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School Lunch Ain't What It Used to Be

Healthier is obviously better, but columnist rues the heavily regulated school meal program.

It’s a good thing Norton’s school system is now going to be serving .  I know it is for the best, will make for healthier kids, and is a smart thing to do.  I also understand it is part of following the new state and federal guidelines.  There are a lot of reasons why it is a good idea.

But I can’t help shaking my head at how things have changed over the years.  A school lunch was never exactly a great culinary experience when I was a student in Norton, or when my sons roamed the school cafeterias in town.  However it seemed to be fairly nutritional, had a modicum of taste, and gave students a reasonably varied choice.

There will be no chips, no soda, no fries served in school this year.  That’s okay – we never had those back in my day either.  But now the pizza will be made of some type of whole grain.  There will be no flavored milk or sports drinks.  There will be less sodium, less sugar, less salt.  I guess all of that is for the better.  Still, it seems somewhat sad.

I understand the purpose here is to make sure more students don’t grow up to look like me.  That is an admirable goal.  I wish I could blame my badly sculpted body on the lunches I ate in , or on the habits a school lunch encouraged.  But the truth is, the lunches I ate then had little to do with my ascendancy into a higher weight class.

At the risk of appearing curmudgeonly, I hate the fact school lunches are more regulated than immigration today.  I think it is amazing your child can’t bring cupcakes to school anymore due to health concerns.  I find a lot of the restrictions put on school children to be much more about their parents than about the children themselves.

Do you think kids in high school aren’t drinking sports drinks after school?  I know the idea is to cut down, not necessarily eliminate.  And I applaud the concept of providing fresh vegetables from Massachusetts farms for use in our lunchrooms.  But I have to confess I would probably cover them with salt and soak them in butter. 

I suppose I could easily be the poster child for why these regulations were put into effect.  Perhaps if my school lunches had been more like what our kids will get today, my bathroom scale wouldn’t groan every time I walk through the door.  Or maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference.

Whole grain pizza?  Pass the cheese, please!

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist who grew up – and out – on school lunches.  He can be reached at aninsidelook@aol.com.

Johnna Masala September 09, 2011 at 09:54 PM
Bill....I hear ya! My kids said the school lunches are awful now! Great...Now I have to start making lunches everyday!!!! UGH!
Ann-Marie September 11, 2011 at 02:16 AM
There's nothing "sad" about adding whole grains to pizza! When eating school lunches can be linked to higher rates of obesity, high cholesterol and poor eating habits in general, as researchers from U Michigan found, we shouldn't feel wistful about changes to the menu. There's nothing romantic about diabetes, and the changes to the school lunches can be a starting point for dialogue with kids about how food choices affect our lives.
Bill Gouveia September 12, 2011 at 01:29 PM
As I said, it is all good. But it is still sad. I never said diabetes is romantic - but neither is living until 100 by eating lettuce and rabbit pellets. Never tell a fat guy what he can and can't feel sad about! :)
Laura Bamford September 13, 2011 at 03:28 PM
I am glad to see whole grains and less sodium but it doesn't seem consistent yet since some junk foods are still available. My sons are at the JCS and told me they are selling chips and ice cream as extra snacks. Not sure how chocolate milk is not okay but ice cream is!

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