Sunday, October 4 , 2015, 6:19 am | Mostly Cloudy 62º

Milo Hensley: Solution to the School Lunch Crisis

By Milo Hensley |

I am a student at a private school. This private school, Laguna Blanca, is one of the most appreciated in its area. Although tuition is expensive, Laguna provides students with a real chance to learn and grow into strong, individual adults with real-life abilities.

Aside from students who receive financial assistance, most students at my school can afford to go to Laguna Blanca, and that certainly says something about their financial situation. No student at Laguna Blanca School is facing food insecurity. No student at Laguna Blanca School will ever not have enough money to be able to shop at the farmers market. No student at Laguna Blanca School will ever depend on their school lunch as their main source of nutrition for the day. And lastly, even if they did depend on their school lunch, no student would ever get an unhealthy lunch.

In my school lunch today, I was served a quart of hot tomato soup made from fresh ingredients, a large bottle of water, carrot sticks, and some bread baked the previous day. These ingredients are extremely healthy, and many wealthy adults would pay good money to eat this food.

You can tell the magic in the healthy, fresh ingredients is working, too; students at Laguna Blanca School, without being distracted by hunger and health problems, are able to blossom and focus extremely well in school. The Laguna Blanca “Silvergreens” school lunch program is absolutely ideal for schools across the United States, but sadly, not every school is given these privileged culinary opportunities.

Although my school’s lunch options are ideal, not every school is given the financial opportunities that Laguna Blanca has. At many public schools, kids have no option but to eat artificial, cholesterol-packed, over-salted food, and, because of the resulting health issues, have difficulty focusing in school. This lack of focus because of hunger and health issues can result in jeopardizing a child’s entire educational future. Welcome to the darker side of the school lunch program.

The real issue with many school lunch programs in areas of food insecurity is that the schools do not have enough money to buy quality food for the students. All that many public schools are able to afford for lunch is deep-fried, over-processed meat, nasty oils and fats, artificial corn syrup in desserts, and a variety of other unhealthy ingredients. For many poorer students living in food insecurity, these school lunches are the best sources of nutrition in their day.

Making sense yet? A low school lunch budget = unhealthy food, unhealthy food = unhealthy kids, and unhealthy kids = poor ability to learn.

The strangest, and perhaps most cruel, part of this whole situation is that although schools are practically poisoning children with unhealthy food, what they are doing is perfectly legal. The government says that they are “improving” their school lunch policies. First Lady Michelle Obama has met with schools on multiple occasions to give talks about eating healthy and exercising. But could this all be in vain?

Undoubtedly, the government is attempting to promote healthy school lunches, but overall, nothing has really changed that much. Sure, a couple of schools were on television and honored with words like “fitness aware” or “going green,” but in the long run, not much was really changed by these presentations. The cycle of poverty in schools is not going to be broken by a few encouraging speeches from politicians and leaders. Real action needs to be taken. All that remains to be asked is: How will we escape the situation that the school lunch program is in?

As you now fully understand, children all over America are growing obese and unhealthy because this bad, school-provided food is becoming their main source of nutrition. In my English class, we recently studied the work of two op-ed authors named David Freedman and Michael Pollan. Both of these men have formulated intellectual, yet radical opinions on the topic of the obesity epidemic in children.

Freedman’s solution to this problem is to make the junk food that these kids are eating less junky. H has coined the phrase “problem carbs” to describe the ingredients in modern junk food. However, Pollan’s solution to this issue is to give in to the “whole foods” movement, and lower the prices of healthy food for families to be able to purchase it within their budget. Pollan backs himself up in his quote about the fact that many people don’t know the benefits of the healthy foods movement: “(We) can eat anything, but how do we know what to eat?”

However, in my opinion, both of these solutions have large companies and markets going against them. For instance, the junk food business doesn’t want to buy better ingredients, and the companies who make “foods that scream ‘wholesome’” have no motivation to lower their prices.

I think that the obesity epidemic in children can be solved with one simple step: Subsidize school lunches. If the government were to provide more money for schools to buy healthy ingredients, schools would raise healthier, more aware children in their schools, altering the child’s educational career forever. All in all, the government has things that, in their opinion, are far more important than simple school lunches. Little do they know: It is so much more complicated than that.

If school lunches were subsidized better by the government, a new generation of healthy children could emerge, and not only break food insecurity, but also fight back against the obesity epidemic.

— Milo Hensley is a seventh-grader at Laguna Blanca School.

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