What’s For Lunch?

Which would you rather serve to your child? A snack-size package of Cool Ranch Doritos or a small home-made brownie?  A cellophane-wrapped factory made cookie or a home-made cupcake with sprinkles?

According to the Panel for Educational Policy (aka PEP, a misnomer if ever there were one), the Doritos and factory-made cookies are “approved” foods, but the bake-sale staples of brownies and cupcakes are so unhealthy that they need to be regulated right out of NYC public school cafeterias. A new regulation currently under discussion would go further than the simple “bake sale ban” that Mayor Mike enacted earlier this fall: under this new rule, if it is approved, students can sell “approved” items any time of day outside the school cafeteria, and PTAs can hold monthly fundraisers of “non-approved” food items but not during lunch and never in the cafeteria.

What constitutes “approved” food items, you ask?  Cool Ranch Doritos—all flavors of Doritos, in fact; Pop Tarts, Kettlecorn, Linden’s Fudge Chip Cookies, and a variety of flavored waters.  Any of these can be sold at any time, just not in the cafeteria. Look at this list and ask yourself how you would define “healthy diet.”

Because according to these proposed rules, a kid could theoretically panhandle bags of Doritos in the hallway en route to gym class, but the PTA can’t sell brownies in the cafeteria during lunch.

This is supposed to be the path to healthier dietary habits among children?  Processed food in plastic packages is better for you than home-made treats? I mean, I don’t want my kids munching away on brownies and cookies and cupcakes on a regular basis, but I’d rather they have a cupcake a month at lunch than a steady diet of Doritos or Smart Food Popcorn Clusters.

If PEP and DOE and CEC and USDA and all the other acronyms that control what happens in our schools are serious about modifying and improving the diets of school-age children, then what about banning high fructose corn syrup in school lunches, including milk. Did you know that the second ingredient in the chocolate milk sold in schools is HFCS? At that rate, why not just sell little bitty cans of Coke or Pepsi or Mountain Dew with lunch?

Or what about insisting that the beef, chicken, and other proteins sold to the government for school lunch programs come from the best sources available rather than from remnants and leftovers? 

Or what about paying attention to Jamie Oliver’s TED speech and finding ways for kids to understand that fruits and vegetables actually exist in nature, not just in cans or slopped on the corner of a styrofoam tray.

In any case, if you live in New York, you tell the PEP what you think about their new resolution by clicking here (their email is panels@schools.nyc.gov).  Maybe you should send them some cupcakes, too.