The Reality Behind School Lunches: Cutting Corners

The Reality Behind School Lunches: Cutting Corners

No, Michelle Obama did not personally ruin your school lunches.
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There is a topic of conversation around a lunch table in high school that I so vividly remember, and post-millennial students probably too. Michelle Obama, First Lady, had a campaign throughout her time spent in the White House to work on the issue of childhood obesity in America. One way she decided to combat that was set up a set of standards that all schools must abide by in order to provide healthy and nutritious lunches to public school students.

The guidelines for school lunches are as follows:

1 serving of fruit must be provided per school lunch.

1 serving of vegetables must be provided per school lunch, and one dark green, orange, or starchy vegetables per week.

Daily and weekly minimum for meat, or meat alternative.

The guidelines for school breakfast are as follows:

1 serving of fruit must be provided per school breakfast

1 meat or meat alternative must be provided per school breakfast.

Breakfasts must be offered on all school days.

So these requirements don't seem so bad. So why do your school lunches taste and look so pathetic? I can relate, as my senior year of high school, I documented my school lunches frequently, emphasizing their lack of nutrition or flavor. They were overpriced and hardly considered edible at times. I get it, school lunches usually suck, and students often times resort to snack bars and vending machines to eat while at school.

What you do not realize is that this was not Michelle Obama's doing. Michelle did not "ruin our school lunches" nor did she "take away all of our good foods."

These guidelines are enforced through every school district in America, and if schools do not abide by them, they can be held fiscally responsible.

Because schools wanted to alter their lunch program as little as possible while avoiding economic punishment, they resorted to cutting corners and taking away options that seem better. Many schools often resort to outsourcing to companies that run lunch programs instead. A popular and cheap option for school is Sodexo, who have a bad reputation among students for their strange policies, and overpriced food.

When I went to high school, a student could not eat lunch if they did not have enough money in their account, and they would throw that student's tray in the trash. Why put the food to waste when there is a hungry student?

Also, you cannot get two servings of the same fruit or vegetable, or it will not count, and you will be charged for each side separately, which can add up quickly.

Not only that, but serving sizes are often times particularly small. This is because schools must stay within caloric guidelines, while still serving students the meals they prefer, which results in much smaller portions.

This was not Michelle Obama's plan. It was not to serve kids gross meals and charge them several dollars for it. The problem is that schools have to cut corners to make things work without too much change, and that is a problem within the school district and their decision to outsource.

Cover Image Credit: Forks Over Knives

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4 reasons how Drake's New Album May Help Us Fight Mental Illness

Increasing Evidence Points to Music as a Potential Solution to the Mental Health Problem.

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Okay, You caught me!

I am NOT just talking about everybody's favorite actor-turned-rapper— or second, if you've seen Childish Gambino's "This is America" music video. Unfortunately, current research hasn't explored specific genres and artists. However, studies HAVE provided significant evidence in possibilities for music to treat mental health disorders. Now, before you say something that your parents would not be proud of, ask yourself if you can really blame me for wanting to get your attention. This is an urgent matter concerning each one of us. If we all face the truth, we could very well reach one step closer to solving one of society's biggest problems: Mental Health.

The Problem:

As our nation continues to bleed from tragedies like the horrific shooting that shattered the lives of 70 families whose loved ones just wanted to watch the "Dark Knight Rises" during its first hours of release, as well as the traumatic loss of seventeen misfortunate innocents to the complications of mental health disorders in the dear city of Parkland— a city mere hours from our very own community— it's impossible to deny the existence of mental illness. As many of us can already vouch, mental illness is much more common than what most would think: over 19 million adults in America suffer from a mental health disorder. Picture that: a population slightly less than that of Florida is plagued by hopelessness, isolation, and utter despair.

Disease in the form of depression holds millions of people prisoner, as anxieties instill crippling desperation and too many struggles with finding peace. This can be you. It could be your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your cousin, your aunt, your uncle, your friend, your roommate, your fraternity brother, your sorority sister, your lab partner, or just your classmate that sits in the corner of the lecture hall with a head buried into a notebook that camouflages all emotion.

I hope we— the UCF community— understand the gravity of the problem, but it's clear that some still see mental illness as a disease that affects only a handful of "misfits" who "terrorize" our streets, while the numbers reveal more to the issue. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental health disorder. The problem is so serious that suicide has risen to become the second-leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds. While many continue to ask for more antidepressants and even the occasional "proper spanking," recent studies indicate increases in occurrence, such as one in depression from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015. So, clearly, none of that is working.

The Evidence:

If we really want to create a world where our children are free from the chains of mental illness, we need to think outside the box. Doctors and scientists won't really talk about this since it's still a growing field of research, but music has strong potential. We don't have any options at the moment, which means we need to change our mindset about music and to continue to explore its medicinal benefits. If you're still skeptical because of the title, then please consider these 4 pieces of solid evidence backed by scientific research:

1. Music has been proven to improve disorders like Parkinson's Disease.

Researchers sponsored by the National Institute of Health— the country's largest research agency— saw an improvement in the daily function of patients with Parkinson's Disease. This makes patients shake uncontrollably, which often prevents them from complete functionality. The disease is caused by a shortage of dopamine— a chemical your neurons, or brain cells, release; since music treats this shortage, there's an obvious ability to increase dopamine levels. As numerous studies connect dopamine shortages to mental illnesses like depression, addiction, and ADHD, someone could possibly use music's proven ability to increase dopamine levels to treat said problems.

2. Listening to the music has the potential to activate your brain's "reward center."

In 2013, Valorie Salimpoor and fellow researchers conducted a study that connected subjects' pleasure towards music to a specific part of the brain. This key structure, the nucleus accumbens, is the body's "reward center," which means all of you have experienced its magical powers. In fact, any time the brain detects a rewarding sensation— drinking ice-cold water after a five-mile run in sunny, humid Florida, eating that Taco Bell chalupa after a long happy hour at Knight's Library, and even consuming recreational drugs— this structure releases more of that fantastic dopamine. So, with further research into specifics, doctors may soon be prescribing your daily dose of tunes for your own health.

3. Listening to Music may be more effective than prescription anti-anxiety medication.

In 2013, Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel J. Levitin— two accomplished doctors in psychology— reviewed a study wherein patients waiting to undergo surgery were given either anti-anxiety medications or music to listen to. The study took into account cortisol levels, which are used daily by healthcare professionals to gauge patient levels. This "stress hormone" was actually found to be lower in patients who listened to classical music rather those who took the recommended dose of prescription drugs. Sit there and think about that for a second: these patients actually felt more relaxed with something as simple as MUSIC than with chemicals that are made specifically to force patients into relaxation before surgery. Why pop a Xanax when you can just listen to Beethoven?

4. Music may release the chemicals that help you naturally relax and feel love.

Further studies continue to justify music's place in the medical world as results demonstrate increases in substances such as prolactin— a hormone that produces a relaxing sensation— as well as oxytocin— the substance that promotes warmth and happiness during a hug between mother and child. So this study basically showed us that music has the potential to actually make you feel the way you did when Mom or Dad would embrace you with the warmest hug you've ever felt.

The Future:

The evidence I present you with today is ultimately just a collection of individual situations where specific people found specific results. There are a lot of variables when it comes to any research study; therefore, data is never truly certain. We should take these findings as strong suggestions to a possible solution, but we must remember the possibility of failure in our search.

The neurochemistry behind the music and its medicinal properties is just beginning to unfold before the scientific community. In fact, extremely qualified scientists from the National Institute of Health— the organization that basically runs any important medical study in the United States— continue to remind us of the subject's youth with the constant use of "potential" behind any and all of their findings. Therefore, it's our responsibility as a community to look into this— not just that of the scientists at the National Institute of Health.

We're all surrounded by music. It's at the bars. It's in our ears during all-night sessions at the UCF library. It's keeping us awake through East Colonial traffic at 7:00 AM while hordes of students focus on their cell phone screens instead of the paved roads ahead. It's in the shoes we wear, the actions we take, and the words we say. IF YOU'RE READING THIS: it's accessible to you. So, don't be shy, and try to play with your Spotify account, or even just on YouTube, and gauge the power of music. As more and more of us see the light, we can promote the movement and carry on as more research comes out to support us.

Drop the bars, drop those addictive pills that destroy your body slowly, and pick up your headphones and press PLAY.

Just relax, close your eyes, smile, and live.

Cover Image Credit:

@champagnepapi

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Being A Preceptor Was The Most Rewarding Experience

"Students would come to the review sessions nervous and confused, then would leave thankful and confident"
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Over the course of the semester, I was a preceptor for statistics and it has been an absolutely priceless experience.

I have had the ability to help students feel more confident and succeed in this course in ways they didn't think they could and reach out to students in ways I didn't think I could.

This past semester in this course consisted on me hosting office hours three times a week where students would stop in to see me about questions on the homework they needed help on or for one-on-one clarifications to concepts and lessons taught in class. Beginning this experience all we wanted was for the students to grasp an understanding of this course, hopefully, take an interest and relate it to other areas in their lives.

I want to say that we have successfully given this class the knowledge and skills needed to know to thrive in this course.

One very valuable thing I learned was how to teach students in various ways. Some students needed me to draw more diagrams and charts in order for them to understand the lessons while others needed to hear examples where they could plug the numbers in and understand where this would be applied in real life.

Sometimes it was a struggle meeting with new students and trying to figure out what the best way was to explain the information that they needed help with. After a week or so of working with students, I was able to adapt to different learning styles and personalities and teach them what they needed to learn.

I thought that would be a challenge during this semester and I am happy to say I overcame it fast during this experience.

I would never have thought I would learn so much from helping these students and it truly was a very rewarding experience when students would come to the review sessions nervous and confused, then would leave thankful and confident for their next exam.

After being a preceptor, I realize that I truly do have a passion for helping students succeed and understand given materials in classes.

I am thankful to have had this opportunity of being a peer mentor also being able to provide students with my own knowledge from taking the course and relating to them student to student.

Cover Image Credit: Talkpoint

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