School lunches in the United States have been the focus of many fierce debates. The main reason for this is that significant portions of school lunches across the country comprise of processed foods saturated with fats, salt, and sugars. These types of food pose a serious threat to the health of children in the country. The United States has one of the highest rates of overweight and obesity, and school lunches do little to help the situation. The United States Department of Agriculture manages the school luck program, and those contracted by the organization show little concern for the nutritious benefits of the lunches served in schools. Unless parents and other parties in the school program fight for their children’s health, things will likely remain as they are. Ann Cooper provides lunches to schools in the Berkeley Unified District, and she addresses her concerns on the nutritional value of school lunches in a TED talk titled, ‘School Lunches.’
Ann Cooper makes a strong case against the current trend in school lunches. She explains that most school lunches are made up of unhealthy foods such as corndogs, chocolate milk, sodas, chicken nuggets, frozen sandwiches, among other unhealthy options (Schanzenbach 685). Having joined the lunch program, two years before her talk, she gives insight into the situation she first encountered. However, she and her team soon began to switch up things, even including a salad bar in her lunches. Many were skeptical of her approach, but she explains that the children to it quite well (Morris). Ann explains that children go to school to learn about different things, and nutrition should be one of them. When children are served all these kinds of junk and unhealthy food in school, they develop an attitude that it is okay for them to consume it. The danger is that most children are too young to realize the nutritious value of the food they consume, and they need the right message when it comes to food.
In the TED talk, Ann emphasizes some of the things that should be changed in the school lunch programs. The first thing is that children in school districts should consume majority of locally produced foods. She explains that transporting food across the country makes little sense as it contributes to pollution, and it also discourages people from consuming what is locally available (Morris). Another point in the talk is that school districts should provide more organic foods for children. A lot of the non-organic food contains hormones and antibiotics that end up making children sick as they grow up. Ann also explains that the school feeding program should be categorized as a public health and social justice issue and placed under the management of the CDC. In the Berkeley school district, Ann is in charge of cooking and planting classes that help to change children’s attitudes towards food. Most children enjoy fast food because they have grown up with the idea that healthy food is not as delicious, and this comes at a cost to their health and wellbeing.
Ann Cooper’s TED talk is an eye-opening review of the country’s lunch program. Although she mainly points out the problems in the system, there are some positive points. For example, the current school lunches are quite cheap, and this is what most school districts in the country can afford (Jensen 23). They have to work within their available budgets and choose what works best for them. Another positive aspect of school lunches is that it provides food for many children, some of whom cannot afford to eat otherwise. Providing meals for millions of children across the country, thus helps to feed those who may be too poor to afford food otherwise. Schools provide one meal a day, and that is why school lunches have limited options. It is expected that parents and guardians provide nutritious meals for their children outside school, and also teach children about healthy eating habits. Schools already do enough for children, and parents should take over teaching their children about nutrition.
Another reason why the current school lunch system works the way it does is that there is limited time to prepare meals. Cooking for hundreds of even thousands of children each day proves to be quite tasking, and frankly too expensive. Having prepackaged meals delivered to schools is the easiest option in most school districts. Ann Cooper also suggests organic meals be served in schools, but that is quite a challenge. Organic foods are too expensive to provide in schools which feed millions of children each day. School districts need money for other things, such as paying teachers and purchasing additional resources for the learning process.
In conclusion, the school; lunch program in the country has come under criticism from many stakeholders. People complain that the food offered to kids in schools is too unhealthy and encourage them to develop bad eating habits. Such unhealthy diets on schools also contribute to the deteriorating health and wellbeing of children, as explained by Ann Cooper in her TED talk. However, the school lunch program still works and benefits many children for various reasons, for example, it provides cheap food for children and ensures that all kids are fed, especially those who cannot get food outside school. Parents should take up the responsibility of teaching their kids about healthy eating habits rather than putting everything on the schools.
Jensen, Jørgen Dejgård, et al. “Economic viability of new launched school lunch programmes.” British Food Journal (2013).
Morris, Richard. “Ann Cooper- School Lunches-TED talk.” YouTube. 24 February 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSTZ6AdQdwk&list=PLBxVg6-9tfFPY0a85Gc0DlJZ51YE3_FMm&index=9&t=0sSchanzenbach, Diane Whitmore. “Do school lunches contribute to childhood obesity?.” Journal of Human Resources 44.3 (2009): 684-709.