School Lunches Get a Garnish.
Mystery Meat No More
But school lunch still gets a bad rap, says Sheah Rarback, an
American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and the director of nutrition at the
Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami in Florida.
"It's an easy target because kids are picky eaters, but
school lunch does meet guidelines for having certain nutritional
standards," she says.
"Now the schools are competing with fast-food
establishments, so they are working to make foods competitive and
appealing," Rarback says. The American School Food Service Association
estimates that 13% of U.S. public schools sell fast foods, including food from
such chains as Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Arby's, and Subway.
New, improved school lunches must be coupled with education,
says Rarback, also the chairwoman of the Dade County School's food and
nutrition advisory board.
"We try to use more whole grains and ... have meatless
entrees, and it's a great idea, but it needs to be coupled with nutritional
education," she says.
"The big picture," she says, "is making better
choices in the cafeteria and having some program to support and encourage
children to do this."
But everyone agrees that another piece of this pie is physical
"Nutrition can't function alone. We have known that it is a
combination of knowledge of nutrition and eating right, but also good amount of
physical activity," says Procter.
"Physical activity in schools has gone down in priority and
frequency," Berkowitz tells WebMD. "There's less physical education,
less funding for physical education. We need to rethink how we get kids to be
more physically active and try to reduce sedentary behavior."
Another problem plaguing school children is calcium deficiency
and the risk of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.
But who is going to drink milk when there is soda?
Enter E-moo, a fizzy, calcium-rich, and low-fat drink that
comes in such flavors as orange creamsicle and bubble gum. Developed by
scientists at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., E-moo is available in most
top food markets in the Northeast and is about to go nationwide.
A few hurdles exist before it's offered in the schools, says
Mary Ann Clark, RN, vice president of technical services at Mac Farms, Inc., of
Burlington, Mass, but the product was extremely well-received at a recent
school foods fair.