Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Still more on the new school lunches

Bettina Elias Siegel, the lady behind The Lunch Tray, gets her op-ed on HISD’s healthier lunch choices published in the Chron.

One critical piece of the puzzle is student food education. But HISD now has only about 15 dietetic interns to go into schools and talk up the new items – far fewer than needed to reach every student in our district’s almost 300 schools. Even Houston’s Recipe for Success, which gives kids hands-on experience in growing and cooking fresh vegetables, can’t do the entire job. My suggestion is to turn to the parent volunteers who are already staffing most HISD lunch rooms to monitor behavior, assist with hard-to-open lunch items, and provide a friendly face. Why not enlist this ready-made set of volunteers to act as “new food boosters” – explaining the new foods and encouraging tasting using “I Tried It” stickers, praise and simple enthusiasm?

Second, no parent would offer their own child the choice of an unfamiliar food versus pizza and expect the child to pass up the pizza. Similarly, HISD must take care not to introduce new entrees like chicken-and-brown-rice soup on the same day that burgers, nuggets or other “kid food” is served. To do so would ensure that the new entrees will be deemed a flop, and perhaps risk having them removed from the district’s menu altogether.

Finally, we need to be realists. While many kids will eat vegetables standing alone, many more will not. Other school districts have been creative by incorporating vegetables into more sophisticated main dishes like soups, stews, sauces, pasta dishes and stir fries. But while HISD has laudably followed the recommendations of the PAC to start developing similar entrees (including wraps, rice bowls, stir fries and curries), the district has also indicated that for financial reasons such new foods might only be available on the “a la carte” line – that is, to paying students only. Because almost 80 percent of HISD students qualify for free and reduced lunch, this would create an inequitable system of “haves” and “have nots” where only students with money in their pockets can access the new, more healthful items.

Getting kids to try new foods is definitely a challenge, and it’s going to take time, patience, and a lot of outside-the-box thinking to make this happen and be successful. But the payoff is worth it.

Related Posts:

Comments are closed.