ASFSA Responds to Unfair
Criticism of School Lunches
ALEXANDRIA, Va., (October 24, 2001) – In a recent article distributed by Tribune Media Services, writer Jacquelyn Mitchard blames school lunches for the current childhood obesity epidemic. She says that “the school cafeteria is a weapon that will strike children in the heart decades from now” and claims that “children who are hooked on salt and fat-laden school lunches now will carry risk factors into adulthood.”
American School Foodservice Association (ASFSA) President, Marcia Smith, Foodservice Director of Polk County Schools in Florida responds, “All National School Lunch Program meals must meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that no more than 30 percent of an individual’s calories come from fat, and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. School lunches must also provide one-third of the Recommended Dietary Allowances of protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, calcium and calories. Foodservice staff work very hard to make sure that the meals they serve to our nation’s children are nutritious, tasty and reasonably priced.”
Mitchard suggests in her article that parents should pack nutritious lunches including, “ants on a log, yogurt, turkey sandwiches and fat-free dressings.” In fact, many schools offer those exact items to their students. Perhaps the critics of today’s school lunches haven’t visited a cafeteria recently. Salad bars, fresh fruit and vegetables and low-fat milk are widely available.
Current research supports the fact that school lunches are often more nutritious than those packed at home. According to research conducted by Alice Jo Rainville of Eastern Michigan University and published in the Journal of Child Nutrition and Management, meals eaten at school are more nutritious than those brought from home. Rainville evaluated 570 lunches, both prepared by schools and brought from home. She found that the lunches prepared in school had significantly fewer calories from fat than lunches brought from home. In addition, school lunches had more protein, fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin B-6, B-12, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, calcium, iron and zinc. The lunches brought from home had more carbohydrates, fat and sugar.
While the issue of childhood obesity is a serious one, physical activity is an important part of the equation. Activity is essential for children, however physical education time is being cut in many schools and children spend numerous inactive hours in front of the television or computer screen.
Smith says, “Rather than point fingers, I would like to see everyone concerned with child nutrition working together to solve the very real issues of child health. ASFSA and its members are committed to playing an important role in this arena.”
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