|The fruit and vegetable bar, offering apples, cucumbers, applesauce, carrots,|
and chick-pea salad. Burns Park Elementary School, October 1, 2015.
US Dept. of Agriculture requires that school lunches include fruit and vegetables.
|Today's lunch: hot dogs, corn, and choices from the fruit and vegetable bar.|
Chuck Hatt, Burns Park School Principal, greets each child by name as he dispenses catsup or mustard for their hot dogs.
When the bell for lunch rings, he says "I'm on!"
|The weekly lunch menu from the school district's webpage -- my visit was on Thursday.|
Chartwells also participates in the "Farm to School" program using Michigan growers to supply produce; the program also sponsors school vegetable gardens. Today's apples came from one of several Michigan orchards and cucumbers from Ruhlig Farms in Carleton, MI. "Using local food in our school food service also supports local and regional farms in their efforts to be sustaining contributors to our local economy. Chartwells provides Michigan-grown produce in all AAPS cafeterias," says Heather Holland, Director of Dining Services, AAPS.
Meals at Burns Park School are mainly prepared in a small kitchen adjacent to the cafeteria. For example, the hot dogs were heated in the oven and placed in buns by a Chartwell's employee, who also dishes out the hot dogs and corn to the lunch line, and replenishes the fruit and vegetable bar. If the menu included stovetop preparations, such as boiling pasta, the cooking would be done at the larger, more fully equipped kitchen at Pioneer High School around a mile away, and brought to Burns Park for final prep. Both breakfast and lunch are served in the cafeteria, but I only visited at lunchtime.
School meals, as I mentioned, get a lot of attention nationwide -- especially the requirement that fruit and vegetables be a major part of school nutrition programs, which became Department of Agriculture policy in 2012. A recent article in the New York Times said:
"Food and nutrition directors at school districts nationwide say that their trash cans are overflowing while their cash register receipts are diminishing as children either toss out the healthier meals or opt to brown-bag it. While no one argues that the solution is to scrap the law and go back to feeding children junk, there’s been a movement to relax a few of the guidelines as Congress considers whether to reauthorize the legislation, particularly mandates for 100 percent whole grains and extremely low sodium levels, so school meals will be a bit more palatable and reflective of culinary traditions." ("Why Students Hate School Lunches," Kate Murphy, September 26, 2015)
While a lot of fruit and vegetables from the lunch trays did go in the trash, I also saw a lot of kids throwing away whole wrapped items or half-eaten items from the lunch boxes they brought from home. And I wonder: is this just the way kids act when no one is coercing them to clean their plates?
Another recent article illustrates the focus on food thrown away rather than on food that's eaten: they observed that more fruit and vegetables were tossed away now -- more than before the program started. As far as the article reported, the study didn't actually observe what the kids ate, only what they wasted. ("Children Tossing School Lunch Fruits and Vegetables,"Nicholas Bakalar, New York Times, September 7, 2015)
As the kids finish lunch and dump their trash, they are supposed to sort the recyclables from the other garbage. In a few weeks, when everyone is more adjusted to the new school year, Principal Chuck Hatt says there will be fifth graders wearing gloves who serve as the "Green Team" helping to keep the cafeteria clean and make sure the trash is properly sorted.
|Vegetarian option: hummus, pita, and grapes. I only saw one of these chosen.|
Kids like hot dogs!
|Lunch boxes from home contained a variety of foods. |
Of 470 pupils in the school, around 120 buy the school lunch,
and the rest bring lunch from home. 50% of purchased meals are subsidized.
|After they finish eating, kids have another half hour to play outside.|
|Lining up to return to class after lunch.|
For all my posts on school lunches, including this one, CLICK HERE.