Wednesday, January 4, 2012

When will Iowa City give its schoolchildren a decent lunch?

The school district has now released the outside audit it recently commissioned of district operations. The report contains all of the comments that people from the community submitted. What I found most striking was the number of comments, mostly negative, about the district’s school lunches. Many commented that the kids aren’t given enough time to eat. Many others complained about the food quality or the lunchroom atmosphere. Here are just a few of the comments:
I wish the kids had a little more time to EAT their lunch. I don’t like that kids get only one recess per day in the upper grades.

Lunches at the elementary level are HORRIBLE all the way around: * Children are not allowed enough time to eat. * The para-educators in charge of lunch run it like it’s a prison. * The “fixed somewhere else” and “warmed-up at the school” lunches are not appealing * The lunches all seem to be some variation of bread and cheese. Get rid of the behavior management system with tickets - or at least only put it in at schools with behavioral issues. It alienates good students and they think it is stupid.

Lunch time is also not adequate enough for kids to eat. I have to remind my daughter that it is not a race at the dinner table. We do a great disservice to our children by not teaching them to sit down and relax, enjoy the meal.

The students have way too little time to consume their lunches. We are teaching them to grab whatever can be “downed” quickly to be able to have something to eat at lunch.

Children need more time for lunch. They currently do not get the minimum amount recommend by the US government. Also healthier foods take longer to eat. With less than 15 minutes to actually eat, we are setting our children up to make poor eating choices and increasing the risk of obesity.

While some attention has been paid to improving the quality of the school lunches, there is little attention paid to the time children can eat their lunches. For elementary school kids, 15 minutes is not enough time. Many school kids (and parents) have indicated this in past years - and physicians and pediatricians know this. Why has the ICCSD done nothing about this?

I can not stand to be in the lunchroom during lunch at our school.

Then even the atmosphere of the lunch room was not good. They hurry the kids along to gobble their food down, without even being able to enjoy it, and then to get the kids to quiet down when it is time to dismiss for lunch, THEY RING A VERY LOUD AND ANNOYING WINDCHIME!!! That is probably one of the WORST lunch experiences I have ever had!

Lunches...too little time for k-6 to eat, even lunches from home aren’t finished because there wasn’t enough time.

More time to eat should be provided for kids instead of herding them through lunch like cattle.

I feel school lunches are a very negative time. Students are forced to be quiet and wear their coats while they eat.

I also hear from my children how they feel extremely rushed to eat and sometimes don't have enough time to eat their

School lunches are horrible!!! Everything is cunned or frozen or full of chemicals (like meat). I wouldn’t feed this to a dog.

Students must NOT be rushed through lunch.

Also, my child doesn’t get enough time to eat and the kids eat while having whistles blown in their ears. It is not a relaxing atmosphere for eating. It promotes rushing and gives my child a headache with all the shrill blows of the whistle.

I visit my kids regularly at lunch time and am appalled with the content and quality.

Lunch time was a concern for us. The past two years seemed to us like the children were being rushed out of the lunch room. . . . We were lucky if our child had 10 minutes to eat.

The school lunches are a joke, and worse, the time provided for elementary kids to eat lunch is embarrassing, dangerous, and conducive for unproductive afternoons. I realize time if finite, but food and nutrition matter. They matter to learning. . . . And really ... chocolate and strawberry milk? Why even offer that? Wouldn’t it be easier to just create a pill that causes diabetes and obesity and force them to take it?

Why do we invite the Extension office in to talk about “Pick A Better Snack” while simultaneously feeding our children preprocessed, greasy, unappetizing food for lunch?

The school lunches are awful and I will not let my children eat them.
From the report’s conclusions: “There are near universal complaints in regards to the quality of food at the elementary school level from community and school-based staff, but the Food Services department does not agree.” No mention, in its conclusions, of how short the lunch periods are (though the auditors may have seen that issue as falling outside the scope of their review).


KD said...

This would be a perfect issue for the school board members to get involved to gather more information, and see what could be done to improve matters. If no action will be taken, what was the point of the survey?

I wonder if every school has a kitchen large enough to prepare meals on site...I'm not sure about ours.

Some of the lunches seem least from what I see on the menu, othes not so much. I'm still wondering what a teriyaki beef dipper might look or taste like.

I have paid much attention to the new school board, but i'm assuming they have taken no action on the shortness of the school lunch period.

Doris said...

And what do we find today in the IC Press-Citizen but a story on how students at one local elementary school were offered milk shakes (with fruit mixed in) as part of a "healthy eating" program (funded--surprise, surprise--by the Midwest Dairy Association).

I recall something similar happening with the "Pick a Better Snack" program. One of my kids came home with instructions for how to turn a banana into a "better snack"--by coating it with (fake) chocolate chips.|topnews|text|Frontpage

Chris said...

KD – I would love to hear what, if anything, the school board is doing about the school lunch issue. It really is a great case study of how our educational system works (or doesn’t): it’s as if you have to move Heaven and Earth to simply add ten more minutes to the lunch period or to stop offering tortilla chips with cheese sauce as an entree. If little changes like those are nearly impossible, it’s hard to have much hope that the kids’ interests will ever drive school policy.

Doris – Ay yi yi. (Here’s the clickable link.) Seriously, how hard would it be to have a rule against commercially sponsored “educational programs”?

Timmi said...

I believe something was posted on The Lunch Tray about this and how the parents got the school board together about at least the time offered. The school board voted against increasing the time to eat because we have to cram more time for taking assessment tests because of the "no child left behind" act. That's awful

carrie said...

It is sad when schools today value test scores over health, a growing national concern. Maybe your school qualifies for federal funding for nutrition grants, it is worth exploring. I currently have a guest post at about the food programs in the Berkeley Unified School District where I work as a cooking educator.
Good Luck!

Chris said...

Timmi -- Thanks for commenting! I write that post over at the Lunch Tray. The Board itself did not address the lunch period issue, but concerned parents did meet with the superintendent about it, and the response was certainly underwhelming.

Carrie -- Agreed! Here are clickable links to your guest post and your blog.

Chris said...

Local blogger Mariaconz chimes in here.

Unknown said...

i wish more people like me will raise their voice for decent and more alternate options for vegetarian families. i know there are many families which are suffering with this issue but they don't know what to do. i myself tried to contact the food service about the issue but got no response from them. in whole month there are hardly few days when my kids can have hot lunch at school and i have to send a cold lunch every busy morning. i am very surprise on that, what kind of equality is that. there is meet for main and for alternate choice. I strongly demand from school district to consider this as a serious issue.

Chris said...

sarah dimple -- Thanks for commenting! We send cold lunches, too, because we don't like the district's offerings. But a cold lunch that's been sitting at room temperature for three hours isn't so appetizing, either. I doubt any of us would put up with these options for long if we were the ones who had to eat them every day.