Why cafeteria food is the best

I sorta gotta agree with New York Times health guru Jane E. Brody when she writes that many parents undoubtedly think they are doing the best for their children by having them bring lunch from home instead of eating the lunches served in school. But recent studies clearly prove them wrong.

belushi.cafeteriaThe meals we serve in Sorenne’s school tuck shop are low in salt, high in protein and safety. And we’re always trying to do better.

But I volunteer at the school enough to know what most kids get for lunch and tea (Australian for morning break and afternoon break) and can agree with research cited by Brody that home-packed lunches are likely to be considerably less nourishing than the meals offered in schools that abide by current nutrition guidelines for the National School Lunch Program.

That program is, distressingly, increasingly under attack. The requirements for less salt and only whole grains were already reversed in the final federal spending bill approved by the Senate on Dec. 13.

But the program must not continue to be undermined, and more schools should be encouraged to participate. Nearly 32 million of the more than 50 million children in public elementary and secondary schools currently eat school lunches, most of them provided through the program. For about 60 percent of those children, half or more of their daily calories are consumed at lunch.

Those numbers, along with the recent findings on meals brought from home, make the contents of lunches served in school especially important to the health of America’s children, now and in the future.

One study, conducted in 12 elementary and intermediate schools in Houston, found that compared with what is served in school, lunches brought from home contained fewer servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and milk than the national program mandates.

Whether it’s school lunches or lunches made at home, focus on the basics and give kids the nutritional edge they need to develop.