By: Matthew Ryan
Below is an article that was written recently by the New York Times. It reflects on a public health issue that has gained much notice lately: obesity.
This article touched on the poor nutritional value from school lunches. As a result, the article reports that children that eat school lunches are more likely to be obese. It is obviously not fair to jump to the conclusion that school lunches cause obesity. There are many more factors. That being said, it is likely that school lunches are one of the contributors to obesity. More importantly, though, what message are we sending to our children, and our future, if public school lunches are not nutritious?
Public schools are arguably one of the strongest foundations for our future success as a nation. The nearly universal right to an education for American citizens may be this nation’s greatest quality. The idea that we so value education that it is a right of all citizens is magnificent, and proper. Education is the backbone for a growing economy. Better education could relieve many burdens on our health care system. A more educated electorate should arguably elect better legislators. The benefits from public education go on and on. For all this to work, however, our public schools must be functioning properly. The failure of the American public school system is not for my undertaking. Truthfully, the failures cannot be totally expressed by one person. There are too many variables. I do, however, want to briefly touch on the issue of public school lunches.
I am interested in this article because I think there are clear-cut solutions. From a policy standpoint, I think this is possible. Replacing unhealthy food with nutritious food is plausible. As the article mentions, the Department of Agriculture has taken recent steps to make lunches healthier. More importantly then the possibility, however, there is a greater message in all of this.
I believe this issue is greater then just school lunches. This is a social justice issue. For the past few generations, we have failed American children with the food offered at public school lunches. Children whose parents were too busy to make a lunch so they took faith in the school lunch system were mistreated. Others who thought the school would know what was best for their child to eat were wrong as well. Unfortunately, the lunch system failed us. Instead of giving students a nutritious lunch, they served unhealthy options.
Obesity could arguably bankrupt our health care system in the future. My generation is much more obese then generations before. In an already struggling health care system, obesity is a behemoth issue coming down the pipe. So how can we stop this issue? When we need to look to the future, and start changing the habits of future generations, what do we do? We turn to public schools.
We rely on our schools to teach children basic functions so that when they are adults, our society functions better. We need to do the same thing with food. Only offering unhealthy options to an eight-year-old five days a week is unjust. We cannot then turn 20 years down the line and point at that child and blame them for the rising health care costs.
Yes the issue has many complexities. There are powerful interests that are perfectly content with how school lunches have operated. Corn and potatoes at every lunch benefits some people. That being said, do public schools exist so that companies can profit? Or do they exist so students can be educated and decide for themselves who should profit? These are big questions we must face as a nation.
By ensuring that public school lunches become healthier, we are putting a down payment on our future. Fighting the obesity epidemic will not be easy. Much of the issues are out of the federal government’s hands. Some, however, are right under their jurisdiction. What we have our public schools serving at lunch is most definitely one of them.