Opinion
Get Opinion in your inbox -- sign up for our weekly newsletter
Opinion L.A.
Opinion Opinion L.A.
Opinion

New school lunch rules: How not to get kids to eat their vegetables

Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture should have consulted some everyday, health-conscious moms and dads before they drew up their amazingly byzantine rules for school lunches.

I’m all in favor of the new policy’s aim to put more fruits and vegetables in front of school kids, especially those who are poor enough to qualify for subsidized school meals. Even if that means a few veggies get tossed in the trash. Most parents know that children, especially those more used to Pringles than parsnips, do a lot of refusing before they develop a taste for vegetables.

For one thing, the rules practically mandate a staggering amount of food waste. The list of bad policies, including the requirement for students to take three items per day even if they’re only hungry enough for two, is rather staggering. Worse, though, is that prissily rigid policies intended to increase fruit and vegetable consumption might be having the opposite effect.

Call it the Mixed Vegetable Conundrum. Most parents know that the best way to tuck a serving of vegetables into kids is to hide it, or at least mix it up with other ingredients so that it’s not sitting on the plate in a pile. This means items like soup that contain meat, vegetables and maybe some rice or dairy. Especially pureed, so that children don’t guess that the sweet taste comes from carrots and yams. Or they can be chopped up and layered into a lasagna, or ground up into the meat for a burger. Top that burger with lettuce and tomato, put a couple of carrot and celery sticks on the side and it’s not so intimidatingly vegetable-laden.

The rules make this nearly impossible, as a food services director explained to me. Each day is a themed veggie day, if you will. Yellow vegetables one day, red another, dark green and so forth. On each day, there must be a full serving of the designated vegetables. The cafeteria can add other vegetables, but that’s expensive and more than the kids would eat. The nice picture of that vegetable-garnished burger goes out the window until someone figures out how to get a half-cup of cooked spinach into a single burger.

This isn’t how kids learn to eat vegetables.

We can only take hope that federal regulators will pay attention to what I’ll call the Smoothie Exception. Until a couple of years ago, schools could serve students some strawberries, for example, and yogurt. But they couldn’t combine the two in a blender into a smoothie (and maybe tuck some undetectable kale in there for good measure) under another rule that requires the fruits and vegetables to be identifiably themselves rather than blended into an overall product. After intense lobbying from schools, the feds recently agreed to a smoothie waiver.

ALSO:

It's no surprise we can't find Flight 370

Warning: College students, this editorial may upset you

Dear Boomer Esiason: Fatherhood doesn't end at childbirth

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Non-GMO Cheerios are just what the customer ordered

    Non-GMO Cheerios are just what the customer ordered

    It’s good news that General Mills has decided not to include genetically engineered ingredients in Cheerios. Not because crops whose DNA has been tinkered with in a laboratory are dangerous to human health. There’s still a dearth of evidence that they are.

  • Coke vs. tap water: The smackdown

    Coke vs. tap water: The smackdown

    Genius! That's the only word that can describe Coca-Cola Co.'s "Cap the Tap" program, which urges restaurants to push soda and other profit-making drinks instead of water. As reported recently by the blog Civil Eats, Coca-Cola has pitched this plan to restaurant managers on its Coke Solutions Web...

  • The hidden costs of some cheap food

    The hidden costs of some cheap food

    Maybe cheap food is more expensive than we think. Capital Press, an agriculture publication that covers the Western United States, reports that the use of rBST, a synthetic hormone that boosts milk production, is plummeting among U.S. dairy operations. And the reason is surprising: It’s all about...

  • Doesn't the 1st Amendment apply outside the Supreme Court?

    Doesn't the 1st Amendment apply outside the Supreme Court?

    From race relations to abortion to gay marriage, the Supreme Court plays a crucial role in American life. So it's understandable that activists want to demonstrate on the grand plaza in front of the court's building. Such a majestic backdrop lends force to a protest and increases the possibility...

  • No to the Iran deal means no to U.S. credibility

    No to the Iran deal means no to U.S. credibility

    A striking feature of the debate raging among American politicians over the Iran nuclear agreement is the virtual absence of references to international law. Republican presidential candidates compete as to who among them, if elected president, would be quickest to renounce the agreement, as if...

  • The return of the bloviator

    The return of the bloviator

    As Donald Trump surges, so does "bloviate." "The bloviating billionaire" — it's clearly an alliteration whose time has come. But there's hardly a candidate or commentator who hasn't been labeled with the word. Thirty years ago it was dated slang; now it's seen as the prevailing vice of our public...

  • How our healthcare system can be deadly to the elderly

    How our healthcare system can be deadly to the elderly

    The nation's healthcare system is endangering the elderly. But few outside the geriatric medical community seem to notice.

  • Los Angeles could use more COIN

    Los Angeles could use more COIN

    Last month, when Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson announced a tentative contract with unions representing more than half of the city's civilian workforce, budget watchdogs clamored for details so they could analyze the potential financial impact. They're still waiting,...

Comments
Loading
72°