In the past two days, I have heard two “lunchroom” stories that broke my heart.
The first involved our very own elementary school. You should know that I live in one of the richest– and thinnest– states in the nation. We are always, always in the top five list when it comes to per capita income. We also land in the top five when it comes to “healthiest weight/most active.”
Why does that matter? Well, it’s important just because it also means our percentage of children on free/reduced lunch programs is relatively low. And, fortunately, most families are at the very least capable of affording good, wholesome food for their families. Theoretically, we shouldn’t have many, if any, children who are going hungry or are unable to get the nutrients they need.
But the other day, a little boy dropped his lunch tray. A mom with whom I’m friends was volunteering. She immediately went to go get part of her own daughter’s lunch to share with the teary-eyed boy. But then she remembered about allergies. No worries, she thought, I know we have money in our cafeteria account; I’ll buy him a new lunch. (Is it any wonder I like this woman?)
But the aide in the lunchroom wouldn’t let her. She told her that the boy– a first grader– needed to learn his lesson.
Yesterday, Phoebe shared the story of her own daughter‘s willingness to go without and/or get in trouble. Upon learning that another child could not afford lunch, she shared her own. They live in a different state with different needs and challenges from my own.
Both stories break my heart. These are the things that keep me up and make me worry.
And, yet, our government has determined that the best way to ensure the care and health of our public school children is to limit their caloric intake. (You can read all about it here, if you are so inclined. There’s some good stuff in there– like increased dark leafy greens. There are also some pathetic things– like sugar-packed chocolate milk is fine as long as there’s no fat in there.)
It all just makes my head spin.
And I can’t help but think, again, that our priorities are horribly skewed. Offering healthier, more nutrient-dense food? YES. I am on-board with that 100%. I agree unequivocally that our school lunch programs could use a makeover. Cutting fat and calories for growing children, but allowing processed and sugary foods to remain in abundance? Just doesn’t make sense to me.
How about we spend some time worrying about the children who are going without meals rather than whether or not they’re coming in under 650 calories?
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear.
[I can get super duper fired up over this one. Believe it or not, I reined it in considerably here. ]