By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent
For the past couple of months now I have been intrigued with an anonymous blog project based in America that has captured the imagination of countless Internet users. The topic of the blog is school lunches in America and the blogger is a schoolteacher that masks her identity for fear of losing her job. Every day, she shares the food that not only her students are eating but what she is eating herself in the school cafeteria. The blog, Fed Up With School Lunch, has ignited a rallying cry that stretches clean across the globe with teachers in countries like Korea and France chiming in to share their school lunch victories and disasters. Most notably, the blog highlights the poor quality of food served in most American schools and the lack of nutrition to sustain students.
What strikes me the most about the project is not the fact that American kids are eating a ton of processed foods intermingled with a mere sprinkling of fresh fruits and vegetables, but the fact that kids in the USA are actually served lunch every day whereas my own children in the Middle East are not offered any form of lunch in their schools whatsoever. In fact, the vast majority of schools in Kuwait donâ€™t offer hot or even cold lunches. And vending machines are absolutely nowhere to be found on school campuses. Most parents send their kids a packed lunch, usually potato chips or chocolate and Pepsi. Some donâ€™t even send lunch at all. And whatâ€™s worse is that there is not an allocated time slot for lunch in most schools in Kuwait, so many children bring their lunches back home with them or eat while they are studying.
Kuwait is not the only Gulf country lacking when it comes to school lunches. Even wealthy Arab neighbors like Dubai have a school system that rarely serves lunch. Parents are left to monitor their own childrenâ€™s nutrition at lunchtime with zero support from the faculty at their school. The biggest problem for parents of school-aged children in the Gulf region is a lack of proper nutritional information. In a recent survey that I conducted in my own daughterâ€™s 3rd grade class, a whopping 90% of children had been given junk food for their lunch with only a handful of children having a healthy lunch and an equal number having no lunch at all.
The price for the â€˜rubbishâ€™ lunches, as my hero/cooking guru Jamie Oliver would say, is more and more children in Kuwait are battling obesity before they even reach puberty. The Ministry of Health in Kuwait has recently projected that the rate of diabetes amongst children in Kuwait is set to double in the coming years. And, so far, no one is doing anything about it.
So no matter which way you, slice, dice or reheat it, the legacy of lunch is something that affects children from all walks of life and in every region of the world. Itâ€™s up to adults to make the right food decisions for the younger generations, and win the battle over lunch once and for all.