Schools can help keep students fit

Remember back to your school lunches. Does it make you gag?

I can recall hot dogs with a green tinge and strange looking casserole concoctions.

In middle school, the cafeteria ladies probably thought they were pulling one over on us naive preteens. They would cleverly try to recycle one day's lunch into another's, even though every student knew that yesterday's battered chicken sandwich was today's chicken parmigiana.

It's become a well-known fact that most school lunches are just ... scary. I've heard younger cousins and friends' children describe lunchroom horror stories - from finding bugs in their mashed potatoes to eating pizza three times in one week.

I'm sure the kids don't mind the chicken nuggets, fries, mac-and-cheese and pizza, but is this really what children, who are just beginning to develop tastes for different foods, should be eating?

I'm sure you have heard that childhood obesity is at an all-time high in America. Why not start remedying the problem by offering healthier meals in schools?

Shouldn't our school tax dollars go toward good, healthy foods for students?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has plans to raise the standards for food prepared in schools, and in Gwinnett, schools have made efforts to provide healthier food for students, but there's still a long way to go.

A common argument for unhealthy school lunches is that schools don't want to waste money on foods they know students won't eat. But my question is, are they even trying? How do they know their students won't eat hummus or yogurt or fresh fruit if they don't try it?

As a child, I was totally oblivious to the importance of a healthy diet. While I probably ate more vegetables than the average kid, I still looked forward to pizza Fridays and chicken nugget Thursdays. Those were all I had to choose from. Perhaps I would have eaten baked chicken or broccoli if it was offered.

Beyond that, I can recall tons of food served in my elementary, middle and high school cafeteria that I hated. No one cared if we didn't like it, they just expected us to eat it or go hungry.

Now, if kids don't like what's being served they can just hit the vending and drink machines after lunch to buy chips, candy and soda - and no one's stopping them.

It's quite ironic that we're constantly told as a nation that our younger population is fat and is getting bigger, but physical education classes are getting cut shorter and nutritional foods in schools are slim to none.

Perhaps complaining to the schools or talking with local government might help.

But for now, I suggest just packing your child a healthy lunch, and leaving the mystery meats to their intended use - science projects.

Melissa Wilson writes about health for the Daily Post. E-mail her at melissa.wilson@gwinnettdailypost.com.