my elementary school food experience was atypical. i remember little of it, but i can say that there was no processed food, and virtually no pre-packaged food. there was an ice cream freezer and a refrigerated case full of dannon yogurt (we collected the cardboard discs you could pop off the top), but these were the only excpetions. for most american students, however, the food is:
full of trans fats
this past saturday i attended a school food conference hosted by the baum forum at the CUNY graduate center. for 8 hours, experts in the field of nutrition, sustainability and education gathered to talk about the movement to change the way kids think about food and change the way they eat. most kids eat 2 meals a day at school, so it's a logical place to make a difference, and try to halt the obesity epidemic (did you know that unless trends change, 1 out of every 3 kids born in 2000 will be an obese adult?! it shoots up to 1 in 2 when you focus on blacks and latinos).
the programs represented do everything from teaching cooking and nutrition to kids after school, to including gardening into the curriculum, and then using the fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria. alice waters' edible schoolyard in oakland is a paradigm that many people are beginning to emulate. basically: the way things are now is not the way it has to be. we watched a documentary about school children in rome. when the camera focused on a lunch lady grating fresh parmesan on student lunches, i laughed out loud.
if you want to get involved in the school food movement in any way, let me know and i can direct you towards involvement (e.g.: writing letters to lawmakers in an attempt to get vending machines out of schools).