Earlier this week, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued a proclamation that relaxes the nutritional guidelines for schools set during the Obama Administration. According to a statement from Perdue on the USDA website (complete with a photo of him enjoying a traditional noontime tray of chicken nuggets), kids hate the whole grain buns, bread, pizza crust and pasta that have been part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
“A perfect example is in the South, where the schools want to serve grits,” says Perdue. “But the whole grain variety has little black flakes in it, and the kids won’t eat it. The school is compliant with the whole grain requirements, but no one is eating the grits. That doesn’t make any sense.” As a result, schools will have the option to go back to serving whatever they can get kids to eat, and the brown-hued bread, extra vegetables and sweet potato fries schools have been incentivized to serve could soon be on their way out of American cafeterias.
Now we’ve all witnessed a picky kid eye a plate of food with disdain, but let’s be real for a moment on what does and doesn’t make sense: the “black flakes” in whole grain grits are neither black nor flakes. They’re golden-brown specks, minuscule fragments of the corn husk and interior that aren’t completely removed from the end product. Utilizing the entire grain maximizes fiber intake, which helps you stay full and poop nicely — two of the countless points of eating whole grains.
In dozens of other countries, lunch is considered a class. What are students learning? How (and why) to eat nutritious food and conduct lively conversation over a relaxed hour, no rush at all. So rather than pulling the healthier option off the lunch line, why not take the opportunity to teach why the new bread and pasta is brown and the new grits have specks, and why that’s a good thing? Let’s turn that “ew” into “oh.”