SCHOOLFOOD

Here’s your basic school lunch: Tater Tots, boiled to death green beans, some sort of Salisbury steak meat amalgamation, chocolate milk with an inch of syrup on the bottom of the carton, and that plastic foil-sealed cup of “fruit” juice.

So the federal government is trying to clean up lousy school food. Congress is poised to increase the amount of money it gives to the National School Lunch Program. The Obama administration, led by First Lady Michelle Obama, asked for more than $10 billion over 10 years to improve the program.

But many schools, in cities where costs are high, districts are struggling to afford healthy lunches. San Francisco schools get about $2.74 per meal in federal funding, but officials say they need at least $5 to serve a healthy lunch. So school food still remains pretty scary.

In 2009, a study appearing in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association revealed 94% of school lunches failed to meet U.S. Agriculture Department’s standards; many schools served food with excessive salt and total fat. And worst of all, the number one meal served in schools is chicken fingers and French fries. You’ve heard of brain food? That’s brain dead food!

Chicken foods, like “chicken fingers” are doubly scary when you consider that mashed up meat really isn’t chicken anymore.

But despite the lack of funds, San Francisco has need inroads into serving better food. Many public schools offer fresh fruits and vegetables, salad bars, and healthier snacks, such as baked chips every day. Also, white bread has been replaced by whole grain bread and wheat pasta.

And other U.S. cities are doing their best to improve school food too. In order to combat childhood obesity, Washington, DC schools have stopped offering flavored milks, like chocolate milk.

However, more money is needed. Other San Francisco schools don’t have kitchens, forcing them to buy pre-prepared food from outside sources – typically a bad idea.

I’m not sure why we can’t sort this out. American kids are already falling behind the rest of the world in education rankings, so at the very least – in a nation as rich as the United States – we can serve these little ones good food.

Image credit: chidorian