Our district’s lunch program is pretty much like every other district’s: The cafeteria workers need to find a way to provide lunch for $2.30 while staying within national guidelines. As a result, there’s very little on the menu my kids will eat. Everything is processed and, as my kids tell me, “disgusting” as far as they are concerned. There are a few days they will buy, though. Big Girl likes nacho taco day, which is taco meat heaped on nacho chips with lettuce, tomato and salsa. Little Girl likes brunch for lunch — frozen pancakes or waffles with some type of meat, which she won’t eat. Either way, both girls get Mommy-packed snacks to eat with their purchased meals. Fruit, a natural cookie, some yogurt — nothing too fancy. Big Girl brings her own drinks. Little Girl has always bought the milk, despite the fact that it’s not organic.
Yesterday I gave Little Girl enough cash for her lunch. She came home with a slip that said she needed to bring in money. She didn’t have enough cash to pay for what she ate. I started asking her questions. Did she lose her quarters? I knew she didn’t buy snacks because kindergarten kids are not allowed to buy snacks at her school. And then she came clean: She bought strawberry milk. I wasn’t pleased.
First, it is bad enough that I am letting her drink non-organic milk, but the fact that she drank something loaded with sugar and (potentially) high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and preservatives really made me mad. She eats lunch around 11. That means she went back to her classroom to learn all hopped up on crap.
We had a discussion about what we, as a family, allow, and she promised that she wouldn’t buy strawberry milk at school again. I put the extra money into her backpack and it was over. But I am still not pleased. Jamie Oliver has a good PDF about the dangers of flavored milk. (You can read it here.) It bothered me so much I actually called the district offices. The person I spoke to told me that the school had made a special request for the strawberry milk. It wasn’t a regular thing, he said. I asked him who our supplier was. He told me. I called over there and got someone to send me the nutritional information. Here it is:
So you’ve got a drink for kids that not only has 22 grams of sugar — four grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar so my daughter drank almost six teaspoons of sugar — but also has corn starch, artificial color in the form of Red #40, artificial flavors and salt. I know many people might say, who cares? It’s just a little sugar and food coloring. Except it’s a big deal for someone like my daughter, who weighs 37 pounds and is sensitive to food coloring. I am sure she bounced her way through the afternoon.
So yes, it’s a problem. At least for me. It’s June, so I’m not going to do anything about it now. I just don’t have the time. But I am going to bring it up at the first PTA meeting in the fall. It’s worth a discussion. I wonder how many parents, especially those parents in my district who have special ed or food sensitive kids, know what their kids are drinking?