A dear friend and the mother of a whip-smart 5th grade student shared the following. Her daughter wrote this appeal to her school board to improve lunches and snacks at her school.
We were blown away by this little one.
February 18, 2016
Dear Fulton County School System,
I am a fifth grade student at Heards Ferry elementary school. I was assigned a project at the beginning of the year in my TAG class. The project was to find something you are passionate about, research, and create a presentation. Big or small. In this case, the thing I was passionate about was childhood obesity. I did some research, finding disturbing yet true things about child and adult obesity. Did you know that an average hour long TV show has about 11 food related commercials that encourage people to eat? An average American watches about 4 hours of TV a day. That’s 44 food related commercials!! I also found charts about childhood obesity:
These are from this year and are childhood obesity rates. The next chart is from 1974 to 2012
But these statistics are beside the point. The reason I am writing to you is for one reason. While I was researching I found out that a culprit of childhood obesity is school lunches.
Readers digest states, “A recent study found that children who regularly ate school lunches were 29 percent more likely to be obese than their peers who brought lunch from home. In a typical week, elementary school menus include chicken tenders, cheeseburgers, and ‘Pizza Fridays,’ with sides of cheesy rotini, mozzarella sticks or French fries. A healthy meal can be hard for students to come by in a public school cafeteria, and is especially challenging for school systems to provide.”
While many school districts are working to revamp their lunchroom meals, the fact is that most school lunches are not prepared from scratch and don’t use fresh fruits and vegetables; rather they are prepared with a “heat and serve” mentality. Ann Cooper and Lisa M. Holmes state in their 2006 book, Lunch Lessons, “French fries account for 46 percent of vegetable servings eaten by children ages 2 to 19” across the nation.”
Most schools can’t provide a healthy lunch for 500 students, and I understand that. But I have come up with a few ideas to improve the cafeteria menu.
At my school, the whole school has a garden in which different classes take turns watering. Maybe if every school in Fulton County had a school garden, the cafeteria could use the veggies grown to make nutritious meals. The whole school could get involved! The veggies would be fresh and “school grown”. That would be a huge improvement for the school!
Another idea I have is replacing the usual ingredients for the healthier choice that tastes the same, or maybe even better! For example, replace white rice with quinoa, vegetable oil with coconut oil, and sour cream with Greek yogurt. The kids wouldn’t know the difference! They would be getting a delicous meal that is also very healthy!
Along with the school lunch my school provides, they also give additional snacks for the kids to eat later or at lunch. These snacks include Pop Tarts, Welshs gummies, and cookies. I agree that kids should be provided with an extra snack, but that they shouldn’t be provided with junk food. Some kids buy these snacks every day. I think that we should replace this unhealthy food with things such as granola bars, trail mix, or better yet – fresh fruits and vegetables. It would fill them up much better then junk food would.
One of my other ideas is to have fresh fruit and vegtable drives every month. Not all schools have enough money to buy fruits and veggies, so every month kids can bring in grocery store or even home grown fruits and vegtables to school. The food can be used in cafeteria lunches. It would cost less money for the school and better meals for the kids. To get the word out, we could go around the school delivering samples of fresh fruit and veggies to show everyone how good freshness can taste!
Finally, I think that even the healtheir choices at school are unhealthy. At school they serve yogurt for breakfast. You might think that’s a great choice! But its not. The yogurt they serve is Trix yogurt from the Yoplait brand. But it has twice as much sugar! The school should serve regular yoplait or greek yogurt! They also serve Tostitos chips, which I admit, is a healthier kind of chip. But, did you know that popcorn is a MUCH better choice than chips?
While most people think that foods are healthy because they say they don’t contain junk food, they’re wrong. People don’t know that there are many artifical dyes which contain chemicals derived from petroleum, an oil product, that is used in gasoline, asphalt, and tar. There are dyes and chemicals in almost everything that comes from a package. That’s why we need to use fresher items in the cafeteria. That way we know what is going into the students stomachs.
In conclusion, I think that changing Fulton County Schools cafeteria menu would be the healthier option. The healthy eating habits kids learn at school could potentionally start being used at home. Kids don’t realize what they are putting in their body. They just eat what tastes good. That’s why we can SHOW them what tastes good by changing the cafeteria menu.