The Kitchen Think: Getting the Junk Out


When my Carlos was in elementary school I went ballistic when I saw “Nachos” on the lunch menu. I wouldn’t have objected if they had been real “Nachos”… you know, beans, ground beef, REAL CHEESE, maybe some lettuce and tomato sprinkled on top. No. These were pseudo-psychedelic “Nachos” with glowing yellow CHEESE FOOD that was poured from a can on top of the fried corn chips.

This so-called lunch was served to elementary kids in a relatively well-off part of town… so I could only imagine what less fortunate school districts were serving.

That’s why I am over the moon that Congress approved the Child Nutrition Bill, which establishes new standards to improve the quality of school meals in all schools… not just in the wealthy school districts that can afford the cost. It is now mandated that fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products be on the little plastic trays that feed more than 31 million children a day. What I’m really pleased about: There is mandatory funding for farm-to-school programs, which set up local school gardens, as well as food from local farms to be used in the schools. Pretty cool.

The bill is supposed set national standards to get junk food (and vending machines) out of school cafeterias to help reduce the prevalence of obesity among children. Highly processed, empty calorie foods are less expensive than fresh, nutritious foods. This is what ticked off opponents of the bill… the money is going to have to come from somewhere.

School districts that follow the new standards will receive an additional 6-cents for each meal served, though the National School Boards Association says this is really not enough… that the real cost of compliance is at least twice that amount.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is the one establishing the new nutrition standards and his department has 18 months to get this program going. I’m anxious to see how they work within their tight budget and what their menus will look like. I’ll let you know when I know.

Oh… and they did eventually remove the Nuclear Nachos from my son’s lunch menu. All the kids complained. There’s just no fooling a kid…

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I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: