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Mom Was Shocked By What School Considered A 'Healthy' Lunch

The school lunch controversy seems endless. It used to be the parents' responsibility to ensure their child packed a simple meal. When many kids from impoverished families showed up to schools without lunches during the Great Depression, the National School Lunch Program was started to ensure that millions of kids would have access to a low-cost or free meal.

The program continued to feed children but has faced multiple criticisms over the years about the quality and nutritional value of the foods put on kids' plates at the taxpayer's expense. One mom couldn't believe what qualified as a 'healthy' meal, and she is furious that schools are able to cut corners like this.

Crystal Skinner of Coweta, Oklahoma visited her third grader's school and joined him during his lunch period. She was a little shocked when she saw what the young man had on his tray: a box of raisins, a few carrots, a cup of yogurt and a bag of Cheez-Its.

Skinner asked her son about his lunch. “This is not OK. How are kids supposed to be doing good in school when this is all they’re getting for lunch?” the mom asked him. “Where is the rest of your food?”

Her son told her that there was no more. The tray represented a standard lunch.

According to school lunch guidelines, kids are supposed to get 1/2 cup of vegetables, 1/2 of fruit, 1/2 cup of whole grains and 1 cup of meat. They're also supposed to get milk or juice. Skinner snapped a photo of the tray and sent it to a nutritionist for a ruling.

According to the nutritionist, the lunch failed. But the school managed to get away with it because raisins are considered fruit (even though the serving is only about 1/4 of the required amount), and yogurt is considered an acceptable replacement for meat. The cafeteria was pushing it, however, when they tried to pass of Cheez-Its as whole grains.

“Cheez-Its is not an acceptable whole-grain component since the ingredient is wheat flour and not whole grain," Dr. Jennifer Jackson.

Schools continue to keep falling short on standards, and there doesn’t seem to be any resolution in sight. American schools get criticized because they get more per dollar than many other countries in Europe, but provide far inferior meals.

In Europe, however, the school lunch program isn’t required to factor things like trash removal and electricity into their budget, while in American schools they do. On top of that, the funds are often poorly managed.

Making matters worse, when somewhat healthy foods do make it to the lunch trays, such as bland canned spinach and baked chicken, students used to eating chicken nuggets, pizza and French fries throw it out, wasting taxpayer dollars and going hungry. Kids then go home to complain to parents that the lunches are inedible.

Schools try to cut corners on meals, and try to make substitutions when they think kids will eat it. But when parents send kids with brown bags, they often get slaps on the wrist for not having packed a healthy or balanced enough lunch.

“I was unaware that this was going on at the school. That’s what hurt me,” Crystal said. “If I knew, I would’ve been sending a lunch to school with him every day instead of saying the school is going to feed you right for lunch. After seeing that, my heart hurt.”

Source: Little Things
Photos: KJRH

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