Settle down, everyone, and pay attention. This is National School Lunch Week, a time when we pay tribute to the school lunch.
We could take this opportunity to disparage the school lunch, but so many other people have done that already, like chef Jamie Oliver and Sarah Wu, whose book "Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project -- How One Anonymous Teacher Survived a Year of School Lunches" arrived last week. You may remember Wu as Mrs. Q., who blogged about her dedication to eating an entire year of sometimes dubious lunches. Some studies have shown that school lunches may play a role in the childhood obesity problem.
"Schools are constantly working to improve the quality of the food they're serving," said Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for the School Nutrition Assn., a Maryland-based national nonprofit that works with government agencies and other groups to improve school nutrition programs. Case in point: More schools, she said, are trying to source their food locally, especially from local growers. The timing is right, since the U.S. Department of Agriculture is updating the nutrition standards for meals that are part of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.
Despite the progress that's been made in adding fruits, vegetables and whole grains to lunches, even Pratt-Heavner said there's room for improvement, as schools are also looking for more ways to reduce sodium and added sugar. But, she added, if lunch programs are going to blaze some trails, students have to come along for the ride.