Grits should not be served during lunch in schools. Period.
In April, representatives from across the United States met with lawmakers to discuss issues revolving around school nutrition programs and funding, reports Forsyth County News. The effort was led by the School Nutrition Association (SNA). Several changes were pushed for during the meetings, but one in particular should be cause for much concern: the push to allow foods that consist of only 50 percent whole grains.
Back in 2010, the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act limited the amount of calories, fat, salt, and sugar that could be present in foods served for lunch in public schools, according to Fox News. Additional changes were later made.
"We could originally serve half whole grains but that changed in 2012 when we had to start serving 100 percent whole grains," Stephanie Dillard, the child nutrition director for Geneva County Schools in Alabama, told Fox News.
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Many see this restriction as problematic. One reason cited by Dillard in particular is that such restrictions make it impossible for schools to serve grits as part of a meal.
"Just because grits are a staple item for us in the South," Dillard said, according to WDHN. "We cannot serve grits right now because they don't meet our regulations. We want to be able to give our students the same thing they have and see at home."
While it may be true that grits are indeed a staple in the South, that does not mean that they should be served as part of school lunches. Schools should do everything in their power to ensure their students' well-being, regardless of how those students are treated at home. This means that they should endeavor to serve children the healthiest foods possible.
Grits are most certainly not on the list of the healthiest foods available to us, which has to do with the type of grain they are. According to the Oldways Whole Grains Council, grains in their original form consist of parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grains are those that consist of these three parts in the same proportions as when the grain was originally growing. Refined grains are those that are missing one of those three parts. Grits are made from dry kernels of corn whose germs have been removed, making grits a refined grain, according to SFGate.
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There are several benefits that come with the consumption of whole grains. According to ChooseMyPlate.gov, a website created under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, consuming whole grains may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Doing so may also reduce constipation and help with weight management.
In addition to the benefits of eating whole grain foods, there are also several downsides to eating foods that consist of refined grain such as grits. According to SFGate, eating refined grains may increase the chance of abdominal fat gain. In addition, those who consume refined grains may be at a greater risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
The ways in which grits are often prepared should also be of concern. According to LIVESTRONG.com, grits are typically prepared with cheese and salt, which can increase the sodium and fat content of the dish to unhealthy levels.
With all this in mind, it should be glaringly apparent that grits are not the best food option for us or our children, and that no refined grain really is. With this in mind, the current regulations regarding grains should stay in place. Schools should only be allowed to serve whole grains even if that means removing grits from the menu.