My problems with the school lunches are so enormous and extensive. Chocolate milk is only one tiny subset of that. The overall amount of sugar offered on any given day is a big problem for me. So is the quantity of refined white flour. Yes, they do offer veggies-- but I wouldn't eat them, and neither will my kids. They're almost always mushy canned stuff with way too much salt on it. I've never seen a kid touch them, in all the times I've been to lunch at DD's school. DD's been raised on vegetables grown right outside her back door-- she's never HAD stuff like salted canned green beans, and doesn't even recognize them as food.
Most days even the fruit is canned-- in syrup, which means all that extra sugar. And yet everybody's singing the praises of the "new school lunch" here, because it's "low-fat." I don't even consider "low-fat" to be an appropriate diet for a child, anyway. And the processed meat with added nitrites offered literally three times a week infuriates me.
The trouble is that there's such enormous forces behind what the schools can offer, because of regulations and lobbying and out-of-date nutritional science and the not-inconsiderable pressure of parents who have raised kids who won't eat real food, and want a lunch their kids WILL eat.
What I'd like to see-- organic dairy, fresh meats, poultry, and fish carefully prepared, fresh vegetables prepared in tasty ways, whole grain baked goods, and fresh fruit-- isn't going to happen here. It'll never happen. I realize that, and I'm mostly resigned to it. So I compromise-- I talked to DD about her overall consumption of sugar, and she understands, and chooses chocolate milk once in a while, not every day. I send lunch, on the days when the lunch offered is really objectionable to me. And then the rest of the time, I pretend not to know about it, and just make sure that what she's eating at home is extra-good, to make up for it.
It really does bother me to think about those kids for whom school lunch may be the best meal they eat all day. In the schools I worked in, that was often the case, for a lot of kids. And that I find rather upsetting. If the only vegetable a child is going to get, all day, is going to come from the school lunch, surely we, as a society, could maybe arrange for it to be appetizing and fresh? If the only milk a child is going to get is going to come from the school lunch, couldn't we arrange for it to be fresh and organic, and not adulterated with non-food ingredients? I just think it's sad.
I think if parents want to feed their kids non-food junk and refined carbohydrates and processed meat full of added nitrites, they should most certainly be free to do so, but I think the federal school lunch program, which is supposed to help ensure that our poorest children are getting essential nutrients, should be held to a higher standard. I think the schools ought to stand for something better.
But it'll never happen.
I do think abolishing chocolate milk is a nice first step. I think the school lunch ought to only offer fresh, natural, unadulterated foods. If kids want to eat or drink something else, that should be their parents' job to provide it.