School Lunches Get a Garnish
Reputation Persists continued...
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 activity.
"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.
"We are not competing with milk," Clark says. "We want kids who drink milk and like it the way it is to drink milk, but we want to give the other kids the opportunity to have a beverage that is lightly carbonated, flavored, and available in colors that are kind of neat, with all the nutrition of milk."
Currently, most schools comply with an agreement not to sell soda during the pre-lunch or lunchtime period. And the Coca-Cola company recently reported that it will end its exclusive contracts with a limited number of schools; include juice, milk, and water in its school vending machines; and replace advertising on those machines with pictures of students engaged in sports and other physical activity.
"Schools have a responsibility to offer good nutrition to children whether during the meal or afterward," the PTA's Igo says. "Many children are overweight and don't get enough exercise, so when snack foods are available it just compounds the problem and just closing them off at noontime is not the answer," she says.
"We appreciate that schools are strapped for cash, but children should not be a marketing commodity," Igo says. "The revenues from soft drink machines do not add the kind of dollars that schools need to do the things they want to do," she says.