I've been following the news about schools returning to healthier cafeteria fare with a good deal of interest. My question is: what made them lower their standards so drastically in the first place?
When I was in school, there were two choices: bring a sack lunch or eat the daily entree in the cafeteria. There were no vending machines of any kind. If you didn't want a half pint of milk or chocolate milk to go with your meal, there was always the drinking fountain.
I usually brought my lunch from home, but the cafeteria food wasn't really that bad (except for the chicken chow mein, which was always an off-putting pale chartreuse color). The cafeteria meals included all of the four basic food groups plus a modest dessert, and cost very little.
I could see that things had changed when my husband's sister lived with us while she went to high school. I was appalled to see banks of vending machines in the cafeteria packed with sugar-filled sodas and candy bars. Presumably the cafeteria staff still made traditional school meals, but I doubt that any of the kids bought them when they could have Pizza Hut, hamburgers and french fries, and other junk food every day.
It's no wonder obesity continues to rise among children. If I'd been given the opportunity to eat fast food every day as a child, I'd have tossed my PB&J and apple and lined up for the pizza and french fries. I know this because as soon as I started college and had access to unlimited junk food, my dietary standards immediately went downhill.
I hope we're seeing the trend toward junk food in school cafeterias is coming to an end. Yes, schools need to have physical education classes, too (it's hard to believe that gym class has gone by the wayside), but limited access to tempting, empty calories is also important.