Children in America are unhealthy, and the largest contributing factor to that unhealthiness is diet. The National Lunch Program feeds 29 million students a day – that’s over half of the children who are currently in our public school systems. These meals often consist of prepackaged, processed food that is poured into warmers and served. Most cafeterias don’t have a salad bar, but school districts are quick to cart in fast food and junk food - and soda machines are everywhere. So children spend around 6-8 hours at school being surrounded by and fed food that is highly processed, and laden with sodium, high fructose corn syrup, and a host of other preservatives and additives. In turn, America’s children, especially children in lower-income families, are being inundated with obesity, asthma, depression, behavioral issues, and allergies.
Organic Lunch Solution
So how do we provide children with healthy lunches that are as good for their taste buds as for their bodies? The answer for a number of schools has been organic school lunches. The ailments mentioned above are tied directly to our compromised food supply. Conventional, pesticide-ridden foods are processed, shot with radiation, and then served to students via BPA-lined plastic and aluminum cans. Even better is the fact that because of current food laws, a lot of the foods are now also genetically modified.
There are nuggets of school districts in progressive states such as Washington, New York, California and Wisconsin where organic and healthy lunches are served as a routine. There are initiatives such as the Edible Schoolyard Project where schools grow their own organic gardens and children participate in the growing and harvesting; they get to enjoy the fruits of their labor at lunchtime. Go into almost any private school cafeteria, and you will more than likely find fresh organic foods galore.
Dr. Teré Dickson, M.D., M.P.H., who is a frequent contributor to First Things First Foundation for Health and Wellness, advocates that children have access to, “healthy and fresh alternatives for school lunches, including fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Childhood obesity is causing the development of childhood diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease at younger ages.” She also supports initiatives that allow children to participate in the growing and harvesting of organic food, saying that, “the involvement with the food at the planting, growing, and harvesting stages allows for a great workout and inspires children to eat healthier as well.”
Our Progressive Counterparts
France and Italy are two countries that rank highest on the World Health Organization’s list of health care systems and guess what? Their national lunch programs provide students with locally grown organic lunches with both vegetarian and vegan options. So again, when it comes to providing our children with the best nutritional start possible, why can’t America do the same? Big business is why. Companies spend over 12 billion dollars a year on junk food advertising. States that try simple measures like removing soft drink machines from schools have found fierce opposition from the big corporate lobbyist machine. So, imagine the squall that would occur if a National Organic Lunch Program were on the table. Until the government wises up, parents must take it upon themselves to begin the battle to get healthy, organic alternatives offered in their child’s school.
Every school-age child in America should have access to a daily organic lunch. The increased costs that would prohibit schools from making the change, in truth, are non-existent or exaggerated by conventional food interest groups that are seeking to keep the status quo. One school district even reduced its costs by 2% after making the organic switch because it did away with desserts. If schools stopped spending money on unhealthy foods and diverted all funds for locally grown organic foods, lunch would be a happier and healthier time for everyone involved.