Alton Brown & School Lunches

http://blankfoundation.org/news/FarmtoTabletoKid.html.

I just watched this interesting speech (talk) given by Alton Brown where he spoke not as a chef or expert on food but as a father.  It is a little lengthy (click on the segment that says Alton Brown) but well worth your time and actually quite entertaining as Alton Brown usually is.  While he is certainly no vegetarian he knows his food and he has a good grasp of the evolution of what has gone wrong with the American diet.  He discussed how our children no longer have any knowledge of where their food comes from, instead they attach what they eat to the corporate labels such as Ronald McDonald and the Hamburger Helper Hand.  Having watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution I agree.  Children certainly know a French Fry when they see one yet a classroom full of 6 or 7 years olds were unable to recognize and label such basic vegetables as a potato or tomato.

That particular segment of the show has stayed in my mind simply because it is so sad.   It speaks volumes about the American family and it’s disconnect with the basics when it comes to food.  We’ve become such a nation of convenience that driving through and grabbing a bag of processed food is easier than sticking a potato in the oven for an hour.  Home cooking really isn’t that difficult, or time consuming.  It is easily cheaper than fast food, it simply takes a little planning and effort.  The same goes with packing our children healthy school lunches.

There is a lot of talk about how to fix the school lunch program and I fully recognize that it is in desperate need of an overhaul.  This will take time and money our schools do not have.  In the meantime I hope that the parents who are able to forgo the school lunch program and start packing their children’s lunches with home made lunches.  There are so many affordable healthy options and your children can help create and pack their lunch. This will enable them to feel an attachment to their lunch and not it’s just something shoved in front of them to be thrown out 20 minutes later.

Fortunately my kids are past the days of school lunches.  They went to an elementary school that actually had no lunch program.  The PTA brought in lunches from local restaurants several days a week.  We served the food on a voluntary basis and charged the students the actual cost of the food.  This gave us an opportunity to have more say in what our children ate.  While it was far superior to most school lunch programs it still did not make for a balanced meal.

One annual event our PTA hosted was “Healthy Food Day” where parents supplied healthy meal options and snacks and we served it to the children during lunch.  The students had the opportunity to try anything they wanted and fill up their plates as much as they liked.  Each year it was a fun day where kids enjoyed trying new healthy options.

On the other hand parents also volunteered during different cultural events to come into the classroom and cook foods respective of their culture.  The children helped make Latkes for Hannukah, and decorate cookies for Christmas, etc.  I really don’t remember what else, it’s been years.  I find both Healthy Food Day and these cooking events to be great teaching experiences.  However, I wonder which experience did the children gain more from?  On one hand they were served interesting new foods, on the other they actually created the food they ate.   Personally, I would assume the using tactile skills, measuring, planning and creating would hold more memories and an overall better experience for students.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could combine the two experiences and have our students actually create the healthy food and then consume it?

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