The W.K. Kellog foundation, which has been advocating for equal access to good food and exercise for children for 80 years, took a poll and found that a majority of Americans believe nutrition in local school meals falls far short of what children need. Pizza, chicken nuggets and hamburgers – old standbys in school lunch are just the foods they (we, the Americans) believe should be drastically cut from school menus.
One of the biggest obstacles I hear when discussing changing school lunch, is the idea that kids won’t eat healthy food (The other biggest obstacle is the idea that it costs too much – we can come back to another day), or that they won’t eat “adult food.” At Butter Beans, we ask the grown ups, to let the students try.
Today I had lunch at Bay Ridge Prep, where Butter Beans recently started serving lunch. I sat down at a table with fifth graders for lunch. I asked the table what were some of their favorite menu items so far. Among vegetable lasagna, lo mein and pasta was chicken! Children like chicken that looks like chicken. It doesn’t need to be breaded and shaped like a dinosaur to appeal. The young girl I was sitting next to went on to point out her younger brother, who she described as a picky eater, in line for salad today. She tells me that since Butter Beans has been at their school, he’s gotten into eating salad. I asked her why she thought he got into it at school and not at home. She thinks it has something to do with having his friends around eating it too. I think she’s right. Peer pressure can indeed be made to work in our favor.
Food is nourishing and delicious. My plate of lunch today, brimming with flavor and colors was beautiful. School is where we send our children to learn all sorts of things. If we can get the learning to continue in a relaxed and community sharing moment that lunch is, we get healthier happier kids in school, and kids that are much easier and enjoyable to be with at home.
Three cheers for our fellow Americans, ready for change. Now we just need enough parent volunteers to connect with other parents and with school directors to get programs like Butter Beans in their schools, or to get a salad bar in their cafeteria, and to join the Food Revolution and the other Angry Moms. Three cheers indeed.