Back to School

We all want our children to be safe and healthy, even when we can’t watch them 24/7.  One way to keep them healthy is to make sure they eat right, but if we don’t prepare all their meals ourselves, that’s hard to do.  Schools are taking steps towards making school lunches healthier, but you still may need to step in to make sure your child is being given healthy options. 

 There are programs in place that require certain nutritional standards to be met.  Within these standards, there are a lot of menu options schools can choose so that children can be given a variety of foods while staying nutritious and within the school’s means.  There are a few problems with this plan.  First, the dietary guidelines set out for school may not comply with what you think it healthy for your child.  Second, schools receive funding for following guidelines, but they are still not required to abide by them.

 To allow for variations in what you and your child think is healthy, some schools are allowing students not to take one or more menu options.  While this generally only happens in high schools, more middle and elementary schools are allowing it.  For this to work, you must teach your child to make healthy choices.

 If you question the nutritional value of your child’s lunch, you can either request menus be sent to you, or if possible, go have lunch with them a few times and see what they’re eating.  If you don’t feel the menu meets high enough standards, make that known.  Talk to the principal, the PTA, the school board, or the person in charge of menu planning.  Find other parents who agree with you and take a stand. 

 It seems the most logical option to ensure your child is eating right at school is just to give them a sack lunch.  The problem is, there’s no guarantee your child is eating their lunch and not someone else’s.  There are only so many teachers that can monitor lunch time, and unless your child has strict dietary restrictions, they really can’t ensure there isn’t lunch trading going on.   Again, it is your responsibility to teach your child healthy eating habits.

 While you may feel that schools should be required to serve healthy lunches, that doesn’t mean they do.  Many steps are being taken in the right direction, but you may need to help give those nutritional programs a nudge.  Just remember that not all people view healthy food the same and you may need to make concessions depending on how strict your think your child’s diet should be.