School Lunch: Freedom of Leaving Items Off

Hopefully you have taken the advice of Aimee Amodio and sat down with your child to review the school lunch menu. If you have, you probably did not notice a major change in the lunches served. Pizza, hot dogs, and French fries are still on the menu. However, school lunches are healthier. Wheat bread products and low fat mixes are being used. More foods are being baked instead of fried. Vending machine junk food items have been removed from the schools. Drink machines are full of water and juices. This is a big change from the past. At one time, schools made a large profit from selling candies and cokes. I, like Valerie Nelson stated in a previous article, can remember my usual high school morning snack of Sundrop and Doritos. Yes, parents still pack these items in lunch boxes, but at least now the schools are not contributing to the sugar and fats served to children. These changes are good and I am proud that the government is trying to create a healthier generation of youth. However, there are still school lunch issues that I wish to see changed.

Although the government wants children to eat healthier, they also want teachers and staff to let children decide what to eat. As teachers, we are not to make suggestions to students about what items to have on their tray. Therefore if you have looked over your child’s menu and helped your child make a wise decision about what to eat, everything on the menu may not be on your child’s plate. Each student must have at least three items on his/her plate. One item should be a bread product and one can be milk. For example if the menu states that the lunch is chicken, green beans, roll, cream potatoes, apple, and milk, your child could walk away with chicken, roll, and milk. This is not the worst lunch a child could eat. But let us look at some other options. Suppose your child chooses the salad bar. He could go through line with milk, crackers, and cheese. Another option is a hot dog and milk. I disagree with letting the children choose what goes on their plate for two main reasons.

First, small children will often say that they do not want something on their plate because a friend did not get it or because of how it looks. Children in the primary grades are not old enough to make good decisions about what they eat. My thought is that if the food is put on their plate, there is a chance that they might eat it. However, each day I hear children telling the cafeteria ladies that they do not want peas or potatoes or carrots. Older children may be able to handle this freedom of choice. I am not against offering all children options for lunch such as either a hot plate or a sandwich. Yet, small children should not be given the option of leaving things off their plates. They should be given what is on the menu.

The second reason that I am against freedom of leaving items off the plate in the cafeteria is that parents are paying for the food listed on the menu. The parents pay the same no matter if the child takes three items or everything listed. The food is being paid for so why not give it to the child?

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