Lunch Wars

A typical student in America will eat 3000 school meals before they graduate high-school. This should concern you… greatly. Why?

Author Amy Kalafa explains in detail using the most respected research studies in her book, “Lunch Wars.”  I’ve been so overwhelmed by the information that I’ve dragged my feet in writing a review.  Thankfully, the book also offers hope, as a few schools (and I literally mean ‘a few’) offer fantastic programs complete with real food and real chefs and a decent amount of time to eat food (my kids never get to finish their meal).  Kalafa outlines the  steps for solutions… unfortunately, the solutions won’t happen unless we, as parents, get involved.

From a personal standpoint, my son and youngest daughter are on a gluten-free diet. We’ve noticed that this not only changes their health for the better, but they are able to focus better and cope emotionally better.  After learning about the food industry’s path we’ve switched to organic meats and dairy products and also noticed a change for the better.  So I went from being a cynic about food-related matters to being an informed, horrified, mom that took her kids’ diets into her own hands.  Enter Lunch Wars…

A few things(the tip of the iceberg) to get you thinking:

Companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi pour money into securing district and school ‘pouring’ contracts.  John Alm, COO of Coca-Cola said, “The school system is where you build brand loyalty.”

We know, based on studies from Princeton and many other reputable universities, that there is a link between diet and academic performance.  We know that processed foods and additives are linked to hyperactivity and that many of these foods have been approved for only ‘occasional’ consumption. Yet, our school children are being fed these foods daily in the cafeteria. In fact, 63 percent of calories that they ate in 2009 came from processed foods high in sugar and fats. In other words, our children are being overfed and malnourished.

Take this information and consider that our country– out of the developed countries– spends the most money per student on education yet we are ranked 25th in math and 21st in science (out of 30 developed countries).  We also spend the most on diet-related illnesses & obesity.  Could there be a link? (Uh, Yeah!)

Our animals are fed grains that their bodies aren’t made to handle and fed antibiotics and hormones to make it work and the resulting methane contributes to almost half the world’s greenhouse gasses. (Farmers who feed their animals grass & alfalfa decrease methane by 19 percent and prevent many diseases without the need of antibiotics & hormones.)  I’ve heard two major beef recalls in the last month. Tyson announced one this morning.

One mom astutely observed that no one questions the studies where children who eat at the family dinner table do better academically.  She said the assumption has always been that it’s due to the social interaction, but what if… what if it’s about the diet at the dinner table as well?

I highly recommend the book Lunch Wars to any parent or socially-minded activist. In 370 pages, the author does a fabulous job of pulling back the curtain on school food and encouraging parents to join their students at school and ask for a list of ingredients.  With the extreme rise of food intolerance and allergies, as well as the Truth in Labeling act in regards to our grocery stores, this request should be met willingly.  The solutions presented in Lunch Wars not only make sense for our children’s health and academics but also offers  economical and environmental benefits.

Read it and let me know what you think.  I guarantee it will be hard to read and not act on it.

My son has an amazing memory.  I didn’t realize this when we watched Food Revolution as a family (where Jaime Oliver goes into schools).  He told me he recounted all the facts to his classmates at the lunch table and watched them set their forks down. At first I was horrified.  But he said, “Mom, the funny thing is… the next day almost all of them came with cold lunches.”  After reading Lunch Wars, I’m okay with that.  Our district is making changes in October to their school menu, so we’ll see what happens….

Check it out!

This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

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