Lunch is served.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the news lately about the school lunch program. I think it’s very important for schools to provide well-balanced meals for students. Many children may not receive adequate nutrition other than at school, and they may not even know what a balanced meal should look like. I applaud schools for being good examples.

I hope the school lunches are more appetizing than they were when I was in school. I usually avoided eating the vegetables because they were always pale and limp. The main item was usually safer unless it was mystery meat day. Even the pizza, which was one of the more sought after items, didn’t compare with “real” pizza. I’m sure feeding hundreds of kids a day is difficult, but the key to healthy eating is to provide food that tastes good. Children can be picky eaters anyway, but convincing them to eat something just because it’s healthy may be nearly impossible.

The issue with the school lunches now is that standards have been set for minimum and maximum caloric levels based on age group. High school athletes are alleging that the school lunches are not providing enough energy to get through the day. I can believe this. Many athletes go straight from school to practice or games. They may not get home for dinner until after 7pm. My lunch doesn’t usually sustain me that long and I don’t have the metabolism or activity level of these students. However, increasing the caloric levels of lunches may be too much for non athletes, and regardless of calories, a twelve noon lunch may not last until dinner. Perhaps athletes staying after school will require a healthy snack to tide them over until dinner.

I know the goal of the National School Lunch Program is to reduce the obesity epidemic among children. I hope the rules will not be so stringent that the young people suffer—some flexibility in the system will be required. I know this job will be difficult, and I applaud those who are doing their best for our children.