What’s on the Menu… No, Really.

by Charlotte Kasper

As childhood obesity rates in the United States continue to climb, currently set at one in three children, there have been recent steps to improve the school meals that contribute the issue. Many of these movements have been spearheaded by First Lady, Michelle Obama, including her outcry when discovering that pizza sauce was considered a vegetable by the USDA. Even so, a multitude of kids have been posting pictures of their unappetizing school lunches using the hashtag:  ThanksMichelleObama.

Granted, the use of this hashtag simply means that the food served in the average American school is unappetizing, not necessarily that it is unhealthy or inedible. However, there are multiple sources suggesting that the average school food is about as healthful as it is enticing. American schools are given an budget of 11 billion to spend on making lunches for students that meet standards, while prisons are given a measly 205 million. These budgets break down to roughly $2.68 per student and $2.62 per prisoner. Naturally, one would think that school lunches would be more healthful than that in prison because of the difference in budget allocated for each recipient, especially because not all students buy school lunches. The truth is actually diametric. On average, prison lunches cost less and are more healthful than school lunches.

The reasoning for this resides in who places requirements and restrictions on each institution. School lunch restrictions are created by the US department of Agriculture, which as aforementioned legally considered red sauce as a vegetable. In comparison, prison’s food guidelines are mandated by the Constitution. In fact, the food given out in prisons is often better than what is required. This is because it was long ago recognized that people are more cooperative when they are fed well. The most famous example of this belief is of Alcatraz, where the prisoners were often fed lobster. Not to mention that the USDA has consistently been accused of corruption, which is especially prevalent in deciding what is considered organic, and what foods, including school lunches, can contain genetically modified organics.

Evidently, many schools contain harmful genetically modified organics. GMO’s are harmful both to humans as well as to the environment for a variety of reasons, such as their link to an increase in disorders such as autism. You can read more about their harmful effects at this link. Or this one. Actually, you might as well look at all of these.

It’s unknown what cleaning process is used for our school’s meats and other foods. What is known is that our school follows NSLP guidelines, meaning the calorie counts and saturated fats in our food are measured and deemed acceptable. While calories are important, there are far more pressing concerns, such as the possibility of using ammonia cured meats, that are unmentioned in our schools nutrient analysis.  Still, our vending machines boast other problem foods, such as chips and cookies that contain genetically modified organics. Also, while our vending machines contain healthy choices like fruits, it appears that they are not well preserved. Next time you try to buy fruit, feel the temperature of the vending machine first, it’s a known fact that fruit spoils in heat much faster. While our school follows NSLP guidelines, that is not the best indicator as to whether the food is actually beneficial, or if it just is not overtly harmful. Overall, there is little evidence that our school is a huge health offender, but there is also little evidence to prove otherwise.

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