely eat pizza and I can assure you I will NEVER eat lobster. My mother and my sister, on the other hand, will try virtually any food.

Thanks again for the site reference :)

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96 Judy June 11, 2010 at 6:28 am

Hm, not that being called a Nazi is distasteful, either, of course.

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97 Judy June 11, 2010 at 6:39 am

I really don’t think that many shoes are on the other feet here. We’re not talking about you or the very few *true* picky eaters, we’re talking about a LOT of kids, and we’re talking about broad societal trends and (if you believe all of the scientific data about obesity, which I certainly do) needs.

As I have said before, we can’t have so many choices that none of them are done right, and really, we just can’t have that many choices, period. The schools simply cannot afford to it.

No one being a food Nazi (and again, that’s really not a nice usage – think about what the Nazis did, please), as no one is saying children can’t have X. We’re saying that the schools don’t have to provide X (or a lot of X) if X is not healthful. The parents can pack a lunch, or enourcage their children to try healthier foods (even at home!). And yes, even the parent of a picky eater can pack a lunch. Again, we’re not talking about ONE child, we’re talking about children, plural.

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98 H.P. McKay June 11, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Some many things to add… I’ll have to break this up in pieces-

I have little doubt about data on childhood obesity. Although, I think it has plenty to do with the sedentary lifestyle that kids are living (with “our” enabling). Kids don’t go in the park to play baseball/football/etc… They sit in their den and play them on their Wi (and who paid for that?). They don’t run around outside riding their bikes and playing tag w/ each other… They text each other or facebook each other (whose computer/phone are they using?) I can tell you personally that an active lifestyle can go a long way toward fighting obesity.

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99 H.P. McKay June 11, 2010 at 7:52 pm

As for the Nazi comment- I never called anyone a Nazi. The term I used was “food nazi” (with the term in quotes and a lower-case n). Number one, I did not make up the term (do a google search). Number two, as used in this context it connotes more of an attitude and behavior. A totalitarian regime that wanted to rule with an iron fist and tolerated no dissent.

From everything I’ve read, it appears that these parents (that “you” (and I mean you in the global sense) insult and ridicule) are not saying they object to adding healthier options to the menu. They are just asking that you not replace all the current menu options. What do they call that again? Oh yeah, compromise. My Jr HS and HS cafeteria always had at least 2 choices for “hot fresh” items (perhaps a meatball hero or grilled chicken sandwich that day) and usually a couple of more “cold standbys” as an alternative (maybe some sandwiches like tuna or chicken salad). It sounds to me like these parents would be fine if they offered the veggie burger on chicken nuggets on Monday and perhaps whole wheat pasta or regular pasta on Tuesday. See that way there is an option that their kid might eat (or maybe not – I went hungry on more than one occassion when none of the options met w/ my approval).

However, “your” view is that NO! The mere fact that my child MIGHT be tempted to eat something that I don’t want them to eat is reason enough that your child should not be able to have it either. In other words, they are not trying to dictate what your children are eating, but you are trying to dictate what their children are eating. Doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?

To be continued…

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100 H.P. McKay June 11, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Anyway, continuing on…

Do you really find it so difficult to believe that these parents (and for the record, I am NOT one of them – hell I don’t even live in your state let alone your school district!) are reluctant to “out” themselves. Look at the way they are attacked and villified here! A “small” sampling for your perusal…

“This is INSANE! These parents haven’t a CLUE as to what they are doing to their kids by allowing them to eat such crappy packaged, processed foodlike substances!”

“I’ve seen ignorant parents in my 14 years of school food advocacy, this group takes the cake!”

“Who are these parents? Are they in poor physical shape themselves? I can tell you that they’ll be the ones giving their kids alcohol in high school. Obviously they have a poor Food IQ and let their kids run the show.”
-all by Dr. Susan Rubin (by the way, the alcohol comment was a particularly nasty and uncalled for dig that had NOTHING to do with the discussion at hand and if this woman has an ounce of class she should apologize for that comment – it was WAY inappropriate. Christina: This seems to be “your show” and you seem to be one of the few people who are at least attempting to be understanding and empathetic to the other side – I’m curious what YOU think about this comment made by one of the apparent leaders of this cause).

“These people have made their picky eaters, and now we’re supposed to cater (literally) to them.”

“I have said the same thing – if their kids asked for beer at breakfast, would they give it to them just because they preferred it? It’s the same idea. They also argue that their children need a hot lunch (which I think is wonderful when it’s hot, nutritious, homemade food!), but who wants to bet many of these kids get a cold PB&J when they are not in school?”

“I know some very well-educated people who feed their children truly appalling food-like substances. It sickens me and I am frightened for their children’s future.”
-all by Judy (I don’t know, comes off as kinda judgemental and condescending to me. Perhaps they are preparing food that will be healthy AND palatable for their kid. Seems kinda arrogant to presume that you know what goes on in their home.)

“Judy makes a point I wanted to bring out: These parents have *made* their picky eaters. They can be taught otherwise.”
-by Sandra

“If the kids won’t eat the healthy choices and want their nasty pizza and nuggets, I don’t guess the parents could look inward at the home environment they’ve created that fosters that choice, huh?”
-by Alyson

“The fact that the TLC group exists and makes those claims makes me want to scream. Loud. At them.”
-by Amy

“The new foods include veggie burgers, whole wheat pasta, bean and cheese burritos and turkey hot dogs. Seriously? These are the foods causing parental meltdowns?”

“I just couldn’t believe that foods like kid-friendly burritos, whole wheat pasta, and veggie burgers would seriously cause parents to so strongly oppose the new menu.”
-both by Lauri (I might have tried the turkey dog, but other than that, I personally wouldn’t have eaten that other stuff with a GUN to my head)

“Picky” kids who eat only that kind of junk do it becuase that’s what they were trained to eat by parents who gave it to them.
-by treen

“To think that people in Penfield could be so willfully ignorant and willing to abuse the health of their children”
-by ToddA

“Change sucks doesn’t it.”

“If your child will not eat anything from the health menu then send a lunch. There will always be picky eaters! It seems TLC feels that the hot lunches at your school are a right, yet it seems that it is more of an amazing privilege.”
-by Cameron (Very conducive way to open a dialog. Out of curiosity, do the parents of the picky eaters pay taxes or do only the parents of the healthy eaters pay?)

“These picky kids will soon start eating this food if they aren’t given a choice. It’s too bad these parents are giving their kids that excuse to go hungry to prove a very silly and unhealthy point.”
by Melodie (Are you serious? Do you even comprehend what you’re saying? You really think that a parent is going to encourage a child to GO HUNGRY to prove a point?! Are you even a parent? You think any parent WANTS their kid to be a picky eater? If my mother were here she’d slap you silly! Do you have any idea the fights, the crying, the embarassment of having to bring food into a restaurant with you, and yes, the worrying about health that she went through? You think a parent is going to encourage their kid to be a picky eater? To go hungry to prove a point? What point, that you’re a picky eater? You think it’s even humanly possible to tell a kid to go hungry to prove that point? If a kid is hungry enough then he’ll eat… UNLESS it’s the KID himself who CHOOSES to go hungry rather than eat what is given.)

“When my son was two, he went through the no-green stuff phase. We kept at it, didn’t give in, and guess what? He got hungry.”

“I wonder when feeding your children well became optional. Indulging picky eating, is akin to pulling you kid out of school because he doesn’t like it. Stop letting the insane run the asylum.”
-both by Melissa Graham (So if your son responded, then clearly that is a representative sample that can be extrapolated to the rest of the population as a whole? He’s gonna make a FORTUNE from the sales and marketing industry when he grows up to be John Q. Public, himself!)

And of course the one that started it all (for me at least):

“I mean come on… Parents need to quit pandering to kids, get a backbone and practice some good old fashioned discipline!!”
-by Timmay (Yeah, and may I ask what discipline do you suggest? Beating? A time out? Taking toys away? I mean seriously, what discipline trumps EATING? It’s a vital necessity to LIVING! You know what Ghandi did when he tried to take on a Gov’t? HE WENT ON A HUNGER STRIKE! I think it’s safe to say that most kids are not Ghandi. If they’re not eating when they’re starving, there is a legitimate reason for it and you can’t discipline them out of it.)

ANYWAY… The bottom line is that not all picky eaters are made, some are born that way. Would you ridicule a parent whose child had down syndrome or autism? Just because a child is a picky eater doesn’t mean his parents are bad or ignorant. Or that they will serve alcohol to their underage children! (really, I have to say again, what an inappropriate and really unprofessional comment!) There seems to be an incredible lack of empathy for these parents and what they may be dealing with.

You know, it comes back full circle to the “food nazi” comment again…

Captain G. M. Gilbert, the Army psychologist assigned to observe and interview the Nazis at the Nuremberg Trails stated:
“In my work with the defendants I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the
defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.”

Now, I repeat, I am not calling anyone or Nazi and I’m certainly not calling anyone evil. What I am saying, is that maybe “you” could be a bit more empathetic to these parents and realize they are not sinister villians who are trying to thwart your efforts to provide ADDITIONAL healthy choices, they are just looking out for their kids and don’t want you to eliminate all their alternatives.

Boy, this section went on WAY longer than I intended!

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101 Christina June 12, 2010 at 12:37 am

As I mentioned before, I think some comments could have benefited from a cooling-off period, but most of what you cite here doesn’t bother me. Yes, there’s some strong language, and also a bit of baiting. But where you see only attacks, I see a mostly thoughtful and passionate conversation.

Couple of things about the TLC group: First, nowhere in its various website incarnations has the group mentioned anything about having the serious kind of picky eater you describe. All it has said on the subject is that “they are young children and some are more picky when it comes to eating than others.” Considering that the term “picky eater” has become overused to the point of cliche, I don’t put much weight in that statement. If someone from the group wants to come comment here (as I’ve repeatedly offered), perhaps they could enlighten us. In the meantime, I’m sticking by the argument I make here. While it’s certainly true that “not all picky eaters are made, some are born that way,” I’d bet good money that the majority are not born that way.

Also, the TLC group actually has objected to adding healthier options, at least in part. One of their website comments (since removed) said: “It is not the school’s responsibility to buy fresh (and/or certified organic) foods that need to be prepared fresh daily. It has been made their duty to provide a relatively nutritional meal for a relatively affordable price…” And if you saw the “old” and “new” menus when they were still up on the TLC website, you’d have seen that the changes were hardly radical. There’s still pizza on the menu, still hot dogs. They’re just healthier versions of the old items. And there are new items like tacos and quesadillas, in addition to the veggie burgers and whole-wheat pasta.

I think it’s interesting what you noted about how parents are the ones enabling their kids to play video games, text and sit at the computer all day. True. Someone is paying for and providing these devices. But parents also are the ones enabling their kids to eat food that is patently unhealthy for them. And just as we as parents have a responsibility to limit the electronic distractions that reduce physical activity, we also have a responsibility to limit access to food that is bad for them. And that’s what the parents behind the changes in this school district have done.

Yes, that means they limit access for all kids, not just their own, but so what? Are we really so blinded by the concept of personal freedom that any effort on behalf of the greater good is viewed as an infringement on personal rights? We should care only about our own children and no one else’s?

Personally, I’d rather have people care too much than not enough.

Oh, you mentioned you don’t live in New York, but your IP address is coming from Plainview, N.Y. Weird. You must be visiting our fair state?

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102 H.P. McKay June 12, 2010 at 4:30 am

I don’t know that I’d say I see only “attacks”. Much of what I was pointing out was the lack of empathy toward these parents and what they might be going through. I’d argue that it’s hard for you to truly be able to assess the degree to which these parents have “true” picky eaters vs the “Green Eggs and Ham” trickey eaters (i.e., the ones where no amount of waiting/cajoling is going to work vs. the ones where if the parent gives a legit effort they can get results). (By the way, I understand your wanting to avoid the picky eater label in general, but I’m using it here as a “short-hand). Some of the parents might not even know the full extent of it… Lets fact it, most people are not “educated” about true picky eaters today the same way MANY people didn’t understand about, say autism, 20 or 30 years ago (you don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that at least SOME of the increased incidence of autism today isn’t attributable to being un/mis-diagnosed in eras past?). People’s “default assumption” is that you’re a bad/ignorant parent. It would be interesting to see more research being done in this area, b/c I don’t think either of us can definitively know which ones you are dealing with here b/c I don’t think we’ve done a particularly good of assessing the incidence of “true” picky eaters in society. But I guess if you want to describe all of those insinuations as simply thoughtful and passionate conversation I suppose that reasonable minds can view it either way.

That being said, some of the comments were truly irrational (again, do you really think any parent would encourage their kid to be a picky eater? To encourage their child to go hungry to prove a point?) and a few were downright nasty (ironically, I was most astonishined (and OFFENDED) by the comments made by Dr. Susan Rubin- who I understand to be one of the KEY leaders in this movement overall – and a DOCTOR no less! Her assertion/accusation that these parents would be giving underage children alcohol (a CRIMINAL ACT) is nothing more than a nasty ad hominem attack. (This was actually the comment I was most interested in your opinion on.) I would expect better from a doctor and a leader of the movement. Has leveling personal attacks against your opponent become so mainstream that it is now acceptable? If you honestly do not see that that comment was over the line (and worthy of an apology), then I respectfully suggest that you have lost your ability to view the situation impartially and are simply an ideologue. It’s no different from Republicans who cannot acknowledge that Bush did anything wrong or Democrats that cannot acknowledge that Obama has done nothing wrong. At that point discussion and debate becomes pointless. No amount of talking will accomplish anything. A sad outcome for ALL involved on BOTH sides.

As for geography, I am MOST DEFINITELY a NYer (I was originally under the impression that this debate was taking place in a school district in FLA since that is where the person who posted the original link that I followed here was from.

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103 H.P. McKay June 12, 2010 at 4:39 am

P.S. that should have read “Democrats that cannot acknowledge that Obama has done ANYTHING wrong.” I don’t need to get involved in THAT debate! lol

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104 Christina June 12, 2010 at 12:14 pm

No ideologue here. Quite the opposite. I think my eyes are pretty wide open to the issues.

But I do believe in free speech (actual hate speech aside), and while I may not like or agree with what some people here have said, I respect their right to say it. I also see no point in demanding apologies, because if an apology comes only after a demand, well, how sincere is it?

I think all this parsing of individual comments really takes away from the larger issue, which is that we have a serious problem with school food in this country, and the only way that’s going to change is if enough people get mad.

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105 Robin June 12, 2010 at 10:48 am

Christina, previous to the TLC websites latest updates there were claims that the kids objected to certain aspects about the new meals. The one that stands out in my mind is that the new pasta sauce was too chunky. Was there conversation at the meeting about trying to tweak the healthier menu to accommodate these types of concerns? If a slight textural adjustment would make this dish more palatable for the so-called “picky” eaters I would think that would be worth looking into. Perhaps there are other such adjustments that could help find a satisfactory middle ground with other dishes?

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106 Christina June 12, 2010 at 2:18 pm

That’s a good question. Perhaps they raised the issue in a private meeting with the food-service director, but they didn’t raise it at the public meeting. And that’s what has frustrated so many people. If the progress can be maintained while also adjusting for issues like these, that’s a win-win.

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107 Michele Hays June 11, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Interestingly, Korea is at the forefront of addressing video game addiction: young Koreans play video games to the extent that the government has felt it necessary to create a national education campaign to change this behavior. Kids there are known to spend 15 hours a day or more at their computers; a man there recently died from playing games for 50 hours straight: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/gaming/2005-10-06-korean-game-addicts_x.htm

However, Korea has one of the lowest rates of obesity in the world: 3.5% – ours is about 34%. http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2009/05/113_42993.html
I don’t disagree that inactivity is an issue, but I think the way Americans eat is a much bigger issue.

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108 H.P. McKay June 11, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Well you’d probably be too scared to eat too if you lived next door to a nutcase with nuclear weapons! ;)

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109 Christina June 11, 2010 at 11:06 pm

I don’t think there’s any question that the western diet is the reason we have so many health problems in the United States. Physical activity certainly helps, but that alone can’t combat the effects of years of eating highly refined carbohydrates and trans fats.

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110 Christina June 11, 2010 at 8:48 am

Just posted another update…

Update on June 11: The TLC website has been edited down to just a few paragraphs. Not sure what that means. I’ve also been e-mailing back and forth with someone (still anonymous) who replied to the e-mail I sent. She has declined to comment. (Everyone at that meeting, except for one principal, was a woman, so I don’t think I’m stretching to use “she.”) But she did share some e-mails that TLC has received privately. They’re nasty, which is unfortunate. I’m grateful the discussion here has remained (mostly) civil and thoughtful.

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111 Sheri June 11, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Many schools in our area have signs out front that have been donated by fast food chains. I’m not sure what the business arrangement is with the school district, but I don’t think it’s a good practice to allow. Kind of like letting the tobacco industry advertise on the signs at a hospital…

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112 Christina June 11, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Fast-food ties with schools are more prevalent than you’d think. If you follow the links in this post about the “Retire Ronald” campaign, you’ll see what I mean.

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113 justamominmesquite June 12, 2010 at 12:32 am

@H.P. McKay…your welcome for the site reference! I have a friend that goes through the same thing as you. Honestly *and shamefully* when I first met her, I thought she was just being high maintenance and overreacting. Turns out…she wasn’t. She, in all seriousness, cannot handle even just the sight of some foods….luckily, many apologies *on my part* later and lots of reading and understanding about the matter *again..my part* we are still really great friends. I think it it is something genetic/physical…its not just her being uncooperative.

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114 Maryann @ Raise Healthy Eaters June 12, 2010 at 1:24 am

I’m not going to get into the hot debate. As a registered dietitian of 15 years all I can say that I’ve learned to be much less judgemental about what other people — and their kids — eat. If we want to promote change we need to stop and really listen to others and help remove their barriers. Parents already have so much guilt about feeding their chidren.

In order to help increase parents’ undestanding of their kids eating, I have started a Picky Eating series on my blog. http://www.raisehealthyeaters.com/category/picky-eating-series/
The first post might be of interest to Jenn and HP McKay because it talks about spotting real issues with picky eaters. Some kids are “selective eaters” and need professional help to learn how to eat normally. My second article discusses how each kid is different when it comes to their ability to try and eat new foods. Some are late bloomers while others are more adventurous. The key is that all kids can eventually learn to like a variety of food but they do it in their own way.

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115 justamominmesquite June 12, 2010 at 1:53 am

All of the commenters here are pretty passionate about their feelings on the topic….so hopefully, that passion will inspire research. Like Christina said, too much of this has to do with the western diet. I honestly think the majority of it has a lot to do with the *processing* of the western diet. We/our kids are just not biologically equipped to handle the extra stuff *the additives* in processed foods. Quite frankly, I could personally care less if my son eats a chicken nugget…as long as that is all it is. Mac and cheese, nugget shaped chicken, etc…does not equate to unhealthy….but the versions in the schools and what we *our nation* has grown accustom to, is. When Dr. Rubin says people are ignorant of what they are feeding their kids…she’s right. I think we need to be focusing more on “quality” not so much “healthy”…because healthy will come with quality. Soooo….with that being said….everyone needs to pitch in with this and get mad together. Here’s a nifty weekend project…
1. Grab your kid’s favorite processed food *to make it closer to “school-like” pick something like a frozen dinner type thing if you have it.
2. Write down the ingredients on a sheet of paper.
3. Scratch out the ones you can get at the grocery store.
4. Now…for the ones you don’t know….look them up. Use these websites..
http://www.fao.org/ag/agn/agns//jecfa_index_en.asp
http://www.codexalimentarius.net/gsfaonline/foods/index.html?id=264#cat264
5. Read some of the “research” done on these ingredients…put a star next to the ones that have caused some sort of undesirable effect you would want to happen to your child…here’s a link:
http://www.inchem.org/pages/jecfa.html
6. Look at your paper….and freak out with me.
If you would like to make your own *school cafeteria processed food* at home but can’t find the ingredients at the grocery store…you can special order them here;
http://www.trader-china.com/Chemicals/Food-Additives.html
*this is the root of our anger*

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116 Christina June 12, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Mesquite mom, I think that’s a great distinction between “healthy” and “quality.” (And I love your weekend project idea.) There’s nothing inherently wrong with eating chicken nuggets or mac & cheese — what’s wrong is the way food has changed over the years so that those items now contain more chemicals than actual edible ingredients. It’s also wrong that so few people understand this. That is what people mean when they use the word “ignorant.” It’s not that individual parents are ignorant — it’s that we as a society are ignorant.

I’m not one to subscribe to conspiracy theories, but I’ve done enough research on this subject to now feel confident in saying that the American public has been duped by a food industry and government agencies with one motivation: money. And it’s only in the last several years that a lot of people have really started to wake up to this fact and to try to do something about it.

But of course that’s so hard to do not only because we’re fighting an entrenched industrial system, but also because we’re fighting an entrenched way of living (and eating) for so many people. And that is a tricky thing to navigate. But it is so very important.

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117 erisgrrrl June 12, 2010 at 8:02 am

I haven’t read all of the comments… only about 1/2. And there are a few things I agree with and some I disagree with. The thing driving me to comment was this: “Who are these parents? Are they in poor physical shape themselves?
I can tell you that they’ll be the ones giving their kids alcohol in high school. Obviously they have a poor Food IQ and let their kids run the show.” That paragraph enraged me! There’s nothing like making judgmental, sweeping accusations to discount an otherwise smart argument! I agree that these parents are letting the kids rule the roost. However, those other statements I feel are pretty crass. I myself am “poor physical shape” but I am in full support of changing school lunches, feed my child healthfully and educate him on making smart food choices. I also have no intention of giving my child alcohol. To the contrary we’ve taught him at an extraordinarily young age that drugs of all sorts are horrible and are the only things worse than lying and fighting- he’s 5 and has this down pat.

I also feel like it’s unfair to say that it’s lazy to buy the idea that crappy foods are all you can afford. I understand that there are some well educated folks out there making it happen – but they’re missing the point that a large section of this group of people don’t have the same resources or ingenuity. I read 1 article where the fellow ate on something like $3/day but had to go to 5 different sources for ingredients. When you have an immigrant family with little grasp on language, few resources (including education on food choices), working several jobs each you cannot expect them to do that sort of thing! I also take exception to the person saying that she can feed her family more cheaply from the grocery than the dollar menu. When you look at a smaller family it’s not quite the same. We can eat for $6… we could not make a healthful meal less than that. When people start talking about the long term costs or the per calorie or whatever… that’s just not a feasible reach for some people! I am lucky that we can and do eat well on a very small budget but I am saddened when people don’t look at the realities of people in classes below themselves and remember that for some people choices aren’t really choices at all.

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118 Christina June 12, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Of course you’re right that for some people this issue is much more complicated, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that. What frustrates me, though, is that for most people, it is not.

People always talk about the class issues around food. I get that. And it troubles me deeply. But for an awful lot of people, it comes down not to can’t, but to won’t. And if those of us who can make better choices do make better choices, then we’d help make it a whole lot easier for those who truly don’t have the choice.

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119 Michele Hays June 12, 2010 at 9:20 pm

I became interested in the issue of the food desert because I live in one of the poorest neighborhoods in my city. I see firsthand how much struggling parents are spending on convenience foods. For my blog project, I make a point to purchase foods and use anyone has access to (my local Walgreen’s, surprisingly, is a major source of food desert groceries – largely because they support WIC, they carry beans, canned fish, dairy, and whole grain products.) It is not difficult to feed even a small family (ours has 3) from these foods – but you’re right, you have to know how.

This is the major issue I have with school lunch: it has the imprematur of an educational institution, but it’s sending the wrong message about how we can best feed our families. I believe that people who don’t or can’t educate themselves about food look to the food around them – and if your only example is what’s on TV or what is served in schools these days – even if those things are “healthified” to meet the USDA guidelines – you’ll be spending more than you need to on patently unhealthy versions off the dollar menu or out of the convenience food section.

This is why school food and nutrition programs are a critical issue. We’ve forgotten what our ancestors knew about how to feed a family with a few humble ingredients. For instance, anyone can buy a pound of dried beans (12 servings – hidden on the very bottom shelf at Walgreen’s) for less than $2 in most places – you can dump them in a slow cooker in the morning and have a meal ready when you get home. Eggs are usually around $1 or $2 for a dozen servings – each have 1/3 of the fat of the same weight of hamburger. Plain oatmeal (30 servings for about $4) is another food that takes no time to prepare and offers huge health benefits – all of these foods are available nearly everywhere, but people have learned to prefer convenience foods – which offer far less nutrition, are more expensive, and are only slightly less hassle to purchase and prepare.

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120 Christina June 12, 2010 at 10:55 pm

What a fascinating project. And such an excellent point about school food carrying the supposedly enlightened endorsement of an educational institution, when in fact it’s more on par with fast food.

For too long people have assumed that if a school serves it, it must be good, right? Because schools have our kids’ best interests in mind, right? But schools instead have become repositories for cheap government-subsidized commodities, and it’s shameful.

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121 Dr. Susan Rubin June 12, 2010 at 8:46 am

I’ve been away from the internet for a couple of days at a conference on Slow Money so I’m just catching up on the many many comments here. Sadly, this is a great example of re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. All the infighting on picky eaters and what schools should and should not serve our kids. There is a bigger picture out there that I wonder how many of you even realize. Our food system is broken beyond repair. School food and the picky eater epidemic are merely symptoms of this bigger issue.

We’ve got a triple whammy of climate change, peak oil and economic instablity looming that make most of these arguments insignificant. Schools need gardens: this is the best prescription for picky eating behavior. Kids grow food, they eat food. They fall in love with food.

And YES: Parents need to take a good long look in the mirror and see where they have somehow contributed to the status quo. I understand this is hard for many, but its very necessary.

Like the oil gusher underneath the gulf, it’s not just BP, we share in that responsibility.

No matter what side of the argument you sit on school food and picky eaters, do something today to help heal our broken food system. Plant a garden, visit a farmer’s market. Eat real food, not something that comes out of a box. Eat TRADITIONAL food! Funny how the TLC group doesn’t really know what the word traditional means. Traditional foods are real foods, not industrial foods that were created as a result of cheap fossil fuels.

Parents of picky eaters and adult picky eaters, I encourage you to work on healing that. Grow some food, even if its in a container, even if its just some fresh herbs. Reconnect with Mother Nature, ASAP.

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122 Dr. Susan Rubin June 12, 2010 at 1:33 pm

One more thing. Don’t know how old your kids are, but 2 out of 3 of mine are now in college. In my years as a parent of elementary, middle school and high school kids, I’ve seen parents who are lenient with food often end up being the same parents who are lenient with alcohol in high school. I’ve seen this play first hand more than once and not just in my own school district. Parenting is not a popularity contest, many parents fall into this trap.

There is plenty of research to back up the connection with eating dinner together as a family with lower rates of substance abuse.
Is sugar/ junk food a gateway drug for drugs and alcohol? Some researchers believe there is a connection.

Are some parents ignorant when it comes to these food issues in school and at home? YES! The food industry has played a big role in making sure that mainstream America cares more about convenience and calories than the real issues that matter.

As I stated earlier, there are bigger issues than picky eaters and websites of parents fighting to get the popcorn chicken back into school. The calorie count that really counts are the cheap fossil fuel calories that go into making all that crazy “convenient” crap that our kids just can’t seem to get enough of. The days of cheap fossil fuels are coming to an end.

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123 Christina June 12, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I think the problem is exactly that a lot of people don’t realize the bigger picture. So they debate what they do know — things that hit close to home, like what their kids will/won’t eat and what’s being served in the school cafeteria. While some people fight at the policy level (and thanks to you and others who do, because it benefits us all), many more of us fight on a smaller scale. But that’s no less important. Not everyone can/will/wants to fight at the macro level. Almost anyone, though, can attend a meeting in their local school district and speak their mind.

Another thing about fighting on the smaller scale: Reconnecting with nature certainly helps, and the benefits of school gardens are well-documented, but we need to give people credit for being able to do much more than that. Parents want to learn more about food, and can learn more — and will share that with their kids — but they need to believe that they’re being taken seriously.

I think that’s why so many people objected to your question/assumption about the protesting parents in this case being “in poor physical shape.” Just as education level or affluence aren’t guarantees that people will be knowledgeable about food (nor the converse), neither can we assume that those who aren’t as knowledgeable aren’t taking care of themselves in other ways. Or that they don’t care about their kids. It’s just too complicated of an issue.

And in this case we simply don’t know the real reason people are protesting the menu changes — whether it’s because they really think the food was just fine the way it was, or whether it’s because they feel their personal rights are being eroded. We don’t know because they aren’t talking except anonymously through a website. But of course that makes it too easy for people to not take them seriously — and to rush to judgment on their motivations. That’s the catch-22 here.

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124 H.P. McKay June 12, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Interesting b/c I’ve seen just as many parents who were “health nuts” (not using that term in the pejorative sense) who were totally obsessed with diet and exercise who were ok with their underage kids drinking (AND smoking pot for that matter).

While I have not done a full detailed review of all the research concerning eating dinner together as a family, I am at least passingly familiar with it (and I believe it). However, from what I have read, those studies were more addressing PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT and being ENGAGED in their kids lives. Ergo, one would expect that to hold true regardless of whether they were eating whole wheat grains with tofu and fresh veggies or (dare I say it) McD. That seems like a disengenous use of scientific research.

As for sugar/junk food as a gateway drug for drugs and alcohol, you say that “Some researchers believe there is a connection.” And that’s proven science? Hell, SOME researchers believe that when you make foods “taboo” kids are more inclined to be drawn to them. SOME researchers don’t believe in global warming or peak oil. SOME researchers don’t believe that pot (a DRUG itself!) is a gateway drug. SOME researchers think that blacks are inferior to whites. So what SOME researchers BELIEVE is not science. Conclusive studies that are peer reviewed and whose results are repeatable is science. I’m not sure if you are an MD or simply have a doctorate, but IF you are a person of science, you should know better.

That said, on a personal note, since I believe your underlying cause is a righteous one, I would hope that you would stick to proven science and avoid ad hominem attacks.

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125 H.P. McKay June 12, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I’m a firm believer in nearly absolute free speech (barring the classic yelling fire in a crowded theater, etc). However, that is COMPLETELY irrelevant. It’s amazing how many people misapply the concept of “free speech”. Free Speech, as protected by the first amendment to the US Constitution, concerns GOVERNMENT attempts to stifle the citizens. It begins CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW… Completely non-applicable when individuals are having a “private” discussion.

What is relevant when individual actors are having a private discussion is CIVILITY and a willingness to try to understand the other side’s point. A trait sadly missing from several posters, including most notably, Dr. Susan Rubin. My comment regarding an apology was not intended to be a request or a “demand” (I’m not even the one she insulted!). It was an observation based on an incredibly RUDE and OFFENSIVE comment (just call me the civility police if you’d like lol). I thought perhaps if the good doctor had a “cooling off” period and looked at her comments again, SHE would have realized that her comments were over the line and warranted an apology. Again, her comment (“I can tell you that they’ll be the ones giving their kids alcohol in high school. “) was beyond inappropriate. So in the eyes of the good doctor, anyone who disagrees with her or doesn’t support her cause is a criminal (in case you were not aware of it, it is a CRIMINAL ACT to serve underage children alcohol in NY, potentially punishable by jail time). Now THAT certain is a Nazi TACTIC! Do you really think comments like that are going to bring people to your cause?! And this is NOT some nameless faceless anonymous “voice” spewing nonsense over the internet – it is one of primary public leaders of the cause. Shame on her. As for me personally, if Susan, with hindsight, doesn’t realize how inappropriate her comments were, then she’s not even an idealogue, she’s a zealot. No point in wasting time or effort talking to a zealot. She could be speaking the gospel and I’d still ignore her as irrelevant. If I were part of the cause, I’d be distancing myself from people like her. She may have noble intentions, but for my money, she is doing more harm than good.

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126 Christina June 12, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Here’s the thing: It’s my blog, and I make the rules, and one of my rules is that this is a public forum. It is not a private discussion. Nor am I going to censor people. If someone truly crosses the line, then I’ll make that call on an individual basis, but I’m not going to publish only comments I agree with or only comments said in the nicest possible way.

That said, free speech (however literally it’s defined) comes with consequences, so people who speak freely ought to be prepared to deal with the response.

I agree with you that civility should rule. And you’re absolutely right that it’s the most effective way to create change (and that doing otherwise can hurt the cause). And I think if you step back from your anger over a few inflammatory comments — and your own use of some inflammatory language — you’ll see that the overarching tone here has indeed been civil.

Now I’d kindly ask that we retire this argument and get back to the real issue: the challenges in improving school food.

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127 H.P. McKay June 12, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Christina-

As I originally stated (quite a few words ago), It’s “your show”. You would certainly be within your rights to censor anyone you wish, including me. However, please believe me when I tell you that I sincerely NEVER intended for you to censor anyone, INCLUDING Susan. Nor would I think of asking you to “force” someone to apologize. Like you, I don’t think a forced apology has any meaning.

I was merely trying to point out that “we” as a society seem to have determined the best way to “win” is to beat and attack our opponents into submission. I think we’d all be better off if we tried to “win” by convincing our opponents to join our side. Perhaps Washington could take note of this as well :)

If any of my comments appeared to come from anger, please understand that I have been dealing with food issues for almost 40 years and I can’t count the number of family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers and complete strangers who have questioned, commented, insulted, belittled and otherwise critiqued my diet. It’s funny, I don’t know anyone who would stop a complete stranger and tell them, for example, “Wow, you have a terrible haircut!” or “Hey, that shirt is hideously ugly!, but people seem to have no qualms about making personal comments and observations about what someone else is or should be eating.

That said, I will now gracefully (I hope) withdraw and leave you to your righteous cause. Good luck!

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128 Christina June 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm

It’s so true that people feel free to comment directly on the way other people eat. We’ve faced it, too, and we’ve worked hard to teach our daughter not to criticize other people’s food choices (blogged about that here). So I understand how frustrating that must be.

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129 tina June 14, 2010 at 12:02 am

I say bring back the more processed grains because they have less phytic acid. Whole grains that aren’t soaked (and sprouted) are bad for everyone. Beyond that, who cares what the school serves? Are you all being forced to feed your kids this crap? Can children not bring their own lunches? I don’t get it. I would never let my kids eat the crap that’s served in schools unless I was in the hospital…..dying.

I am concerned for children and what they eat because our health insurance goes up every year to pay for adults and kids who eat junk. But other than that I can’t care more about what children eat than their own parents do.

If the schools are serving meats from grain-fed animals, produce that’s sprayed, diary from grain fed cows, grains that aren’t properly prepared than it’s all horribly bad for the children anyway. I would devote my time and energy to a blog about school lunches if I thought I could get grass-fed meat and dairy, soaked grains and some biodiversified produce in school lunches because anything less isn’t worth fighting for unless, I suppose, you’re making money off a blog…

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130 Christina June 14, 2010 at 6:00 pm

While we personally eat primarily the way you describe (and pack our daughter’s lunches as a result), that’s an extreme and unrealistic position to take on a school lunch program that so many kids rely upon. We can argue all day about whether they should rely on it, but the fact is they do, so the food served in schools ought to be as good as it possibly can be. And that’s why I believe this battle is indeed worth fighting.

Unless someone has a mineral deficiency, autoimmune disorder or serious digestive issues, they’re going to be far better off eating whole grains (even those not traditionally prepared; i.e., sprouted or fermented) than eating refined grain products that have umpteen other horrible ingredients and have been linked to an increasing number of health problems.

On your last point: “… because anything less isn’t worth fighting for unless, I suppose, you’re making money off a blog…”

Huh?

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131 tina June 14, 2010 at 6:17 pm

I still don’t get why we can’t pack lunches for all school children. Isn’t that the way it was done back long ago? I hate the mentality that it can’t be done – end of story. It can be done. Parents can take responsibility for their child’s nutrition. We shouldn’t let the govenment take control of what’s good for our children. And the government certainly isn’t going to give children a more nutritious meal then a child’s own parent. The government is going to get the same crap that the parents are going to get anyway – let the parents pay for their food they give their childern so tax monies aren’t spent on crappy food.

I don’t my tax dollar going to big food industry that supplies food to schools. If my tax dollar were supporting local, sustainable foods then I would be all for it.

Do you read Food Renegade’s blog? I don’t understand why you post on her carnival if you don’t get the whole Nourishing Traditions and why it’s essential to soak/ferment grains if you’re going to eat them at all which my family doesn’t. And why don’t you understand that processed wheat is much better if you’re going to eat it because the phytic acid is mostly gone and phytic acid keeps one from absorbing nutrients.

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132 Christina June 15, 2010 at 9:39 am

I’d love for my tax dollars to support local, sustainable food, and we may be heading there, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

I’m well-informed about Nourishing Traditions and Weston Price principles, but I don’t buy all of it blindly and I’m not a zealot about it. Nor do I think it’s practical to apply that in a school setting. Also, there’s a big difference between simple refined wheat flour used at home and the processed products being served in schools. So, again, unless someone has a mineral deficiency or other serious disorder, the phytic acid issue is just not as relevant or important as avoiding the other chemicals/toxins in overly processed school food.

Further, the blog carnival is about “real food,” and last I checked, neither NT nor the WAPF own that phrase.

Now I’d like to move on and get back to the issue of school food. Thanks.

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133 Angie June 14, 2010 at 12:35 am

**sigh** These parents are nuts! Yup. We teach Math, Ela, S.S., Science. But guess what? We teach everything else that kids don’t et from home. Stuff their parents should be teaching them! How to be respectful, caring, compasionate, truthful, trustworthy, and healthy. I better stop otherwise I’ll be up on my soapbox and there’s no telling when I’ll come down. Because we all know (insert sarcastic tone here) that a cheese stick and a graham cracker is a top-notch breakfast that will awaken a young mind! **barf!!**

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134 Angie June 14, 2010 at 12:58 am

OK. I followed the link and I couldn’t resist. I emailed these wacky parents. (see below) Wonder if I’ll get a response!

“As a parent and a teacher, I’m surprised, no, shocked that you would not want better, healthier food choices for your children instead of the crap that school districts pass off as healthy food. Have you really looked at the USDA guidelines? According to them, french fries count as a vegetable. Seriously??? Let me ask you this? How many times is your childrens food cooked? In the district that I work in, the food is cooked twice. By the time the kids get it, it is void of any nutritional value left at all and ther flavor is gone as well. There is absolutly nothing wrong with kids having more healthy choices. Why should they continuously be subjected to proccessed junk? It’s not good for their bodies. And unhealthy bodies make sluggish students. Teachers teach. Food Service feeds. If Food Service wants to improve the menu at Cobbles, then as parents, you should be supporting them. Not standing in their way. What my kids (my students & my own personal) put into their bodies is very important to me. All parents should be concerned with what their kids are eating. Kids today are unhealthier than they have ever been and a large part of that is school food. It makes me sad to see that you all are fighting a good thing. I only hope that there are more parents who support the school’s initiative than those that support you all.”

Well, thats it. I really was surprised how hard I had to fight to stay not-so-rude. The more I wrote the angrier I got. Now lets see if they comment back.

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135 Scatteredmom June 14, 2010 at 2:19 am

Wowwwweee!

What drama! I haven’t read all the comments (maybe half). And I will fess up immediately that I am CANADIAN, and there are definite cultural differences here so I will try not to step on anyone’s toes in my comments.

First, as a parent AND someone who has worked in schools for 18 years, I have lots of experience with hot lunches, supervising kids eating lunches, and packing lunch. I also have a child (and husband)with sensory sensitivities, and other health issues (lactose intolerance, sensitivity to corn, soy, MSG, red food dye, tree nuts, diabetes type2). Ha! Just TRY packing their lunches. I have a food blog if you want to see what WE eat (notesfromthecookiejar.com)

I’m in British Columbia, and the hot lunch programs are run by parents-not the school district or outside agencies. The government brought in what they called “Healthy Living Guidelines”, regulating the amount of sugar, salt, and fat in what the hot lunch programs/vending machines can sell. Jake’s elementary school was a pilot project for Healthy Buddies through Children’s Hospital, which taught healthy food choices and exercise.

Having said that; if I was not happy with what my child’s school serves (and for the record, I HATE the food at my son’s high school..it’s disgusting), I would pack him a lunch that he would eat. I don’t believe it’s the school’s job to feed my child. It’s mine. ALL mine. Period.

On the picky eater issue, I have met parents who brought their kids McDonalds or Subway every day and lamented that it was all their kid would eat. Of course, if one is going to hand deliver fast food, kids will be thrilled and want it all the time. If parents are only too happy to comply, then I believe they ARE creating really unhealthy habits. Some parents, yes, are enablers and just can’t put their foot down. But the majority, I have found, are not. Perhaps that is how THEY eat and they haven’t found anything wrong with it. Perhaps the child eats healthy at breakfast and dinner, and the parent has decided that they will just not fight the lunchtime issue. Honestly, I believe that is their choice because once again, feeding their children is up to them.

Now with the picky eater thing, I doubt any kid tops my husband. He doesn’t eat:
-rice, white pasta, quinoa, couscous, pastas w/ cream sauces
-salmon, trout, tuna, any fish except sole or halibut
-beef, lamb, veal, pork
-any processed meat, such as lunch meats or bacon (except I sneak in prosciutto)
-soups, any heavily spiced/ ethnic foods (no Indian, Thai, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Korean foods)
-nothing spicy
-nothing deep fried
-mayo, jam, ketchup, condiments, or any other sauces (he only likes butter and mustard)
-boiled, baked potatoes
-no processed food
-no fruit
-no cereals
-no alcohol
-no eggs (unless I make an omlette)
-he avoids cheese
-anything high in sugar, fat, carbs
I could go on FOREVER, but I think that gives you an idea. Despite that, we eat well and healthy. Picky isn’t a valid excuse, in my opinion. I believe that we really need to get families back to the roots of where our food comes from. The disconnect is frightening.

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136 Christina June 14, 2010 at 5:24 pm

I know the U.S. school lunch system can seem crazy to those who aren’t in it. (Wait, it seems crazy even to those who are in it.) And I agree completely that parents should be responsibile for feeding their kids, which is why we pack (and probably always will) our daughter’s lunch. But, for better or worse, we have a school lunch program that an awful lot of people rely on, so it ought to be as good as it possibly can be.

I’m fascinated by what you said about BC parents (not the district or a food-service company) running the hot-lunch programs. If you get a chance, I’d love for you to elaborate. How does that work?

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137 Scatteredmom June 19, 2010 at 1:29 am

I believe that the parent groups organize volunteers to run the lunch programs. It’s been this way as long as I can remember, and programs are all well established. There are a core group of parents who run the program, and some volunteers that sign up to help through out the school year. The programs vary widely from school to school throughout the province, in price as well as what is sold. For instance-my son’s high school sells mostly processed food, some from restaurants. (every day) The school that I work at has all fresh home made food, created by a group of parents who take turns cooking. (once a week) I have not personally volunteered in a hot lunch program because I’m a school staffer, and my work hours make it impossible.

The down fall is that for the kids who don’t have lunch at all, there is precious little. Jake’s high school offered toast for breakfast and rice at lunch, but the school I work at doesn’t have anything. Basically if staff notice a student is always hungry we have a stash of canned soup or other things we can feed them. Sometimes, I’ve known staff who give up extra items in their own personal lunch. Those students are very few and far between.

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138 Christina June 21, 2010 at 11:40 am

Thanks for the additional details. I guess I’m not surprised that Canada handles this sort of thing so differently from the way the U.S. does. But it sounds like there might be far different economic issues, too. It’s interesting, also, that having parents involved doesn’t curb the junk food, at least in some schools.

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139 Heidi June 15, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Sadly, their reasoning is flawed….if they are basing all this on the ‘fact’ that their precious children won’t like the better choices…..there are problem many kids who don’t like the old choices either. Grow up people, the world doesn’t revolve around you or your children. Let them learn and grow and maybe even be hungry so they know how that feels once in a while.

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140 BrightonMom3 June 16, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Just a few thoughts. My kids have been in this district for 9 years. I watched as they came home from school with candy and told me about the birthday parties and mulitple cakes they ate in one day at school. Halloween parties, winter holiday parties, president’s day parties all with sugar, carbs and fat well exceeding any healthy levels. My kids only buy lunches once a week because I have no idea what is in them. But several years ago the policy changed and now birthday celebrations, school parties and even school lunches have to meet specific sugar and fat guidelines. I love the fact that I no longer need to deal with the excess sugar brought home by my kids. I have several kids that struggle with weight and I am so relieved that the school is aware and more supportive of healthy eating. It is sadly overdue. People who do not like healthy choices can do as I did for years, let them bring all their chips and cookies and carbs to school themselves. I and most parents are delighted with the fruits, veggies and fiber now offered in school! By the way, I was at the school board meeting last night for a reason unrelated to the school lunch issue. I did notice that there were some women there who wanted to speak about “nutrition”. I did not stay to hear them and had no idea of this issue until today. My guess is that it may be the group you mention. I think they have an uphill climb.

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141 BrightonMom3 June 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I did not mean to be judgemental in saying that parents want to bring “their chips and cookies and carbs to school”. These were simply the items my kids were telling me that they ate in the classrooms during parties. Now they cut up apples and serve it with sliced cheese at parties. And they often have water instead of juice. But parents can send lunches with kids for those who are picky eaters. I have a picky eater myself and so I send in a lunch with her most days. The important thing is that all the options at the school are healthy ones. Then the kids can select from those.

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142 Christina June 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm

How great that the kids are now getting things like apples and cheese instead of junk food during class parties. We recently had a student art show at my daughter’s school, and though her school has no cafeteria and all the kids bring their own lunches/snacks, parties can be over the top with junk. In this case, though, the teachers requested that parents bring only fruit, and cheese and crackers. That was in keeping with the “art opening” theme, but it also was a conscious effort to offer only healthier options. (One teacher even turned down a parent’s offer to bring brownies.) And wouldn’t you know it? Every single piece of fruit and cheese was gone. The kids (literally) ate it up.

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143 Cordelia June 29, 2010 at 11:20 am

I say if the kids get hungry enough they will eat the school choice or the parents can send in lunch. I already send my son’s lunch because the school’s lunch is such crap. They can take a turn! They want to send in deep fried junk-that is up to them. Peer pressure is the most effective way to get kids eating healthier-if their friends are doing it (especially the cool older kids) they will too.

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144 Bri August 27, 2010 at 5:00 pm

I can’t stand this. I wish I’d had the time to read everyone’s comments, but what kills me the most is to think that these parents are so “concerned” that their children “won’t eat it” — yet they are clearly not concerned enough to pack a lunch for their children, if that’s truly the case. If everyone has different likes and dislikes, and your child doesn’t like the cafeteria food, then you pack them something they will eat. This is a prime example of the “it’s not my problem” type of parenting attitude that has gotten us into this mess in the first place. And I won’t even go INTO all the nutritionally terrifying things about it, nor the fact that it’s just ridiculous and defeatist to MAKE your children into picky eaters by assuming they will or will not eat what’s given to them. It’s just so sad. We have a long way to go.

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145 Emily November 23, 2010 at 5:13 am

It would be nice to hear any updates on this situation in a future post. : )

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146 Christina November 23, 2010 at 7:56 am

Emily, glad you’re interested in an update. I’ve been meaning to check back, so I’ll add a more definitive to-do to my list. Stay tuned.

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147 Claudia July 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm

This is the most ridiculous thing I have heard in my life!!!
I have 2 children (4 & 5) who are a little bit particular with what they eat… since they started preK, they have tried new foods offered there (mostly veggies) and both of them have increase the foods that they eat.

The whole idea of parents advocating for unhealthy, processed food for their children makes me sad… these parents are setting up their children to a life with horrible & unhealthy eating habits… totally irresponsible

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148 Ruth August 27, 2011 at 1:26 pm

I couldn’t possibly read all the posts here. Food is very personal, very passionate topic for most families. We are in a cultural war of food bias and education. Schools do not make money on food service and are lucky to break even. There are new mandates coming down the pike that decreases sodium, fat, sugars but the transition to the mandate is forever slow and schools do not have to fully comply for about 10 years. In the meantime, with activists like Jamie Oliver schools are starting to wake up. Slowly. The biggest enemy is “my kid won’t….” and it’s complete shut down. The losing factor is all the kids who already know they won’t because their parents are not good role models for choice. Schools in my area are fighting this as well. I’ve been in the middle of it advocating for parents with the school district in which most, not all, really care about is the bottom line in dollars not sense. Thank goodness that the revolution in kitchen gardens or farm to plate initiatives are moving forward. I am thankful I live and represent the communities I do. We are fairly progressive – but there is so much work to do. There needs to be parent education workshops with the PTA’s as a start.

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149 Karen September 23, 2012 at 8:53 am

Christina – I’m the person who emailed you yesterday, and co-chair of Kids Eat Smart, and organization that’s working to change the school food in Concord, MA. If I read all 148 comments to this old post, that would be my entire Sunday, so I’m probably not adding anything new. But that TLC group makes my head want to explode! One thing we did to get kids to try the new foods is to have “new food tastings” in the cafeteria. It’s complicated because you have to worry about allergies and work with the school nurse. It requires a cooperative food services director, cafeteria staff and principal — and this can be hard to come by. But we were able to have parent volunteers go table to table once a month with “tastes” of some of the new menu items and encouraged kids to try them. Some kids said no, most said yes. Some kids didn’t like them, most of the kids did once they tried. It obviously takes time and it kills me to see kids throwing away their entire lunch — sometimes what they bring from home, too. But these “TLC” parents need to understand the part they’re playing in their children’s resistance to new foods. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but MAN — I thought we have it hard. At least no one has formed a group *against* us!

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150 Christina September 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Karen: It’s been awhile since I checked in at this school. I should do that to see what’s happening these days. (If anyone getting comment notifications knows, please drop me a line at christina@spoonfedblog.net.) Your tasting plan sounds great. Sure, kids might balk, initially, at something new. But that doesn’t mean they won’t actually like it once they try it. Let’s give peas a chance…

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151 Amy September 28, 2012 at 2:58 pm

I think the people running this group are operating with a (possibly willful) lack of information. For instance, do they really not know that REAL maple syrup does not contain HFCS? Also, the fact that many families consume this stuff on a regular basis does not mean that it’s a wise choice. Since when is it “inappropriate” to give kids accurate information and inform them of their choices? From the website:
“INAPPROPRIATE COMMENTS: There have been inappropriate comments made to students about foods as well. Within the past few weeks, an announcement was made to the students during the DAILY ANNOUNCEMENTS that maple syrup would no longer be provided in teh cafeteria because “WE FOUND SOMETHING BAD FOR YOU IN IT”. Many children came home that day and asked “what was bad in the syrup”, since most of us have it in our refrigerators and serve it to our families with pancakes, waffles. etc. The “BAD” thing was High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), which is found in many “everyday foods”; ketchup, jelly and applesauce, to name a few.”

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152 Heidi C September 28, 2012 at 6:17 pm

It is inappropriate when the information is inaccurate. Maple syrup may be sweet but it has a good number of healthy natural compounds in it. It is being looked at as something that maybe beneficial for diabetics…just in the studying stage now but do not assume the government or the school or the ‘authority’ has complete accurate information.

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153 Christina September 28, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Heather: I can’t recall the details now, since this happened some time ago, but I’d bet good money that the “maple syrup” in question is not real maple syrup, but table syrup, which typically contains no maple whatsoever (and thus has none of the benefits of real maple syrup). Check out this Spoonfed post for more info: Sweet on maple sugaring.

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154 mwc liz January 10, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I’m obviously late to this party, but I found it very interesting that these parents were more willing to create a group and web site and attend meetings and talk to one another about how their kids don’t like the food but were not willing to spend the same amount of time packing lunches for their kids. If your kid tried the food and actually does not like it then why are you not willing to provide something they do? Parents who want healthier choices for their kids send lunches that are healthier. Parents who want poorer choices for their kids should pack the lunch they find ‘appropriate’ and just stop it there. The school is responsible for providing food and some nutrition (which are not always the same) they are not responsible for giving each child exactly what they want.

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155 Elizabeth Dalton August 21, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I saw traditional “food choices” and ‘picky’ and immediately read lazy parenting. Healthy eating starts at home.

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156 Asher December 4, 2013 at 1:43 pm

I know this is an act of comment necromancy, for which I apologize, but I just happened upon Spoonfed and have been reading through the archives a bit at a time.

Every time I stumble upon arguments like those made by the ironically-named “TLC” group, I can’t help but be reminded of the fact that, as a kid, I wouldn’t eat the food that was served in my school’s cafeteria — which was *exactly* the kind of food TLC wants reinstated — because, compared to what I ate at home, it was gross. Soggy fried stuff, cardboard pizza, unspeakable hamburgers (seriously, we called them “hockey pucks”), vegetables cooked to mush.

If that’s traditional, call me avant-garde, but even as a kid I had enough sense to want something better than that — and I wanted “better” because it was what I was used to at home (even though my Mom was a single parent and not much of a cook). I wasn’t afraid to try new foods (and, in fact, had kind of an “in your face” attitude about it — “Kids don’t like broccoli, you say? Oh yeah? Pass me that tiny tree, and no, I don’t want dipping sauce!”); I tried the stuff at school and hated it.

FWIW, my sister was a picky eater of the opposite camp (I like raw veggies, she hated all veggies; I hated hamburgers, she loved them). She hated the school offerings, too. So did everyone I knew, but most of us ate because we had to eat *something.* I preferred to starve and eat when I got home (I lived just around the corner). That probably wasn’t great for my academic career as a kid, but I’m a straight-A university student now :)

So, basically, what I’m saying is that for every kid that wouldn’t eat the “new” food, there was probably another kid that wouldn’t eat the “traditional” food. I guess I don’t really mind the idea of schools offering some of each, every day, if that’s the only way to keep the peace, but when things like this go down, too often the argument is settled in favor of the “reinstate ‘traditional’ food” side — in part, I would wager, because people assume, without any real foundations, that *more* kids like that kind of stuff better than the “new” stuff.

It blows my mind that so many parents forget what it’s like to be in second grade, assume that kids are some kind of alien species that needs to eat pablum, and feed them accordingly from birth. I’m glad there are people like you (and, yes, Jamie Oliver) who are willing to get out there and stick up for real food.

(BTW, this comment is not directed at parents of kids with honest-to-goodness sensory issues: I had some and still have a few, it just so happens that the stuff I couldn’t handle was mostly stuff that isn’t important anyway — mushy veggies still literally make me gag. It’s just pure luck that I don’t have that problem with raw veggies; if cooked-to-death was better for you, my diet would be atrocious.)

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157 Christina December 12, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Asher: There’s a reason I don’t close comments on old posts, and this is why. I’d otherwise miss out on insightful, poetic comments like yours. Thank you.

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