Book Review: Lunch Wars
Do you remember your school lunches? I remember chicken nugget day being a fan favorite. I also remember how excited the school was when we started having Pizza Hut once a month. I remember my first day of high school and discovering that there was basically a “junk food” line. Funny how that was always the longest line in the cafeteria. Although, to be fair to my school, I should mention that there was also a salad line, which is what I typically ate and of course had the shortest line.
As a student, I never really gave a whole lot of thought about how healthy the food was, I just preferred a salad for lunch. Now as a mother, I can’t imagine my boys choosing to eat in the “junk food” line every day. Although my boys aren’t yet in school, I recently took a look at the lunch menu in our school district and I was somewhat surprised to see that the menu has changed very little since I’ve been in school. It’s not the type of food I would want my children eating every day, so when I had the opportunity to review Lunch Wars by Amy Kalafa, I jumped.
The author has presented a “how to” guide on where to start if you want to jump start some changes in your school’s lunch program. Amy is realistic in stating that change is difficult and slow, but offers some good advice on how to get started. Her advice includes visiting your school’s cafeteria and discussing the lunch program with the food service director, and involve other parents who also would like to see healthier lunches.
This book is chock full of case studies, good examples of what schools are doing to change their lunch programs. She high-lights programs that are buying from local organic farms, schools that give the students the opportunity to give input on the menu and help prepare the food. She details how some school programs are dealing with the financial aspects of serving healthier foods. One school chef actually sells his soup at a local farmer’s market to help defray costs.
Amy reminds her readers, that for a variety of reasons, schools are reluctant to change their programs, but change is important. As one food service director that she interviewed put it, the cafeteria is the one part of the school that every child sees every day. Schools should be committed to providing the very best that they can, not only in the classroom, but in the cafeteria as well.
I will say that while I was pleased with the overall message in Lunch Wars, I was disappointed by the scare tactics that the author employed. She claims that ADHD, bipolar disorder, and other behavioral disorders are “diet related epidemics” and offers no proof to to back up the claims. There are plenty of statistics about the increase in childhood use of mood stabilizers and antidepressants and again, there is no evidence given to link the increase and diet. And while I generally applaud the author’s use of examples in this book, I found the example of her daughters’ school friends suffering from emotional, physical and behavioral issues so severe that they needed to be hospitalized unnecessary. Saying that ”maybe if these kids had been exposed to a greater variety of fresh foods, maybe if they weren’t offered junk food as often, maybe if there had been a bit more emphasis on developing their taste buds, maybe they would have been stronger and more resistant to the challenges of adolescence” is over the top.
Lunch Wars is a good book, with a good message and I found that the scare tactics only detracted from the message instead of supporting it.
Overall, I think that if you ignore the scare tactics, this is a good book for parents to use as a guide as they try to facilitate changes in the school lunch system.
*This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own*
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