The majority of Monroe County Community School Corporation parents are dissatisfied with nutrition in school food, according to a Health Education and Wellness Survey of more than 1,100 parents published last semester by MCCSC. More than 90 percent supported healthier options for breakfast and lunch at school.
“Now that the community leaders have this information, it helps them start that discussion with the school corporation, parents and other advocates in the community that people are seeing this data,” said Marcie Memmers, director of the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Indiana State Department of Health.
The division works with partners throughout the state that offer vending machine items to schools, as well as “cart” food items at special events.
Memmers said the division follows nutrition guidelines by the Institute of Medicine so that vending food and drink options are healthy.
However, the MCCSC survey, which included seven pages of parents’ comments about general nutrition at schools, reported that parents felt the vending options were not ideal, while three participants wrote that vending machines at school are not necessary.
“Some schools are really ahead of the curve where they have committed for many, many years that school nutrition is important to them for various reasons,” Memmers said.
The Bloomington Developmental Learning Center, a nonprofit child care provider for children ages 6 weeks to 6 years old, currently prepares a vegetarian-only menu to avoid meat contamination, said Deb Murzyn, the executive director for BDLC.
“The overall goal is to prepare high-quality, well-balanced meals and snacks that our children enjoy and that encourage them to try new foods at a time when they are forming eating habits for life,” she said.
The center’s fees might be an issue for some parents who send their children to Monroe County schools.
Thirty-four percent of participants said their children do not eat from the cafeteria because of cost.
“I don’t necessarily agree with the concept that nutritious food costs more,” said Scott Little, a local chiropractor who also has a certificate in personal training. “If your kid is addicted to sugar, then that is all they’re going to want to eat. There isn’t an issue in our nation that isn’t greater than food or health.”
According to a study conducted by John Cowley at Cornell University in 2010, obesity-related illnesses cost Medicare $19.7 billion and Medicaid $8 billion in 2008.
“We seem to aim a lot of money at paying for medical care itself through public programs,” said Kosali Simon, a professor at the School of Public and Environmental
About 50 percent of parents in the MCCSC survey said there should be more school resources to teach kids healthy eating habits.
“You need that nutrition program to educate the children, but you also need to make sure that what they’re eating at the schools reinforce that education they’re learning,” Memmers said.
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