Hungry?

From the L's snack drawer. Carbs and fat
I have been a bit annoyed by the uber-focus on school lunches. It's really ridiculous when no one is forced to purchase lunches, that so many people who send their kids with brown bags (or perhaps Vera Bradley lunch bags with a matching ice pack??) have so much to say about the issue. So the US government wants to make them healthier and cut down on the crap-content?  Good for them. If you don't like what Michelle Obama is trying to do - promoting exercise and healthy eating - maybe you're not the target audience anyway!

My kids buy their lunches more often than bringing them. Neither complained about the rise in whole-grains or the smaller size. In fact, my son - hadn't noticed at all - and a 7th grader who is growing by leaps and bounds should be hungry if he isn't getting enough to eat!

I also don't buy that home-brought lunches are so much healthier (or even much cheaper if you send fresh bread and cold cuts and fruit). The staple lunch for Americans is still PB&J on white bread. Fat, sugar and empty carbs. The creamy store-brand peanut butter on my shelf has 16 grams of fat per 2 tablespoons. While 1 teaspoon of store-brand grape jelly has 13 grams of carbs. Let's be honest - who uses a teaspoon on a sandwich...?

And that doesn't include the chips, "fruit snacks" and other crap that are considered appropriate sides. Fruit juices have TONS of carbs. My son likes vanilla milk. Each single-sized portion is 250 calories.

Meanwhile on the other side of the planet...

a nation "is praying for" a girl who is my daughter's age who was shot because she dared demand that she be allowed to go to school. Shot in the head at 14 (or maybe 15, the stories seem to be confused) years old, is horrifying to me. Extremism at its worst, bravery at its best.

Sometimes it's amazing to compare what's written in the Patch with what is going on in the real world. Just looking around the state (or even Somerset County) you find neighborhood schools that kids can't safely walk to; juxtaposed with the private institutions that cost upward of $ 30,000 just for tuition a few miles away. There are areas of New Jersey where teachers can't reach out to parents (and vice versa) because of language or cultural barriers. Or apathetic parents who don't believe in "budding in". Or maybe there aren't even parents around. A couple of weeks ago I saw "Dropout Nation" produced by PBS's Frontline. It is amazing how even within the US there are areas that seem like a foreign third world country to me. It was filmed in Houston, but this could easily be Trenton or greater Newark.

But even within the city boundaries of Bridgewater (excuse me, Township) children qualify for the free lunch program. One elementary school has enough needy children that if the demographics change only slightly, BRRSD would be forced to offer (or maybe it has been already - I haven't followed up) a free breakfast program. Being forced to offer the free breakfast program is based on percentages of students with need. But the percentages mask the need of actual number of students. Even though these kids make up a low enough percentage not to create a mandate for the school to offer breakfast, the need is still there and people in our town are going hungry.

Instead of worrying about nutritional or caloric content of school lunches, how about taking the time to pull through your pantry and find food to donate to our wonderful "Safety net" The Somerset County Food Bank, , SHIP (Samaritan Homeless Interim Program) or one of many programs that serve our area's needy?

It seems every time I open the Courier News I find an article that highlights a need in our area or an organization (or a person) addressing hunger, poverty, illness. I think that it is great when people are involved in improving the community, even at the school level, but it's also important to think about HOW we focus our energy. Today I hope to spend a few minutes going through a closet or cabinet. I encourage you to do the same: just one cabinet/closet. I'm sure you have enough to share. And there are certainly more than enough who need your charity right here in our own backyards.

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