Monday, September 7, 2009

Time for Lunch!

I dreaded the school cafeteria. It was a place of numerous culinary atrocities when I was growing up. Even the smell of it, as my class passed by in the mornings, single file, on the way to the library or art room, made my stomach lurch into my throat. Nothing about the room, the food or anything about the whole experience of school lunch was remotely appetizing. It was disgusting. Brown peas, canned corn, sandwiches of pressed, processed meat topped with rubbery, orange cheese-food slices on wilted buns disgusting. I refused to eat it. I was lucky because I had a choice. My mother and grandmother packed me lunches with thermoses of hot soup and wax paper baggies of crackers smeared with crunchy peanut butter. I got fresh fruit in my lunches. A lot of kids weren't and aren't as lucky as I was and are forced to eat school food. For many students, the meal they get in their school's cafeteria is the only meal they get each day.What a terrible, terrible crime it is then that what they are served isn't a wholesome meal, made with fresh ingredients that nourish their bodies and develop their palates.

The food served in most public school cafeterias is cheap filler, laden with fat, sugar, salt and starch and it's making children sick. It's junk filled with high fructose corn syrup, toxic chemical dyes and artificial flavorings. Most of it is breaded and fried. A couple years ago I student-taught at a large, well respected public high school. I was appalled at the lunch offerings there. Every day they brought in Papa John's pizza, which is ok as far as large pizza chains go and is fine as a rare treat, but these kids were getting it every single day. The food on the lunch line was so unpalatable that my students felt like they had no other option besides the pizza. Many students got tired of eating pizza every day and simply picked up a bag of chips, a pack of cookies and a soda and called that their mid-day meal. This is not acceptable.

We desperately need to reform the way our nation's children eat. How can students be expected to excel in academics and sports when they aren't being fed nutritious meals and when they aren't learning about healthy eating in school? Luckily, many people are realizing that there is a serious problem with the National School Lunch Program and they're taking a stand.

Today, Labor Day 2009, is the National Day of Action to Get Real Food in Schools. All over the country, including right here in South Florida, Slow Food members are staging "Eat-Ins" to protest the way our country's children are being fed. Eat-Ins are potluck gatherings where people get together to show their support for this cause over a wholesome, usually local, meal.

Even if you can't attend an Eat-In today, please Sign The Petition to reform school lunches. It's always a good idea to know what you're signing, so I encourage you to read the Time for Lunch Policy Platform. Sign the Petition today so they can reach 20,000 signatures by the end of the day.

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