Fresh Ideas: Let’s all work together to get our kids the healthiest meals | NevadaAppeal.com

Fresh Ideas: Let’s all work together to get our kids the healthiest meals

Abby Johnson

It’s a Nevada spring perfect storm: Budget crunch slams school lunch program during slow food revolution. Here’s what we know. In an economic move, the Carson City School District is considering outsourcing its nutrition program to save $400,000 next school year.

“We are interested in efficiencies that will save us money but not at the expense of healthy food,” said Superintendent of Schools Richard Stokes. “We believe we can have the best of both worlds.”

The controversy is swirling around the proposal. Some parents want healthier choices, the district wants to increase participation of full-pay students, and cafeteria workers want to keep their jobs and hours.

Can the district maintain or improve food quality and save money if a for-profit food service company procures and prepares hot breakfast and lunch for our children?

Budget cutting comes at a time when parents are sensitized to children’s health. The threats of chemicals and additives in foods and packaging and the childhood obesity epidemic loom; celebrity chefs advocate the health benefits of eating fresh, raw, local food.

The pendulum swings wildly in education, from phonics to whole language, from fundamentals to new math, from fried to fresh. Children need proper nutrition to learn. The eating habits of youth can become lifelong patterns.

In light of the obesity threat, is there a better time and place to instill healthy eating habits than in school and right now?

Of course, it can go too far. Consider New York City. Reported in the April 12 New Yorker magazine, the city’s education department decreed that only 27 prepackaged snacks could be sold during school hours or for fundraisers. Whole grain Pop-Tarts and reduced fat Doritos are in; homemade anything is forbidden. No bake sales. Watch out for that pendulum!

If our school district is changing the food service, it is commendable that parents want the district to consider options involving less packaging and plastic, and more fresh and raw ingredients. As an example, this month’s elementary school menu is already dominated by fast food variations: nachos, tacos, hot dogs, burgers, corn dogs, chicken nuggets and burritos.

Budget cuts create opportunities. The school board is expected to act on the food service outsourcing proposal on May 25, but the board also holds an annual budget public hearing at 5:15 p.m. May 19 at the district office.

In the healthiest school districts, parents and the community are involved and respected, and the school board, administration and community work together for the benefit of children and education.

This perfect storm is an opportunity for parents, the community and the school board to become involved together to influence a fundamental part of education.

• Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City, and a part-time resident of Baker. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues.