A Farm Mom's Perspective on the School Lunch Program


Note: I've sat on this blog for several months, because I didn't want to offend the hardworking folks who serve my kids and all the students and staff in our local school district. I'm sad that nothing is changing and that our state is engaged in a arm wrestling match over even funding our schools. Things need to change, I understand food...so that's where I will start.   

I’m not generally a person to buck what my local school district does. I am usually very happy with the results I see in my children’s education.  


I am also usually content to supplement what is being taught and experienced by the Mini Me and Mini Farmer Boy with daily experiences on our family farm, in our garden or by talking and praying with them at bedtime.  I have engaged outside private service providers when needed by either of my kids, because the school cannot be everything to everyone. I see education as a process I am primarily responsible for.


The school lunch program is the exception.  I am a staunch supporter of renovating the New School Lunch Guidelines and this guideline compliant menu entry is the reason why…


Soft Pretzel with processed cheese sauce
Trix yogurt
½ cup cooked or raw vegetable option
½ cup fruit
Carton of milk (chocolate or white)

This menu served my daughter and son a whopping 80 grams of carbohydrates if you go with the conservative estimate that the pretzel was only 30 grams of carbohydrate in the meal and they drank plain milk. I suspect the pretzel was actually was actually closer to 60 grams of carbohydrate (after eating this meal with them and seeing what my blood sugar did) which means that meal could have ended up with 115 grams of carbohydrates on one plate.  Holy Husky Pants!

 Just a point of reference...A four piece chicken nugget Happy Meal from the Golden Arches, with a juice box is about 52 grams of carbohydrate.


These are my concerns:


  • American Diabetes Association education tells us that eating an excess of 60 grams of carbohydrate per meal is a recipe to gain weight for adults.  The average person will be able to maintain weight somewhere between the 45-60 grams of carbs per meal.  If you are eating less than 45 grams of carbohydrates per meal you will likely lose weight.  We are complaining about the obesity epidemic in America. These meals are fueling that epidemic.
  • Lack of quality protein and limits on total protein and good fats being served.  Animal protein…Aw protein in general provides a way to extend feelings of fullness and helps to build growing bodies and brains.  Our schools are not allowed to add these great sources of protein to school meals – lean cooked meats like shredded chicken or turkey or roast pork loin or ham, even seasoned tofu, hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese or shredded or cubed lowfat cheeses. They aren’t even available on the school’s salad bars because current guidelines limit the amount of protein offered per meal…total. If you offer it as an option on the salad bar, it impacts the protein on the plate offerings.
  • This is the state of Iowa Recess and physical activity policy:General Physical Activity Requirement:Iowa Code 256.11(6) (2009), and this is the Iowa Association of School Board’s Wellness Policy(2010).  I’m thrilled my state has recess policy and encourages schools to offer recess right after lunch.  It doesn’t have an easily discovered policy on how many adults to kids on a playground though. I’ve found recess to be one of the least favorite times of the day for both of my kids because of playground politics. Yah I know it prepares them for the eventual adult turf wars and social niceties with difficult people that never really go away, but without exception every negative relationship they’ve experienced at school has been given free reign at recess. Teachers can’t be everywhere, not all families teach their kids to treat others kindly and my kids simply aren’t talented at leading others or inviting themselves into organized games. I’m sure my kids have said the typical mean kid stuff and sent others away from their first choice of playground equipment, too. Recess isn’t quality physical exercise.
  • The number of students who can only count on the school to provide their meals is growing.  Let’s face it, food is expensive. It can be a luxury item. If our family of 4 ate just at home all week the Iowa State Extension service estimates it would cost $192.60/week to feed us (As of 8/26/14 USDA Low Cost Food Plan estimates).http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/page/what-you-should-spendIf you are working a minimum wage job you would have to work almost 26 hours each week just to feed your family of 4. There are many students in my kids’ classes who are struggling to put food on the table and meet their family’s needs. These meals aren't sustaining with their carb induced nutritional crashes and are adding fuel to the low cost, high carb meals their families can afford.


Our family is packing meals almost every day.  I try to encourage my kids to eat school lunch on days the carb load isn’t out of control, but I know that they will come home starving because the lunch hour is short and standing in line means there is less time to eat.  Here are some options our family has enjoyed taking to lunch…


Main course or protein rich options:

Cold Options for Icepack and insulated coolers:

Shredded beef and cheese tortilla wraps

Cold meat sandwiches or tortilla wraps

7 Layer Mexican dip with corn chips (not tortilla chips)

Hard Boiled Egg Pops (hard boil an egg and load two up on a wooden popsicle stick have ranch or blue cheese dip)

Cottage Cheese with seasoned Wheat thins


Hot options for an insulated thermos:

Meatballs in marinara


Beef and Noodles or Chicken and noodles

Hot beef sundaes

Any casserole we had for supper the night before

If you are concerned about this add your voice and bring this conversation back around. Contact your local representative and senator on the state and national level. click hereto find place to tell your school lunch story. Tell them why you are concerned

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