How to Make School Lunches Eco-Friendly
9 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Living Green with Children
School lunches can be a controversial issue as the government worries about the rising levels of childhood obesity, schools worry about funding for meals, and you worry about your child getting healthy, green meals. Address all these issues by making a presentation to the principal and possibly the school board to persuade them that the food the schools serve should be as green as possible.
Outline the health issues involved. Cutting down on fat and sugar content and boosting fresh fruit and vegetables, for example, can help children maintain healthy weight levels and boost their attention span and energy. Much seasonal food can be bought locally rather than imported, thereby promoting green living on a number of fronts.
Take a look at current costs compared to the costs of supplying healthier options. You may need to do quite a bit of research, but your school’s annual report or administration should be a good starting point for current costs and suppliers. Local catering companies operating healthy lunch programs in other schools may be able to help in terms of providing costing alternatives in your school.
Offer ideas for additional funding if necessary. The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted school lunch program that provides funding for schools that follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for child nutrition. The program is especially applicable if the school has a number of children who receive free or reduced-price lunches due to their family financial or other circumstances. Alternatively, consider fundraising efforts to cover additional costs, or suggest a vote by parents on the issue of raising fees to cover the costs.
School administrators have limited budgets to spend on school meals, so they may be resistant to changes that cost more money. One of the best resources to help you help the school to change is celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s Web site. Although Oliver focuses on the United Kingdom and uses some terminology that may be unfamiliar (school governors instead of school boards, for example, and head teachers instead of principals), his campaign to get British schools serving healthy, greener school lunches (also known as school dinners) offers lots of background information about why this issue is important, along with detailed instructions on how you can get involved with change as a parent.
If the school can’t go green in terms of food, suggest a vegetable garden on school grounds. If you can only make a change on the small, personal level, send your children to school with green packed lunches.