To the Editor:
As educators, we seek to prepare students for life. We nurture their personal and social development along with teaching academic competencies. But our efforts are being undercut by school lunchroom menus that put students’ physical well-being at risk.
The latest study of half a million men and women in 10 European countries found a positive association between the consumption of processed meat and early mortality. The greater the consumption of processed meat—ham, bacon, sausages, and prepackaged meats—the greater the risk, especially of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The culprits seem to be fat, salt, smoke, and nitrates used as preservatives. Lifestyle also factors in.
As reported by many news outlets, the study’s researchers found that a diet that was high in processed meat included additional unhealthy choices. The men and women in the study who ate the most processed meat also ate the fewest fruits and vegetables and were more likely to smoke, while men who ate a lot of meat also tended to have high alcohol consumption.
A lifetime cut short by unhealthy choices is not what we wish for our students. Success in continued learning and a career may be our focus, but we can best serve our students by also nurturing their physical health.
My interest in school lunchroom menus began in earnest when I discovered that during her first week in kindergarten, my first grandchild had eaten a hot dog each day. To this day, processed meats in various forms are offered regularly in her school system and in my own community.
We must revise school menus to protect and promote the health of our children. Processed meats must be eliminated from school lunchroom menus.
Sally Ann Connolly
The writer has worked as a high school counselor and teacher.
A version of this article appeared in the April 03, 2013 edition of Education Week as Healthy Lunchrooms For Healthy Students