By Kate Barnes
Recently, the ABC published an article: What’s in our kids’ lunch boxes?
It’s been preying on my mind.
Schools from differing socio-economic backgrounds/suburbs were visited in the same city in Victoria to see what was inside children’s lunch boxes.
What they found isn’t too surprising but was deeply concerning (see some images below).
Briefly, here’s what they found:
- “Not a lot of difference” in terms of healthiness between the suburbs according to nutritionist Mandy Sacher. I don’t agree. The lunch boxes in Broadmeadow (lower socioeconomic suburb) included more sugar, processed and refined foods, potentially causing a greater impact on children’s digestion, hormones, brain function and blood sugars, setting them up for behavioural issues, lower immunity, developmental delays, irritability, mood swings and more.
- Most kids, independent of school or suburb, went to school with a bread sandwich as their main lunch item with Vegemite or ham being the preferred fillings in the wealthier suburb, compared to Nutella in the poorer suburb.
- Overall, “the sample suggests the challenge of packing an interesting and nutritious lunch box is universal”.
- The emphasis given in the article was that not enough good quality protein is being given to children. I also saw that not enough healthy fats (needed by every cell in every body), nutrients generally and fibre (for feeding a healthy microbiome) are sadly lacking.
Yes, it may be just a snapshot of one city and a couple of schools at a point in time, but I think it’s probably a snapshot of society generally.
Lunch is only one meal in the day. Does it really matter? YES. It makes up a third of our daily food intake.
And we know for many, breakfast is not going to be too different in terms of the few (if any) nutrients growing children are getting, i.e. a bowl of highly processed cereal with milk or toast and vegemite! Kids get home from school tired and hungry (needing real food, i.e. nutrients), and make poorer choices around homework, relationships and more. Then let’s assume dinner is meat and some veg – awesome. But… It’s NOT enough.
Children are growing, developing and DEMANDING every type of nutrient for their brains, hormones, immunity and so much more and they’re not getting enough of what they need – no matter where they live.
The ABC’s “universal snapshot” shows in images that our children are under-nourished, i.e. they are potentially “malnourished”. Sandwiches and packet foods are not enough.
How can they be expected to perform at school and in life when the fuel tank is empty?
I fear for this generation and the generation to follow them. It makes me sad.
I know you’re aware of this and doing great things in your home to nourish yourself and your families but… in today’s world to get kids eating a good lunch is hard. Even for the healthiest of us, including me – irrespective of wealth.