Multiple juvenile nutrition and health problems are on the rise. Juvenile obesity, diabetes, Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention-Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). School lunch programs bear at least partial responsibility for these problems. It didn't take Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution or Morgan Spurlock's 2004 documentary Super-size Me to make some of us in education realize that there was nutrition crisis in our nation's school cafeterias. School cafeteria environment, lunch schedules, hot lunch menus, ala carte options and beverage choices all present problems.
School lunchroom environment problems: Many school cafeterias double as a gymnasium or multi-purpose room. With lack of adequate maintenance and custodial staff, the school lunchroom is often less than appealing for students to eat their lunches. It's not surprising that many students throw their lunches away half-eaten.
School lunch schedule problems: The average school lunch period lasts only 20-25 minutes. That's assuming that students are released from class on time. In this time students must walk to the lunchroom, wait in line to be served, pay for their meals and find a seat. School cafeteria workers hurry students through their lunches so that the cafeteria can be cleaned and readied for the next event. For elementary and middle schoolers, lunch is followed immediately by recess. Most students rush through lunch, often eating only the junk, convenience and snack foods, so that they can have more play time.
School lunchroom menu, ala carte and beverage problems: While the actual school menus may be improving somewhat, with salad bars and healthier choices, most schools also offer an ala carte menu. This is basically a snack bar laden with junk food and snack food. Donuts, chocolate milk, snack cakes, pies, cookies, chips, high carb 'granola' bars, fruit snacks, ice cream, candy, sugary energy drink, fruit drinks and even soda pop is often available. Guess which option students usually choose? The school breakfast menus are junk food nightmares offering kids, muffins, donuts, sugar cereals and chocolate milk. I once watched a first grader make herself a bowl of Trix cereal topped with chocolate milk for breakfast.
Children are relatively impulsive by nature. If given the choice to fill up on candy and sweets for breakfast and lunch, most will. As a teacher, I can assure that these school lunch problems have a debilitating effect on student learning and success in school. For more on nutrition, visit me at www.greatfood4u.blogspot.com. For more on schools and education, visit me at www.freelessonplans4u.blogspot.com.