May 15 2013

Banning Butter

Julie Gunlock

Yesterday, I wrote about 11-year old New York City public school student Zachary Maxwell who filmed the unappetizing meals being served to him at his elementary school.  In the post, I mentioned that Zach has been asked to "advise" city officials who run the school lunch program. One tip Zach might provide these taste-bud challenged bureaucrats at City Hall is this:

BRING BACK THE BUTTER!

It ain't rocket science, people. Things just taste better with butter. Not a lot of butter, just a pat of butter. Corn is just corn without butter and salt. Broccoli is elevated with just a little bit. Brown rice needs a lot of help but butter is a nice solution. Corn, broccoli, brown rice (thanks, Michelle) are all things that can be found on a child's school tray and while the nitwits at City Hall might not want to admit it, they all taste better with butter--especially to a child. But since 2008, butter has been banned on school lunch trays and as a result, there's been a lot of wasted food as kids understandably refuse to eat the unbuttered (oh, and unsalted, by the way!) food.

Of course, some food nannies and more than a few Sanctimommies out there might disagree with me and blather on about fat and calories and say something like "children should learn to appreciate a vegetable the way nature intended it."

Spare me. There's a reason comedian Jerry Seinfeld's wife Jessica Seinfeld wrote a best-selling book about hiding vegetables in kids' food.  Mrs. Seinfeld understood the challenge: kids generally prefer to eat bread and pasta and candy and ice cream. Veggies can be a tough sell for kids. I say that as a mom who luckily has had moderate success getting her kids to eat vegetables but I'm not about to suggest we take away the tools that mothers (and heretofore lunch ladies) use to get kids to eat them. Salt, butter and a little sprinkling of cheese are some of my tips. Other moms might stir fry adding flavorings like soy, ginger, and garlic to make the vegetables more interesting. Others might roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Still others might rely on frozen vegetables which can be microwaved (with butter to make them taste even better). 

Those that have managed to raise perfect children should feel good about themselves but for the rest of us normal parents, we know that Mary Poppins had it right when she said a little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down.  Reasonable parents understand the mind of a child. And they understand that vegetables are important--in whatever form they are eaten. If that requires a little butter, some salt or soy sauce, some cheese, or olive oil; that seems a reasonable trade-off if the outcome is children eating vegetables.

Of course, as I say with all of my posts that cover the mismanaged school lunch program; there's a better solution to all of this. Instead of hoping for changes and reforms and better food and good and tasty menu items, the real solution to bad school lunches is to opt out. Don't let your kids eat that food. Pack them a lunch. Take control. Do what parents have been doing for thousands of years: feed your kids,

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