As promised, today the New York Times published my letter to the editor (reprinted below) regarding reporter Kate Murphy’s muddled and misleading Sunday Review piece, “Why Students Hate School Lunches.”
Be sure to read the other letters objecting to the Murphy piece as well, including those from American Academy of Pediatrics president Sandra Hassink and former School Nutrition Association president Katie Wilson. And you can read my more complete rebuttal of the article, previously posted on The Lunch Tray, here.
To the Editor:
Kate Murphy calls America’s recently improved school nutrition standards “coercive” and “forbidding” for banning items like “a classic baguette, semolina pasta or jasmine rice” and the “flavorful sauces that often go with them.” Is she serious?
Unlike French schoolchildren, whose four-course repast Ms. Murphy so admires, our children were not seeing a lot of baguettes and jasmine rice before school meal standards were overhauled. Instead, they were inundated with deep-fried, salty, highly caloric meals and junk-food snacks, and they could pass up the fruits and vegetables so critical to their health.
But the good news is that children have not been “wrinkling their noses” at the healthier fare. The National School Lunch program exists to serve low-income children (those receiving federal meal subsidies), and among that group, participation has actually increased.
Moreover, instead of finding cafeteria trash cans “overflowing” with healthier food, researchers at Harvard, Baylor and the University of Connecticut all found no increased plate waste attributable to the new standards.
But by ignoring that hard data and proclaiming in its headline that “students hate school lunches,” this article has provided valuable fodder to those who will seek to undermine school nutrition standards in Congress later this year. If that faction succeeds, our school meals still won’t resemble those in France, but America’s most vulnerable children will certainly be worse off.
BETTINA ELIAS SIEGEL
The writer is a school food advocate who blogs at The Lunch Tray and a member of the Houston Independent School District Nutrition Services Parent Advisory Committee. The opinions expressed are her own.
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