lunches Can’t force students to eat

There are many people who are up in arms over the U.S. Agriculture Department’s decision to change federal nutritional standards for breakfasts and lunches served to schoolchildren.

The rules that have some so up at arms scaled back standards requiring that only whole grains be served, eliminated a final target for reduced sodium and allow low-fat chocolate milk to be served after several years of only fat-free milk being offered.

Not surprisingly, New York’s attorney general has joined a lawsuit suing the Trump Administration over the changes, arguing that the changes lack scientific basis and was adopted without public notice or the opportunity to comment.

James argues that she is protecting New York children — “especially those in low-income communities and communities of color — depend on the meals served daily by their schools to be healthy, nutritious, and prepare them for learning,” James said. “The Trump Administration has undermined key health benefits for our children — standards for salt and whole grains in school meals — with deliberate disregard for science, expert opinion and the law.”

Many parents, however, would probably like to see the USDA go further than it already has. Has James looked at a school lunch menu lately? Many parents have, and they end up packing lunches on days when there is no way their child or children will touch the school lunch — prepared with these sancrosanct, don’t-you-dare-touch-them USDA rules in mind — with a 10-foot pole. That is particularly troubling in Dunkirk, whose school district has a high enough poverty rate that every child within the district has the option of receiving a free breakfast and lunch every day of the school year.

Not to pick one county district, because it is simply working within the parameters set by the federal government several years ago, but take a look at some of these April lunch items and ask yourself if you would you have eaten these meals at 3, 4, or 5 years of age? French toast sticks with no sugar or syrup? Breaded pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy and beets for already-finicky 4-year-olds? Trout treasures and Brussels sprouts? It’s just as bad at breakfast, where we know there are classrooms in which teachers ask children to start their breakfast meal by taking the things they won’t eat and putting them in the middle of the table. It ends up being quite a pile some days.

This is what we’re filing lawsuits over — food choices that many children are throwing away. What good is a school breakfast and lunch menu’s nutritional value if it ends up in the bottom of a garbage pail instead of a child’s stomach?