How to NOT answer a question…

Today’s lesson: How to NOT answer a question in 140 characters…complete with links, quotes and statistics. That was the main takeaway from today’s Twitter chat that was led by the USDA in regards to the new school lunch rules. (I know, I almost went a day without talking about them, didn’t I?)

From noon to 1 p.m., I sat at my computer (thank you George, for taking an unexpected nap!) and participated in the chat. I retweeted information, I asked questions and I commented on answers…I seemed to have more involvement than the party that was hosting, as did many of the concerned parents, students and citizens that participated.

(For a brief overview, check out this blog post by my friend over at Crystal Cattle.)

What did I learn? I learned that we have a long way to go to make improvements. I learned that you can successfully have a non-conversation, not answering questions and referring to links and policy…and never once offer a real solution. I learned that the “science” behind the changes isn’t easy to get to, and that parents are going to have to step it up for awhile.

But I also learned that we have a lot of people supporting change, and that we can work together and make more people aware of the issues that are happening at our schools.

I didn’t expect our questions to be answered, I didn’t expect to feel fine with the whole program after an hour of “chatting.” But I also didn’t expect to feel ignored and for the issue to be sidestepped at every question.

For example, the question was asked, “What about free & reduced lunch students who can’t afford to buy additional food at school?”

The answer was, “Thornton: There are a number of programs available in schools to help meet dietary needs of kids during the school day.

Later they supplied this link for more information…it just includes the information we already have regarding school lunch, free and reduced-price meals and the school breakfast program. No additional resources, no new snack program, no real answer at all.

That was the way the majority of the hour went.

So where are we now? Well, we’re gaining support, spreading the word and making everyone aware of the short-comings of the new mandates in our lunchrooms. Our schools are being held hostage and our students are paying the ransom.

For more information, check out the Sensible School Lunches Facebook page and browse the information available there. Join in the conversation and share your tips and tricks for getting children the nutrients they need, while working through these restrictions.

Why the fuss about lunch?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions, some support and a little flak about my position on the changes to the school foods rule. And I thought maybe I should explain where I’m coming from, so that those that are reading my opinions can understand my point of view a little better.

Let me start off by saying that I was not raised to stand my ground. In fact, if anything, it was the opposite. My mother is a “pleaser.” She will do anything/everything to not make waves, go with the flow, whatever phrase you want to use. (My oldest is just like her.) My dad has his opinions, and you would never change his mind…but you’d never hear him talk about it either.

If there were changes made to my school lunch plans when I was in school, I would have had to live with it…and live with whatever was being served. Even if it wasn’t enough. Not because my parents didn’t care, but more because they were from an era where you never questioned authority and never stood up to what was “law.”

Times have changed.

There are many, many things that I like about the new rules. I love the addition of fresh fruits/vegetables. I love the ideas of expanding food choices, introducing them to new foods. Love that.

I understand the thoughts behind the calorie limits, and appreciate the work that went into figuring where to draw the line. I get the reason behind limiting sodium intake. Really. I do.

But my inner “mother bear” comes out when you start messing with my children…even more so when it comes to something I’m very sensitive about, such as their diets. With George’s diagnosis of OTC, we work closely with a dietician at Mayo. Through the last few years, we’ve been made VERY aware of the importance of proper nutrition for growing bodies.

Now, I know that the changes made to the school lunch program must have followed a dietician’s suggestion…perhaps even a team of dieticians. But it still doesn’t hit all the marks that I’m looking for in a good, well-balanced meal. And not necessarily for every child, but for mine…which is who I am fighting for (and I know I’m not alone).

I’m not complaining to my school administration. I’m not complaining to my school board. I know they are doing the best they can with what they have been given. I am writing those that have the power to make a change, and I’m using the tools that are available to me (social media, for one) to encourage others to do the same.

This isn’t a witch hunt, I’m not looking for someone to blame. I don’t care who signed the law, I don’t care which party they are from. I want to know who I can talk to that will work with me to make changes…that’s all I need.

We have passed the eras where laws are made and citizens no longer question them and just follow along blindly, assuming that everything was made in good-faith effort to do the best for those involved. (Did that time ever truly exist?) We are in an age where we are expected to stand up for what’s right and ask to make changes when things aren’t working…and this isn’t working for me and my family.

Scooter may be bigger than most 8-year-olds, but he’s still a little boy who needs his mama to stand up for him…and his future. (Oh, and this is an OLD pic of the two of them. About 2 years or so.)

Scooter and his older/younger brothers. He’s the one in the football gear.

I won’t spread rumors, I will try not to state anything without doing my research. I won’t place blame. I will just work towards a change. But I have to be vocal about what I find, or questions I may have…I have to use the tools that are at my disposal to get my message out to those who need to hear, and to those that can join in the movement.

I won’t stand by and watch an injustice when there’s something I can do…I’d say I wasn’t raised that way, but that’s not completely true. Let’s just say that I’m not raising my children that way.

Want to contact someone who can make a change? Here’s a good place to start:

Undersecretary of Food & Nutrition Services
Kevin Concannon
1400 Independence Ave, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250

Secretary of Agriculture
Tom Vilsack
1400 Independence Ave, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250

Starting the day right

With the changes made to the school lunch program, our school lunch menu now offers cereal, toast, juice and milk for breakfast. No meat/meat alternative protein source.

So I stumbled across a recipe that will make our mornings start off on a great note, and will hopefully help tide my kids over until lunch. It was simple, easy and best-of-all, a great breakfast option.

Check it out:

Baked Eggs

First, I started off with a muffin tin, cooking spray, and eggs.

Muffin tin, eggs and cooking spray.

Spray down your muffin tin, crack an egg in each spot.

I added a little salt and pepper, so that I controlled the amount they used!

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes (until done).

Voila! Done!

Let them cool (or eat right away!), slide out of the pan, place in freezer bags and pop them in the freezer.

I put 4 in a bag, 2 for Scooter, 1 for Big Bro and 1 for EJ.

I can now grab a bag, microwave it for 30-45 seconds, throw it on an English muffin, serve with a slice of toast or just simply let them eat as is. Simple, easy and a great source of protein in the morning…and we all know how important breakfast is, right?

Well, at least most of us.

School Lunch and Obesity: Part 2

Over the weekend I shared my thoughts on the school lunch issue. For those that may not know what I’m referring to, the USDA has put into place guidelines that school must follow in order to qualify for funding through the free and reduced-price meals program. Those guidelines include:

So, where is my problem? My first response was an emotional one. I don’t believe some of the guidelines are fair and they definitely don’t take into consideration the different needs and requirements for different students. We don’t expect our children to all learn the same, so why do we expect them to eat the same?

First of all, let’s look at the meat/meat alternative issue. I have yet to meet anyone that has ever dealt with nutrition/weight loss issues that has not learned the importance of protein in your diet. According to dietary guidelines and a discussion with a dietician, my 105-pound, 5′ 1″ 8-year-old needs about 58 grams of protein per day. To clarify, “From the ages of 4 to 6, he needs 0.5 g per lb., decreasing to 0.45 g per pound between 7 and 14 years of age. Depending on his weight and daily calorie intake during these years, he may need to consume between 7 and 15 percent of his total calories as protein.” Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/519852-what-percentage-of-protein-do-children-need-each-day/#ixzz26vHPnKoF

He will receive roughly 14 grams through the school. (There are approximately 7 grams of protein per ounce of meat, and the school lunch will serve 1.5-2 oz.) That’s a lot to make up in the course of his meals at home.

And that’s not the only catch with protein. Animal protein and plant-based protein are two different things. For the essential amino acids, animal protein is a “complete” protein, meaning that it provides all that you need. Plant-based protein is “incomplete”, needing two to make one complete protein. It’s not a difference in how the body breaks it down, just how it’s used. If you aren’t using animal proteins, you just need more to get your essential amino acids. (Sound complicated? It is. Which is why I can’t even begin to understand why we would try to make this a one-size-fits-all type of diet. Our bodies don’t work that way.)

Let’s look at the calorie requirements. According to Mayo Clinic (and we work closely with a team of dietitians from Mayo through George’s disorder), children Scooter’s age require 1,200 to 2,000 calories per day, depending on growth and activity level. I would guess that would be plenty sufficient for EJ, since he’s 5 and on the smaller side of the scale. But it won’t touch Scooter’s needs. Not even close.

The requirements for increased vegetable choices, lower sodium intake, etc. Yay! I’m all for those types of changes. Let’s offer our children more, expand their palates, show them how great a well-balanced meal can be! Yes, yes and yes! I will be one of the biggest supporters of these types of changes…but the rest, well, the rest leaves me hungry for more information. And leaves my children just plain hungry.

There are a few comments that were left that I would like to respond to here. The first is the remark that I have the option to pack a lunch for my child, if I feel that the school lunch is inadequate in any way. And although that is true, I shouldn’t have to resort to those types of measures daily, just so that my child is fed enough to make it through the day.

But let’s say that I DID pack my son’s lunch each day. How does that make things better for the child that doesn’t have a parent at home to pack a lunch, or the funds to purchase an extra serving. Shouldn’t we be protecting those that cannot protect themselves? Isn’t that the purpose of living in this country that we call home? Should I just sit back and let things take its course because I’m fortunate enough to be able to provide whatever meal my children request at school? Is that the right attitude?

Second of all, a comment was made about children needing to pick up the proper eating habits at a young age, so those habits can continue on into adulthood. And I agree 100%. Expand our children’s minds, give them more options, require that fruits/vegetables and other foods are consumed before offering seconds. I’m all for any/all of those types of changes. Serve my child beets, different types of greens, oranges, etc. Please!

I grew up in a house where food was not always plentiful. There wasn’t an open-cupboard policy and we sometimes relied on other means to put food on the table, whether it be hunting and butchering our own, garden staples, foodstamps or commodities. My mother canned all sorts of things, including sausage and chicken. We would butcher as many as 500 chickens in the fall, partly to fill our pantry and partly to sell to others. (It’s part of the reason that I still, to this day, cannot handle raw chicken. Seriously.)

My children do not know what it’s like to not have the option of more food. And I think that it helps in the long run. They do not stuff themselves because they don’t know when the next good meal will be. They know that when they are hungry they can eat, and so they eat a reasonable amount and they eat sensibly. But I know they are the exception, not the rule.

Are there improvements I can make when it comes to meals and choices for my children? Certainly. And I’m working on them regularly. Yet having my children come home hungry enough that they are willing to grab whatever is nearest and stuff themselves with it? Well, that doesn’t seem like the right lesson to teach. I’m just grateful that I’m here to intervene.

But what about those that aren’t so fortunate?

If you check out my first blog post in this series, the bottom has links from people that have weighed in on this issue. It’s important, not just for our children, but for their futures as well. Any other comments/questions? I will continue to write about/address these issues as we work through these changes as a family. I’d love to hear your take.