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School lunch do-gooding takes a goofy turn

Submitted by on Tuesday, 13 April 2010 No Comment

Foods made with white sugar, fructose, corn syrup, or any thing ending in “-ose” are banned – presumably, this doesn’t apply to lactose – but peanut butter laced with honey is OK.

Crackers aren’t allowed, but plain corn or potato chips are fine. Fresh fruit, go for it. Canned fruit will be confiscated.

Those are just a few of the lunch rules at Children’s Success Academy, a charter school  in Tucson, Ariz.

They have enforcers, too. Teachers confiscate forbidden foods, such as a burrito in a white flour tortilla on one recent day. It’s all in keeping with school director and founder Nanci Aiken’s beliefs that children who eat properly will grow and develop properly.

I have no quibble with that part. School lunches, by and large, are pretty miserable menus across the country. Breakfast too often is something dipped in syrup, while lunch frequently is nachos or pizza.

Where I do take issue with Aiken’s philosophy is here: “Foods to be avoided entirely include refined sugars, sugar substitutes and other highly processed items including fats, such as margarines, which contain partially hydrogenated oils.”

You see, I don’t believe in “avoid entirely.” I do believe, and I preach it daily, in teaching kids the difference between real food and garbage. But there’s nothing that we “avoid entirely,” except maybe Brussels sprouts and that’s because no one here can stand them. Want a cookie? Sure, if you’ve eaten  your good food and aren’t just filling your belly with junk.

She’s also deluding herself if she thinks that foods on her “safe” list are actually safe by her standards. Just browse the ingredient labels on whole-grain bread the next time you’re at the store – many are made with high-fructose corn syrup. And speaking of whole grains, don’t confuse that with the brown bread labeled whole wheat. Much of the time, that’s just regular white bread colored with molasses. There are, however, white whole grain breads. How do the teachers at Aiken’s school know which to toss?

Then you have the hypocrisy of preaching against fat while allowing potato and corn chips. The low-fat roast beef lunch meat Big Guy takes most days – on a whole-grain roll! – has less fat than potato chips. The latter isn’t a high-fiber offering that I’m aware of.

And while we’re on the subject of lunch meat, that’s banned but fish sticks are allowed? Fish sticks usually have more protein, but many varieties also have way more sodium and fat.

So I’ll continue to send Big Guy to school with his lunch meat, the occasional serving of canned fruit and even – gasp! – a Hershey Kiss every day. In the long run, I bet his diet is just as healthful as those of kids who lose their burritos to the lunch police.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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