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Thursday, June 01, 2006

School Food

School Food is right up there on the oxymoron list with Jumbo Shrimp and Military Intelligence.

It turns out school lunch is a big topic in the blogosphere today! There are all sorts of debates about vending machines in schools, and if that's contributing to obesity.

Don Surber has a column reminiscing about what he did for lunch "back in the days." The obesity rise came at the same time as increasing government school involvement in feeding kids, though I think that might just be coincidence. Several other things happened around that time: larger portions in restaurants, video games, computers, an increasing fear in letting kids be on their own in the neighborhood.

In elementary school, I ate the hot lunch, but grew sick of several of the foods (icky, microwaved, rubbery pizza), and started bringing a lunch on occasion. Junior high had more palatable a la carte purchases. By the time high school came around, I brought my lunch most days (there was no actual cafeteria building at the time). Most memorable, though, was the school's open campus. Those students with cars could go out for fast food. Other students could walk home. While I wasn't anywhere near close enough to school to walk home at lunch, I did occasionally go to a friend's home for lunch, some quick Nintendo action, and to see his cute baby brother.

Moving to a second high school, with a closed campus, I was finally sick of packing lunches, so came full circle, eating the hot lunch once again.

Strange, though, is that no one is talking about the nature of school lunches themselves as a cause of obesity. The food is high fat, high carbohydrate, and designed to provide enough Calories to benefit a student without enough to eat at home. That's not the case nowadays, for the majority of the poor and basically everyone else.

The meat is not lean ground beef and boneless skinless chicken breasts. It is, to quote The Simpsons, Grade F meat (Mostly circus animals, some filler). Vegetables are cooked until all the nutrients leach into the cooking water. Milk is the higher Calorie 2%.

One particularly gross item was the croutons, made from recycled grilled cheese sandwiches. Here's how I imagined the ingredient list:

HIGH SCHOOL CAFETERIA(tm) brand Croutons.
Ingredients: Oil, Salt, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (Oil, Bread, Cheez(tm) [Oil, Water, Salt, Milk, Enzymes]).

Serving healthy (and more expensive) meals in school cafeterias won't solve childhood obesity, but it wouldn't hurt.

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