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School lunches need healthier options

DEAR EDITOR:

As the 2021 to 2022 school year finished up its first few months, students, parents and faculty have begun to see many changes, yet we have not seen a change in the school lunches.

When schools across the county closed during the COVID-19, pandemic students were forced to do online education. That meant they were able to have the choice to eat healthy lunches that they not only liked, but also gave them the nutrients they needed to perform well in their classes. After looking at many of our local school lunch menus, I had some concerns because of the poor nutrition and unbalanced diet. Some meals I found as the main course included mozzarella sticks, a pretzel with a cheese cup, or meatballs and raisins. All the lunches come with fruit, and most come with a vegetable, but with the lack of interest in the main course, it’s hard to persuade our kids to eat those fruits and vegetables.

In our area, lunches are repeated over and over each week, sometimes multiple times in a week. These school lunches sometimes offer every other day some form of pizza, and each week it’s a frozen cheeseburger or chicken, or a random side dish passed off as the main dish. If every school day the students are eating these lunches, they are more likely to have less brainpower leading to a reduced chance of remembering the information they have learned, considering they don’t have the choice to obtain the nutrients they need.

They don’t get vitamin A for strong growth, protein and iron for blood and muscle development or vitamin D for bone development. It puts them at risk of developing a chronic health condition. A research study in Michigan found that eating school lunches put students 29 percent more at risk of developing obesity due to the high sodium in processed foods.

Many high schools offer healthy options such as salads and wraps or a different variety of foods, where students can choose what they prefer. But elementary and middle school students do not have this option. We can teach younger students to start making healthier choices. I understand that schools have a large number of people to serve in a limited amount of time. But to think of our kids as numbers instead of wanting them to make health-conscious decisions is a problem.

I think we, as a community, should be able to come up with better opportunities for our districts to encourage decision-making and give students healthy options. For example, keep chicken every Monday, but maybe consider adding a salad with fresh strawberries as another main course option. I’m not proposing we completely get rid of chicken for lunch because the students still need to enjoy the foods they eat. If we consider some healthy lunch options each week, students will have the option to choose a full nutritious meal.

Healthy school lunches will only benefit our students in getting a better education and nutrition level.

AUDRA PICURI

Cortland

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