Saturday, July 9, 2011

Free Lunch, At What Price?

Audrey, Maurene, and I have attended a few Free Lunches this summer. On the first day I even plopped down $3.25 to purchase lunch for myself. And that was the last time for me. My toddler girls seemed not to mind the white bread peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the fruit in heavy syrup, and chocolate milk. They politely declined the chopped iceburg lettuce cups. And, as a bonus, on the last day we attended the girls were treated to a chocolate chip cookie. 

Free lunch at South Park

Overall I was not impressed with the meals provided, however, the chocolate milk was the worst. I did the math on sugar consumption if a child selects chocolate milk for every meal, including summer. The number I came up with is 10.9lbs. This is based on 175 days of school during the regular year and 50 days during the summer.

Chocolate milk
I think if we just eliminate the flavored milk option children will have a significantly less sugar intake throughout the year. Chocolate milk is a fun treat and is best reserved for special times and not for lunch every day. This is just my opinion and I would love to hear yours. Please leave me a comment here or send us an email, you can find the address to the right.  

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16 comments:

  1. I completely agree. Also it seems by your description of the other lunch items that they aren't so 'healthy' I think this year I will make an effort to encourage my child to choose white milk. Have you though of writing the lunch program with this information? I think it's a great arguement to remove or limit chocolate milk to at least the primary students.

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  2. When I was in school we only got chocolate milk on Wednesdays and I don't even think I liked it that much. What is too bad is that when kids get used to all that sugar it is hard to convince them white milk tastes good.

    I wish lunch programs did not have the attitude that unhealthy food is better than no food at all. Healthy food would go so much farther in so many ways.

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  3. I remember growing up chocolate milk WAS a special thing with lunch. I think we only got the choice once or twice a month. I would totally be for limiting chocolate milk and getting rid of fruit cups with heavy syrup. I personally think that school lunches should have to follow the nutrition guidelines and only have 1/3 of the amount of suggested sugars available at each lunch.

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  4. Lindsey, I am just starting, no idea where I want to take this. Thanks for the comments. I like the idea of limiting. Then the kids can enjoy a little treat. I do not remember the option of flavored milk growing up. I wish my mother were around for me to ask.

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  5. As little ones mine loved chocolate milk. Once in a while now my daughter will still drink it.
    http://helpingronald.blogspot.com/

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  6. This is probably a really dumb question, but what is a "free lunch"? I'm assuming this is not at a school, as your girls are too young, yes? I'm in Australia, so it's quite possibly every American knows what you mean, but I just wondered. I do agree though - if this is a program aimed at preschoolers, I think that's too much sugar.

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  7. @Sugary Flower In our city we have lunch every weekday free for any child 1-18 years old. They do not have to pay any money but my point is that there is a cost, that of health.

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  8. Kris, have you followed Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on TV at all? He dealt with the chocolate milk issue on one of his shows. It was interesting and quite shocking how much sugar is in that stuff!

    My girls are grown now but I feel fortunate that they were never "into" the school lunches.

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  9. Have you asked the school lunch program for a Print out. According to my mother who has worked in the USD 497 lunch program for over ten years the cookies and bread are made of whe wheat, there is never ever any heavy syrup served. As for the chocolate milk a lot of children would not drink the milk at all if there was only white avalible. The district has to follow strict health guidelines. If parents don't want their kids to drink chocolate milk then tell teach them not to at home or pack their lunch. The food servers do not make lunch choices for the chdren, do not force them to eat or not eat. Good choices come from home. They adhere to health guidlelines set forth by the district which is o e reason soda machines were removed from highschools. It may pay to get and actual nutritional guideline breakdown.

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  10. The bread during the summer is clearly white bread. Cookies, whole wheat or not, should not be served every day. And the chocolate milk, I do not pour sugar on vegetables in order to get my children to eat them. I employ healthy choices. Children at young ages are still learning to make proper choices. It is my opinion that the guidelines are flawed, that is why I am looking into this. We do not tell parents to teach kids not to run out in the street, we put up fences to make sure they stay safe. I expect that the district will make good decisions. Thanks for your input, Lindsey, this is just my opinion.

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  11. I work in the school system at an elementary school. Not only is chocolate milk a daily option, it's offered at breakfast too! You should check out their breakfast menus. Sugary cereal, sticky buns, etc. And even sadder, a large majority of kids use the chocolate milk on the sugary creal. Disgusting and disheartening! :(
    Debbie

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  12. ANd although parents may do their best to teach their kids to make good choices, I think school systems need to take some responsibility here as well. Why give the kids these choices at all? Why make it so hard for the kids to make good choices? They could offer white milk in varying % and water as an alternative. JMO.
    Check out this blog - this teacher at school lunches for a school year. Talk about disgusting and disheartening!!! http://fedupwithschoollunch.blogspot.com/
    Debbie

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  13. Which is why my kids eat breakfast at home and take lunch and a thermos to school every day! We go Bento style. Cute stuff out there! I know my kids are eating healthy. And as a bonus, I use up leftovers, lol!
    -Debbie (again!)

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  14. When I was kid, our choices were white milk or chocolate milk or nothing. So when this debate started, at first I was on board with the - at-least-they're-drinking-milk campaign. But then someone said, how about we give them more options - healthy fruit juice, vegetable juice, water, white milk. Seems simple enough to me!

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  15. My father who grew up on a farm where he had to drink unpasteurized milk - for that reason, the only milk he will drink today is chocolate because he can't stand the taste of milk alone (even pasteurized). My 5yo can't stand the taste of plain milk either so I do let him drink chocolate... as much as he wants because I KNOW the rest of his diet is fine; he eats his veggies, meat etc but milk is a battle so I would rather not battle over this one issue (I have to say he also loves cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese so chocolate milk isn't his only form of dairy). I agree that if you don't want your kids to drink chocolate milk then it's up to you to pack their lunch or give them a healthier option. You can't put the entire blame on schools (and even I have taken issue with the school menu so I'm not oblivious to what the kids are eating) but I do know that schools only have so much in the budget for lunches and so they often go with the cheaper less healthy option so that they can feed all the students that need a school lunch. I also know from working in the schools that sometimes the free lunch or school lunch is the BEST meal a kid gets all day and yes that is very sad but it's a fact. I'm not trying to sound rude so excuse me if I come off that way but what do you expect for a free lunch? The monies that provide the free lunch are made available through govt programs so that kids who may rely on the free lunches at school aren't going hungry during the summer; my point is that it's something - not the best nutrition but it's there to keep kids who might otherwise go hungry have at least one meal that day.
    As for my family - I don't worry about the chocolate milk in their diet because I know that overall their diet is very balanced (we drink Ovaltine which only has 9g of sugar, 70g of sodium, 10g of carbs & 0g of cholesterol as opposed to the milk in the picture and this is what I'm packing in my kids' lunches). I do hope that whatever you've set out to do or change you're able to accomplish and I hope it won't adversely affect those that depend on the free lunches that schools make available.

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  16. At our school chocolate milk is only offered once a week, and then only at lunch. However, the meals are very far from healthy. Sure, they offer oatmeal at breakfast, but with nothing on it. No sugar, no fruit, etc. All of the fruit is in a heavy syrup, and they don't get fresh very often. It's hard for kids to make healthy choices when something healthy like whole oatmeal is made to be as unappetizing as possible. I worked in the cafeteria for a day and made it a point to double check on the canned fruit, etc.

    On the other end of that deal, however, our cook for the last two years cooked healthier choices, but he had been a cook in a gourmet restaurant, so what he cooked was stuff the kids really didn't have exposure to. Cheese ravioli with diced tomato and fennel sauce, baked mac and cheese made with soy cheese, etc. I loved it, the kids not so much, and more often than not I would find out they weren't eating lunch.

    I think it's hard for schools to find a middle ground that also meets their budget guidelines. Raising their prices would only result in parental uproar (understandable, in this economy), or more parents seeking to qualify for the Reduced Lunch Program, which often does not reimburse for the cost of an entire meal (especially when you're factoring in costs like fresh fruits and veggies).

    That being said, my husband and I are looking for ways to decrease our overall food costs and to be able to make our kids' lunches to send to school. Our school district (one school in its' entirety) feeds every student for free (2/3 of the students qualify for free or reduced and we have huge unemployment) so right now that is a factor.

    Thanks for this post!

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