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  • Writer's pictureEast Spotlight Newspaper

Does Free Lunch Feed Enough?

"I wouldn’t eat it even if I was starving."

Harsh statement: but is it fair?

Growing up in Spain, I have heard many stories about American school lunches being very low quality. Not only do they hardly contain any vegetables or fruit, they mostly consist of junk food. Back in Spain, I never saw these kinds of things in my school lunches. I originally thought it was an imaginary problem and that it hardly ever existed. Until I came to the United States. One of the biggest cultural shocks I had was finding myself with the poor quality of the food that was served in the school. I never could have imagined that this was the type of food that students were being served.

Denver Public Schools serves over 50,000 free lunches daily, which is incredible since there are many students who cannot afford lunch. The government itself offers free meals throughout the year for students who need them. Could the recent decrease in quality of the food be due to it being free? After asking some students who have been studying at East High school, they can confirm that the quality has not changed. According to the World Health Association, a healthy meal should contain 50% fruit and vegetables, 25% protein, and 25% fiber-rich carbohydrates. When we look at a school lunch in America, we find that they contain 5-10% fruit and vegetables, 60% carbohydrates, and 35% protein. Most products, even the fruit, are hyper-processed. Eating this food every day creates an unhealthy eating habit and has a negative effect in the long term. Nowadays in America, over 40% of adults and 18.5% of teenagers suffer from obesity. Not only does this affect them physically, but also mentally. This type of diet can be considered pro-inflammatory, which means that it contains a high quantity of carbohydrates and ultra-processed products. Consuming this type of food can produce mental and physical fatigue, as well as increase the risk of anxiety and depression.

Over the past 10 years, there have been many studies about the relationship between diet and mental health. The results of the Dickson-led study were recently published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology under the title Nutritional psychiatry: Towards improving mental health by what you eat. Confirms that diet significantly influences mental health and well-being. Such as the ability of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet to help children with conditions such as epilepsy or to offset the effect of vitamin B12 deficiency on fatigue, poor memory, or depression disorders.

They also found strong evidence of the benefits that a Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables and olive oil, can have on mental health, such as providing some protection against depression and anxiety. I think that school lunches must follow a Mediterranean diet because it has proved to be the best and most healthy diet in the world.

This is a big problem that the United States has been dragging on for many years. It has improved since the Michelle Obama school nutrition policy. But is not fully over. Food is a very important factor for proper mental and physical development. Students deserve to be treated with respect. In my opinion, when DPS offers these types of meals shows that they do not take us seriously and they don’t care about the students. The day this is changed we will notice a great change for the better in many aspects.

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