From Mother Jones and their visit to a school lunch conference:
While the exhibitors were eager to show off their products’ nutritional stats, few offered actual ingredients lists. When I asked the rep at the Uno pizza booth why ingredients weren’t included on his nutrition information sheet, he told me the list wouldn’t fit on the page.
“Don’t the school nutritionists ask you what’s in this?” I asked. Nope, he said. Most of them just wanted to know whether the product met the legal guidelines. He offered to email me the list later. When he did, I learned that Uno’s Whole Grain Low Sodium Sweet Potato Crust Pepperoni Pizza contained nearly 50 ingredients, including sodium nitrite, which has been linked
to cancer. I also persuaded the Domino’s rep to email me a list of ingredients in his company’s specially formulated school pizza, SmartSlice. It was also nearly 50 items long, and included silicone dioxide, otherwise known as sand.
The other notable aspect of this post is something that shouldn’t surprise a soul: the big-name food companies (General Mills, Yum Brands) sponsor the school lunch conference and, as such, get prime tables near the front and center aisles peddling their programs and ideas. Those may not
be as healthy as some “mom-and-pop” or smaller outfits who get resigned to the further aisles, where less people actually go. That’s why — well, that’s part of why — the problems persist in the school cafeteria space (the other problem is likely just money; it’s a little bit more expensive to have kids in schools eating super-healthy every day). Then there’s Robert Aderholt and all that.
My two cents: having been a teacher, I know how hard it is to maintain student interest in any
topic. I also know a few things about attention spans.
It’s unrealistic to expect students to learn really effectively, especially in the back half of the day, when they’re eating essentially sugar’ed-up garbage at that midpoint. School lunches are
incredibly important as a topic, but the money just might not honestly be there in a lot of contexts — and when the money is
there, it’s likely from corporations and fancy booths at conference events. A shame, but not an unexpected one.