Dear Rep. Kline,
After reading the StarTribune article, “Rep. John Kline moves to loosen new school lunch standards,” I had to ask myself “Are you trying to solve the right problem?” Rep. Kline’s position was focused on calorie limits and wasted fruits and vegetables and trying to solve those problems by slowing down the new USDA school food standards. I wanted to shout “When are people going to learn that feeding is different from nourishing?” If you give a child a donut and a can of pop, you have fed them, but you certainly have not nourished them. While the old regulations were not as bad as that example, the new ones do a much better job of recognizing that nourishing is about getting the right vitamins, minerals and fiber to help your body and mind grow better, to help you learn and perform better, and to lead a happier, healthier life. Nourishing is also about avoiding foods that contain added sugar, bad fats, sodium and preservatives that cause swings in mood and attention span, aggressive behavior and impeded learning skills. Food is so much more than just calories. A good nutrition plan allows your child to do better and be happier in everything they do. What parent wouldn’t want this?
So what should the article be about? It should be about educating students and parents (the problem often starts with the food served at home), and serving fruits and vegetables that look and taste good, so kids want to eat them. Most school districts have learned that cutting up fruit increases consumption in all grades, especially in K-5 where kids are learning to like foods. Vegetables need a different solution. We need to start cooking vegetables in a more flavorful way. Instead of steaming, start roasting vegetables with some added spices and seasonings. You will be surprised at how consumption goes up and waste goes down. And with these changes you will get calmer classrooms, better learning, reduced behavior problems and most importantly happier, healthier kids.
If we all start looking at the right problem and working to solve it, just think of the gift we will give our children. Rep. Kline, can we count on you to be part of the solution?
Chef Marshall O’Brien, St. Louis Park