You can lead a kid to quinoa, but you can’t prevent him from dumping it in and the rest of his school lunch in the trash and going outside to the food trucks parked at the curb. That was a lesson the last administration learned the hard way.
Now it seems as though the Trump administration is riding for the same fall. Gage Cohen of CNSNews reports:
On Wednesday, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue attended the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) annual conference in Atlanta, promising to enable nutrition professionals to prepare meals for students that are more culturally-diverse, appealing and nutritious.
In an effort to combat students’ rebellion against the skimpy, tasteless lunches schools mandated by the Obama administration – which resulted in declining enrollment, wasted food, and tighter budgets – schools are now offering a wide range of more flavorful, international, restaurant-quality dishes.
“Students expect their school cafeterias to serve the diversity of flavors they are accustomed to in restaurants,” stated the SNA in a press release.
“Attendees will test recipes including Chicken Tikka Masala and Thai Style Fish Tacos, Spicy Korean BBQ strips and Southwest Chili con Carne.”
“The USDA and SNA are partners in working together because we all have the same goals in mind, and that’s the health and vitality of our young people,” Sec. Perdue said at the conference:
“My goal as Secretary of Agriculture is to remove the bookkeeping headaches and menu problems that are distracting our school nutrition professionals from doing their real job of feeding kids nutritious and appealing meals.”
More culturally diverse? Apparently, the image of Michelle Obama’s culturally rich, nutrient-dense school lunch program crashing and burning bigtime didn’t register with Perdue, who, unless I miss my guess, is about the relive her nightmare.
The elusive dream of getting children to chow down on more nutritious foods in place of the food items they prefer goes back decades, if not centuries. A study published in the medical journal “Pediatrics” in 2015 found 20% of American kids eat pizza every day. In 2013, fast-food giants Burger King and McDonald’s agreed to limit advertising. Sales of their products declined, but nearly as much as government “experts” anticipated.
If there is a conclusion to be drawn from these sobering statistics, it is that kids love to eat what kids love to eat. I’m not suggesting that children can’t — and shouldn’t — be persuaded to eat more healthfully. When my kids were young, my wife introduced them to the joys of Indian food — a passion they have retained to this day.
But changing childrens’ dietary habits, I believe, needs to start in the home, not the school cafeteria, where the cooking is — face facts — institutional: bland and unappetizing. If anything, the cafeteria rendition of chicken tikka masala is going to turn kids off to Indian cuisine for life.
If schools want to experiment with introducing an occasional “new taste” to their menus, that’s fine. But trying to revolutionize school eating at one fell swoop is destined to fail. Until someone comes along with something better, the nation’s schools should stick to the chicken fingers and spaghetti.