There are few more pressing threats facing underprivileged kids than poor nutrition. About 10 percent of high school students are obese in Massachusetts, according to the CDC, and the state’s waistlines only grow thicker with age: Twenty-three percent of Bay State residents are obese. So it is a head-scratcher, at best, to learn of Boston Public Schools’ decision to end its salad bar program.
Officials cited cost concerns as the reason to shut down the program — which was piloted in six school cafeterias — as the BPS’ food services has struggled with a $3.6 million deficit. That means more of the cheaper and highly processed alternatives like cookies and Doritos, and less baby spinach and carrots for school lunches. But salad bars are thriving in other public schools across the country thanks to various nonprofit initiatives that provide measuring tools and implementation guidelines to ensure the programs’ success.
Just this week, in response to Congress’s efforts to lower nutrition standards in school cafeterias, First Lady Michelle Obama stated: “The last thing we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids’ health.” Interim Superintendent John McDonough hit the right note when he told the Globe the salad bar program should in fact be expanding and not closing. As alarming as it was to learn he didn’t even know of the program’s shutdown, one can only hope McDonough and other school administrators are now paying attention and make healthy food a funding priority.