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After reading “More Food Choices for Students at Lunch” in the June 4 edition of The Lancaster News, I decided to log in to the newspaper’s Web site. I wanted to see if there were any reader comments on the announcement that the school district director of food services and the president of the school board were pleased and proud to add Philly cheese steaks and chicken wings to the school lunch menu for next year.
There were a few, and one from “nutritioncare,” I agree completely with. “To increase the variety of the menu, I vote for adding healthy menu options: not high fat, high cholesterol, high sodium items.”
The problem is this: A child or adult eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can certainly enjoy a cheese steak or chicken wings now and then. But for many children, school lunch is their only opportunity to eat a meal consisting of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean proteins and dairy.
Many of their meals at home are often, at best, high fat and sodium processed foods from the supermarket, take-out from restaurants or, at worst, little or nothing provided for them by their caregivers.
These children are being raised at home to develop a taste for unhealthy foods and will choose these same foods at school if they are available. Along with a sedentary lifestyle, this results in our state’s ranking fifth in the nation for the number of obese or overweight adults, with almost 20 percent of our children considered to be obese. We know that this is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and type 2 diabetes.
If you are overweight or obese, you probably already are experiencing health issues resulting from your lifestyle. You may be uncomfortable in your clothing, self-conscious when you are in public, and in many cases often cannot participate in activities that you wish you could.
We don’t want to pass this legacy on to our children. Even if, as adults, we might love the taste of cheese steaks and chicken wings more than the feel of good health, we have a moral responsibility to teach our children good health practices.
We have the responsibility to provide healthy and nutritious school lunches for our children to contribute to their physical and mental fitness.
We don’t allow children to smoke cigarettes in school because we all recognize this to be a major health risk. We certainly would not serve cigarettes to our children at the school lunch counter. We should recognize that providing unhealthy school lunch choices is also promoting a lifestyle that is just as damaging to their health.
Public education is a perfect opportunity for us to provide the tools for our children to use to enjoy a lifetime of good health, starting with daily lunches consisting of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy to provide energy for play and sports, and the vigor that contributes to enthusiasm for learning and creating.