Stepping into the cafeterias brought back so many fond memories of being a little girl in school. I remembered meal time was always a happy time. My favorite part of elementary was helping the lunch ladies serve food in schools. These cafeterias had so many familiar things yet everything was different.
Since when did milk come in little bags? Since when did us kids get to choose what we eat versus having a pre-filled platter handed to us? And since when did breakfast get served in the classroom?
The first things I noticed were the little white bags students were taking and I had to ask what they were. As the site manager giggled at me, she told me they were milk pouches. Breakfast is also something that is completely new compared to my childhood. As a child, I would have had to arrive at school early enough to have breakfast in the cafeteria but now, breakfast is served to every student in the classroom, which helps decrease hunger and increases focus.
Another thing I noticed is the variety and independence students are given with the “Offer Versus Serve” program. Students are no longer given every food item but are required to pick 3 food groups with at least one serving of fruits or vegetables. This has decreased the food waste and increased nutrient density for the student population.
How do commercial food items compare to school foods? School pizzas, for example, model proper portion size and number of servings. (Kids eat one slice of pizza, with low fat milk and fresh fruits and vegetables. At home, how many slices do they eat?) School pizza is higher in fiber (enriched whole-grain crust); higher in calcium and protein; lower in total fat and saturated fat; trans fat free; and lower in sodium! Although there have been many changes since I’ve been in school, I am extremely excited to see the changes that’ll lead to the betterment of our future generations.
Post by Linh Le:
My name is Linh Le and I am currently a Dietetic Intern and graduate student at Cal State Long Beach. I am originally from Northern California and lived in Sacramento for 10 years. In Sacramento, I completed my undergrad and received a B.S. in Dietetics. There, I also spent 7 years working with kids ranging from elementary school to middle school, in which I spent majority of my time teaching cultural dances like Vietnamese and Polynesian. I also spent some time teaching nutrition and basic cooking techniques to the middle school students. Now I am pursuing my dream of becoming a Registered Dietitian.