Mrs. Q visits Canada

Last month, Mrs. Q, the brave teacher (and blogger at Fed Up with School Lunch) who spent last semester eating lunch like the kids do at her school, offered some interesting insights about what she’s learned so far in her experiment:

The project has taught me that our nation’s school lunch program is broken. I believe that it’s not a matter of increasing the funds: the National School Lunch Program needs to be re-engineered. We need a renewed emphasis on fresh food. We must invest in our “lunch ladies” and teach them how to cook properly. The current USDA guidelines need to change so that they make sense. Finally school cafeterias have to “go green” by returning to metal spoons, forks and real plates.

Yesterday, Mrs. Q invited a guest blogger from Canada to write about how they do things at her childrens’ school in one Ontario town. Just like at other Canadian schools, her kids bring packed lunches most days, but the parent council also does a regular lunch fundraiser. The meals started out simply enough as hot dog day—something I remember from my own childhood—and the kids were offered dogs, potato chips and pop.  Now, they do much healthier meals several times a month and have come up with a slick and efficient system that brings in much-needed money for the school and also promotes healthy eating.

Amazingly, only four parents run the whole operation.

As a parent at a school with a dedicated cadre of volunteers I understand how this can happen (and I applaud their efforts), but I also understand how precarious it can be. What happens when these awesome moms (it’s usually moms) move on or burn out? And unlike some of the commenters on the guest post, I believe that not only parents, but schools have a key role in ensuring the health of students. In fact, as educational institutions and one of the primary ways that government and social policies affect children, they have a very important role.

This is not to take anything away from the excellent work of the blogger and her comrades at the Ontario school. Everyone benefits from their efforts.

But to me, her story is also a reminder of how essential it is for Canada to begin a serious conversation about creating a universal school nutrition program—so that not only middle-class kids but children at schools where parents aren’t as active and/or where there are many low-income families also have access to affordable, healthy lunches.

As I’ve written before, Canada is one of the only developed nations in the world that doesn’t have a national school nutrition program. This is a shame.

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