I’m interrupting my regular Gratitude Sunday series to participate in Blog Action Day– where bloggers from around the world unite

to discuss one important global topic.  I participated last year when the topic was water, but this year’s topic – Food – is especially near and dear to my heart.  This year, Blog Action Day coincides with World Food Day, which is a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding, and informed year-around action to alleviate hunger.

My post today is going to stray a bit from the topic of simply alleviating hunger to discuss the nutritional content of the food we provide for our children.  One of my great passions is promoting healthy eating and an active lifestyle for children.  In our house, we sit down for a home-cooked family meal at least five nights of seven in a week.  Although I did not grow a garden this summer because we were in Italy, I try to buy mostly locally sourced, organic, whole food as the ingredients for our meals.

But what about when our children are away from home?  We can’t always control what our kids consume when they’re not at home, however, we should be able to count on our schools to provide them with a wholesome, healthy lunch.  Unfortunately, this is the exception and not the norm in the United States. Today, the vast majority of school lunches around the country are composed of highly processed foods loaded with preservatives, artificial flavors and colors.  The foods are often high in fat, sugar and sodium, while nutrient-dense foods like fresh fruits and vegetables get short shrift.

What’s worse is that for the nearly 20 million children in America who are eligible for free or reduced lunch, the school lunch might be the only full meal they can count on eating each day.  Don’t we owe it to them – and to all children – to make sure the food they receive gives them the best chance of maintaining their health and boosting their ability to learn?

An all-too typical school lunch in the U.S.

Chef Ann Cooper

I am grateful that in Boulder County, Chef Ann Cooper came to the rescue and is in her third year of overhauling school lunches in my kids’ school district.  An accomplished chef for more than 30 years, Ann has now shifted her focus to “…using her skills and background to create a sustainable model for schools nationwide to transition any processed food based K-12 school meal program to a whole foods environment where food is procured regionally and prepared from scratch.”  Taking on parents, school politics, and the USDA is a tall task, and probably mostly thankless.  I so admire Ann for stepping in to use her unique talents to do something rather than sitting back and either complaining or waiting for someone else to take care of the problem.

For that reason, I am one of the liaisons for the School Food Project (the Boulder Valley School District program) to my kids’ elementary school.  I work to educate parents about the school lunch program Ann is offering and to increase participation.  The sooner programs like this are turning a profit, the sooner we can prove to the USDA that it is not only possible, but imperative, to serve whole, healthy lunches to our kids each and every day.

Also, October is Farm to School Month, which brings awareness about the need to bring as much fresh, local food to kids as possible, as well as educate them about the origins of their food. This is a great time to ask questions at your own kids’ schools to find out what food is being served in the lunchroom, whether the school or the school district has implemented health or wellness policies, and whether there is a way to connect with local farmers for both food and education.

I’ll write more on this topic next Monday, October 24th, which is National Food Day.  In the meantime, if you are interested in more information, here are some great websites to visit.

School Food Project

Better School Food

Farm to School

Fed Up With Lunch

Healthy Schools Campaign

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

Salad Bars to Schools

The Lunch Box

If you have kids, do you know what is being served in their school lunches?


Categories: Charity · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



  1. That typical school lunch looks terrible, awful, horrible, and non-nutritional.

    Thanks for working to change the status quo.

  2. I am glad you shared about the nutritional value of food as well. I am disgusted with the school lunches. I really wish they would give the kids something that is healthy AND delicious. Right now, it is neither.

    I used to teach a weight-loss support group and I find that most people learn their bad eating habits while they’re young.

    Thanks so much for sharing this.

    • Abby – that’s so true. When my daughter was in kindergarten, we had the “standard” school lunches. They were so horrible I would only let her eat it once a month. She didn’t even like the kid standards like Mac-n-cheese and nachos. I’m convinced it’s because she was already accustomed to what “real” food tastes like.

      On the other hand, if kids learn from their lunches what food tastes like, and the lunches are loaded with processed food, it sets them up for a lifetime of bad eating habits.

      Can you tell I’m passionate about this? 🙂 Thank you for your comments!

  3. It’s true many children depend on school lunches as it may be their only hot meal of the day. And many didn”t get breakfast either.
    I’m glad you are educating the public on this.
    Thanks for this post.

  4. You go…Julie., and, Ann,..Farm fresh all the way…what else should our children who are being taught honest, pristine principles expect to be fed in the cafeteria?
    God Bless You

  5. Gee whiz – The more things change, the more the more they stay the same. Back in the day when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the Beatles wore matching suits and ties, we got fed A Lot of chili-mac. Thursday was hamburger day. We kids LIVED for hamburger day. We always washed it all down with milk, though, from those teensy square cardboard cartons. I never imagined school food could get worse, but apparently it did.

  6. Ann’s program sounds wonderful. With parents educating parents and children talking about the healthy food they’re served at school, it can’t help but improve eating at home.

  7. Julie, I too am passionate about promoting healthy eating and lifestyle. I often talk to my students in an informal way about their food and drink (often a huge culprit) choices and their activities. It was great to read your informed post and how wonderful that your school district has someone like Ann Cooper. I think when kids are playing up in class, one of the first responses shouldn’t be to reach for drugs, as sadly too often happens, but to question their diet. Thank you.

    • Yes – giving kids a ton of sugar is definitely going to impact their behavior. We should at least look at their diets first before taking them to doctors.

  8. I am lucky. At this point my kids are all in schools that take this issue seriously. One of them has an organic farm connected with the school (although she is at college), another school buys local, organic produce and has meatless mondays to promote awareness of both the health of vegetables and the burden of raising meat on the planet. There is a lot of available nutrition information and an effort to get the kids to eat healthily. Of course, the kids always seem to be looking for ways around that 🙂 I hope that, in addition to learning a healthy lifestyle, they never take for granted the fact that they have not only enough to eat, but also choices.

    • You are lucky! We’re trying to get a school garden at my kids’ school too. We do meatless mondays once a month too. I’m glad to hear that other schools are moving in this direction too.

  9. Our son isn’t in school, but we struggle with creating healthy “on the go” snacks. Thanks for those links and I’m going to check to see what our neighborhood charter school provides for lunch.

  10. I’m floored by the quality of food that’s available in my school’s cafeteria. It’s not healthy and many of my students don’t have a choice because they are on free/reduced lunch. I try to set an example by bringing a healthy lunch, but its hard to combat the influence of junk food vending machines just around the corner.

    Kudos to you for your involvement. 🙂

    • That’s precisely the point – kids shouldn’t have to bring lunch from home in order to have healthy food. And vending machines have to go! I can’t believe schools still allow those.

  11. It’s interesting how many school programs you hear about in America compared to other countries. You’d think habits would have started changing by now. Is it the general lifestyle? I mean don’t they get the least maternity time off there? A rushed society promotes unhealthy eating in my opinion. Good on you for being in a group!

    • Catherine, unfortunately the answer often comes down to the industries that have the most lobbying power with the government – cattle, dairy, processed food companies, etc. The USDA (which sets standards for school lunches) is strongly influenced by these lobbies. People like Ann Cooper, however, are demanding and getting change – even if it is little by little.

  12. I so enjoyed your post. Today’s children are eating so poorly. I can’t imagine what they will feed their children when they grow up unless they learn to enjoy good food that is not all processed with fat, sugar, etc.

    • That’s the problem is that kids learn to love the foods that they’re fed. Processed foods loaded with fat and sugar are meant to be addictive. Changing those tastes and habits when they are young is critical to their future health (and that of their future children).

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