The Cost of Good Food in Schools
This might be one area where Panama is ahead of the US. Compare this to the average American school lunch and garden program. The garden programs are usually afterschool extra circular activities, if they exist at all and the school lunch programs are run federally. The incentives are to use cheap, premade food with limited cooking and staff to keep costs down.
There are some new initiatives to create healthy school lunches. Kath at Kath Eats Real Food is doing an internship with the Child Nutrition Program that brings fresh food to school lunches, but these programs are far and few between.
The picture at left is from Aim High website and their article on School Lunch Programs. I believe for food to be at its healthiest, create the least amount of packaging waste and go through the least processing it should be made on site from local ingredients. Aim High points out most school lunches are "like airline meals, today’s school lunches of mystery meat and frozen vegetables are shipped to schools in single-serving containers and reheated in the “prep area” [they don't have a kitchen]."
The schools that are now working to integrate nutrition programs and gardens on the school grounds are finding it very difficult. They don't have the support of the parents or the school system. In most cases it is a couple dedicated volunteers trying to find the funding and labor to plant, maintain and harvest the garden. I can see a couple solutions to this problem. If parents would invest their own time into the school they would be more aware and the problems would be visible and actively address. Or as The Slow Cook's Behind the White House Photo Ops, School Gardens Desperate for Help article by Sarah Bernardi recommends creating a fulltime garden coordinator position. Either way our schools' food and garden programs need more attention.