In my Dominican family, food is very important. It has been a challenge balancing flavor with health consciousness, but we do our best.
I have three children, two who attend independent schools and one step son who attends a public middle school in the Bronx. My step son recently moved to New York from Alabama. He had so much to say about his first week at a New York City Public School. While he talked about the difference in terms of southern hospitality and northern norms, he was most excited about the food choices.
I was extremely pleased to find out that students were given an option of having a fruit or vegetables, or both, during the first week of school. My son is actually one of those children who really enjoys eating salad, fruits and vegetables. Children’s nutrition is very important to me. My experience working for the New York City Department of Education gave me some insight into children’s eating habits. For many children, lunch time is the first meal of the day.
For nine years, I worked as a school social worker at a Bronx elementary school. I often commented on the selection children were given at lunch time and the impact it had on children’s overall well being. I worked in a neighborhood where shelters populated the area and healthy food choices were not readily available for many families. The only supermarket in the neighborhood was extremely overpriced and fruits and vegetables were in unacceptable conditions. With limited options, families often made food choices based on their economic situations. This meant the heartiest meal for children were the ones provided by the school.
For children facing social and emotional challenges, limited food options also meant limited growth and opportunities. As a parent, I would not serve my children these foods. As a social worker, their limited food options was a cause for concern.
It is refreshing to know that our children’s nutrition is being seriously examined and that healthier food choices were implemented. I am excited about the USDA Nutritional Standards for School Meals and where this nation is going in regards to children and their health. I hope that the next step is to ensure that every school in every neighborhood has an opportunity to provide adequate physical education to children.
This post is part of the National School Lunch Week with Healthy Food! A MomsRising Blog Carnival. Take a moment to read and comment on these thoughtful blogs, then tell us your story. Our stories are powerful and are what led administrators to set these rules in place.