School Lunches Under the Microscope in Maryland

The Montgomery County Council is holding public meetings on the quality of food service in their schools, after inviting an international delegation of governing leaders for the international baccalaureate program to tuck into lunches at the Rockville High School, writes Michael Alison Chandler at the Washington Post.

Many critics say that kids need to learn more about vegetables and their greens. They also recommend that salad bars should be much more prominent in our schools cafeteria food lines.

School nutritionists say that they must make food that is healthy but also palatable to a junk-food loving generation. It’s worth noting, also, that junk food is much cheaper than its fresh counterparts. Chandler makes the point:

“[Schools] have to sling enough burgers — soy or otherwise — to balance their budgets.”

So politically, schools are in a hard place. And the debate has gone right to the top as what constitutes a healthy and appropriate lunch for school children is currently topic of debate in Congress.

Members of congress are currently debating whether pizza should be counted as a vegetable in the Agriculture Department’s school lunch standards, as reported by Valarie Strauss at the Washington Post.

As it stands at the moment, a serving of pizza can be considered a vegetable if it has at least two tablespoons of tomato sauce, as raw tomatoes are nutritious, and research has shown that some tomato-based cooked products are too.

But is that enough? Not so, says the Agriculture Department, who want to change the rule to up the amount of tomato paste to at least half a cup.

The legislation is a spending bill that is battling with the standards of the Agriculture Department who proposed earlier in the year to make school lunches healthier amid an obesity epidemic among young people.

“The standards, based on recommendations from the National Institute of Medicine, included restricting the amount of starchy potatoes that could be served to kids each week, as well as the amount of sodium.”

Agriculture Department spokeswoman Courtney Rowe said:

“While it’s unfortunate that some members of Congress continue to put special interests ahead of the health of America’s children, USDA remains committed to practical, science-based standards for school meals.”