Speaking to middle school kids about nutrition was a new experience. The school was large, over 1000 kids, and I spoke with 250 of them last Friday – 5 classes each with 50 students. They were engaged and attentive. I was impressed with their questions and I loved interacting with them.
I took this assignment to raise awareness and inspire change (my never ending mission.) What I didn’t realize was what I would learn from the students, the teachers, people working in the lunchroom and from the Wellness Coordinator overseeing the entire city’s wellness and nutrition program.
Contracts with big food suppliers can’t be easily broken, once a contract is signed it’s usually for five years, people working in the lunchroom are not allowed to make changes – even ones that would be positive for the health of the children. The teacher I worked with is responsible for 100’s of children and even the best efforts can not be one on one counseling.
The food served looked terrible. I couldn’t identify most things on the menu. When each class was asked how many skipped lunch, the majority of students raised their hands. Honestly, I would’t have eaten that food myself. My suggestion to the wellness coordinator was this; bring this food to the people who sign the contract and ask them if they would like to eat it every day for lunch. My guess would be no!
This is not an isolated situation – it’s a real call for change. We’ve known it for years but once again big food has taken over and our kids are the ones affected.
Photo credit: Giovanni D’Anca.