Healthy Lunches, Healthy Students
Who knew the simple school lunch served in thousands of American schools would turn out to be a hotbed of controversy?
Getting Kids to Eat Healthy continued...
That's one reason parental involvement -- both at home and at
school -- is so important.
"Not every parent can come to school for a lunch, but
that's one great way a parent can get involved," McDonald says. "As a
food service manager, I'm always happy to make arrangements for a parent to
visit at lunch. They see what the students are eating. They get to see what has
changed. The student sees that eating healthy food is important to the parent.
That's a powerful lesson."
Parental pressure is even forcing some changes in the widely
criticized practice of having vending machines in schools, most of which sell
sodas and junk food. Many schools use vending-machine proceeds to supplement
"More than 90% of high schools have vending machines, and
that is a real problem," says Stanton. "These high-fat, salty, or
sugary snacks are everything we don't want students to substitute for real
food. But they make money for the schools."
While the machines are staying, parents are pushing to make
changes in what the machines offer. Instead of only offering soda, some
machines will have fruit juice, too. Similarly, alongside the Ding Dongs and
Kit Kats, some schools are including healthier choices such as whole-grain
"It's a start," says McDonald. "And it's parents
that have the clout to keep the trend moving toward healthier foods, even if it
comes one step at a time."
Packing Safe School Lunches
So what if you're making lunch at home? Here are simple food
rules, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for sending a safe
lunch to school:
- Keep everything clean when packing the lunch. That not only goes for the
food, but also food preparation surfaces, hands, and utensils. Use hot, soapy
water. Keep family pets away from kitchen counters. Wash your hands before you
prepare or eat food.
- Keep cold foods cold in an insulated lunch box. When packing lunches,
include either freezer gel packs, cold food items such as fruit, or small
frozen juice packs. Place meat or egg sandwiches between cold items. Sandwiches
can also be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated or frozen before placing
in the lunch box.
- Keep hot foods hot by using an insulated bottle stored in an insulated
lunch box. Fill the bottle with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes,
empty, and then put in the hot food. Keep the insulated bottle closed until
lunch time to keep the heat in.
For more information on packing safe lunches for school and
work, call the USDA Hotline at 1-800-535-4555.