School Lunch Makeover: Viola!

Articles
March 24, 2010

School Lunch Makeover: Viola!

Michelle Obama sets out to tackle childhood obesity, calling attention to the variety of factors that have landed the United States in the midst of a serious health crisis, including a not so stellar school lunch offering

As Michelle Obama sets out to tackle childhood obesity, calling attention to the variety of factors that have landed the United States in the midst of a serious health crisis, including a not so stellar school lunch offering, The Lempert Report suggests looking overseas to the awesomely indulgent French and the seemingly refined and specific palate of the Japanese for cafeteria and lunch time inspiration.
 
Both the Japanese and French take their school lunches very seriously; they believe meal time is the time to instill important lifelong values and good habits. In both school systems, the time allotted for lunch is considered as important as say a math or science lesson. In essence, school lunch is “Food Ed” where students learn lessons of vocabulary, table manners, regional specialties, food prep techniques, culinary heritage, basics in nutrition, and of course develop an awesome palate. In some French elementary schools, the silverware, furniture and noise levels are equally as important as the meal itself. The French government asserts, and the Lempert Report seconds that lifelong eating habits are formed during early childhood and schools should ensure children make good food choices despite outside influences.
 
To give an example of the school lunch program in France, lunch menus are created and posted (two months in advance) outside schools; detailing the (often locally sourced) five course meals to be served every day. Brochures are passed out to every family, explaining the menu and offer complementary dinner suggestions for each unique lunch. The French culture embraces food and has a long culinary history unlike the melting pot culture of America - which by the way is no excuse for what’s being served up in US lunchrooms.   
 
So as Michelle Obama and the government work to improve school lunches, and the way we as a nation think about food, supermarkets are presented the perfect opportunity to merchandise nutritious, well balanced, brown bag lunches. What first comes to mind might be, peanut butter and jelly on white bread, chips, a cookie or other dessert and a sugary soda or ‘fruit’ drink - but this is far from a well balanced meal and supermarkets can assist parents in making much healthier, well balanced decisions. 
 
Create displays that demonstrate well balanced meals that rotate every few weeks. These should include:

  • Brown bags or reusable lunch totes
  • Reusable beverage containers
  • Meal suggestions which include whole grains, vegetables and lean protein
  • Snack options i.e. carrot or celery sticks with dip like hummus, guacamole, salsa, or a yogurt based dip
  • Desserts like berries, dried fruit, alternating with cookies i.e. oatmeal raisin

Instilling valuable messages in children at a young age is imperative, as is what kids learn at home. Supermarkets assisting parents in making good decisions will only be met with gratitude. The Lempert Report encourages kids and parents to get involved and become Koodies (kid-foodies!) visit www.koodies.net for more information.