Good Riddance Disgusting, Unhealthy School Lunches?

Health & Wellness on 01.26.12
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It's been three decades since I tasted my first mystery meat burrito, served with a helping of mashed potatoes and a slurp of chocolate milk. Ah, school cafeteria food, where the culinary color spectrum consists of shades of yellow and brown. I didn't have much of a sophisticated palate back then, not to mention a sense of what was healthy and what was a nearly edible pile of crap wrapped up in a flour tortilla, but I can still remember recoiling from the pallid meat bag set before me.

Fast forward to 2012 and most school cafeterias in the U.S. are still dolling out lumps of salty, fat-drenched foods. So it was a bit of cold comfort yesterday when the Obama administration announced a final round of mandates for government-subsidized school meals, rules that will ratchet up the amount of fruits and vegetables offered in school lunches and reduce the amount of salt and fat.

I say this news is cold comfort because the cynic in me wonders how long it will take for any real and meaningful change to take place in schools across the country. After all, this junk has been served in schools for decades, and it's taken shocking statistics like the fact that one in five of our kids are obese by age 5 along with the political muscle of a first lady to even make a dent in the system.

Not only that, according to Time Magazine, "last year Congress caved to pressure from potato growers and those who produce frozen pizzas and threw out parts of the original proposal from the Department of Agriculture. In doing so, Congress allowed tomato paste on pizza to be counted as a vegetable, as it is now, and barred the department from limiting servings of potatoes to two per week."

Really? Thanks food industry lobbyists. Thanks Congress. We really appreciate you having children's best interests at heart. I'm sure tonight all of you will dine on plates piled high with apathy and neglect with a side of tomato paste for good measure. Bon appétit!

What's your take on the future of school lunches? Do ghosts of past school launches still haunt your memories?

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