That’s the big news in the world of school lunches. Congress calls pizza a vegetable even though the USDA wants to improve school lunch nutrition. For the record, it seems the USDA still would like to call pizza a vegetable, they would just like to increase the tomato paste from 2 T to half a cup. Perhaps this is a good time to take a good long look at our schools, and our school yards. Both times that I reached the point where my sons entered Kindergarten, I felt nauseous at the fact they would suddenly be spending so much time sitting down, not moving their little boy bodies nearly as much as when they are at home. The 15 minutes of recess twice per day does not cut it, nor does the PE class twice a week. During the summer my boys are active all day long~ and they are happy and healthy. Obviously they can’t swim all day at school and run around on the grounds, but I do think more activity can be built in. And the lunches~ of course they can be improved, but in the end it is the student making the choices and if he or she gets to pick between pizza or salad, most likely pizza will be the winner. We have to teach our kids about food, where it comes from, how it differs nutritionally, ethically, and connect the food to how it makes them feel. They need to understand there is a difference in food, that there are choices that make them grow taller, run faster, lift heavier items (normally each other in elementary grades I’ve noticed) and feel better. I think one answer is to starting gardens at school. California leads the way in Edible Schoolyards, and I would really love to see the entire nation follow their lead. Having a garden or greenhouse on the school property gives students the opportunity to see real food grow, to connect to it, and the earth it comes from. Gardening is an excellent thing to learn young and enjoy life-long. It is the perfect venue for teaching kids about energy (trucking food all over the place), about eating local, healthy foods, about being stewards of the earth and about being active~ active doing something real and meaningful. Kids love that, and they deserve it. I approached my sons’ principal about starting one at their school and he was surprisingly open about it, but unfortunately their school is under construction for two years and all the property is vulnerable to large earth movers at the moment. He said when that is over he had already been thinking about putting up a greenhouse. Now is the time! The idea is out there, and it is spreading. Let’s teach the kids something real. Ask your school, they just might be waiting for someone to get the ball rolling.
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