I’ve been interested in school lunches ever since, well, ever since I asked my mom to make me a peanut butter sandwich every day instead of succumbing me to the food the school served. It just seemed like common sense that food that looked, smelled and tasted like that wouldn’t have much nutrition. I later learned I was right. (Whodathunk!) I’m fortunate my family could afford to pack me a lunch.
Believe it or not, my football, track and cross country coaches all suggested my teammates and I not eat the school lunch because it was too fattening and lacked the nutrition we could get if we packed a balanced meal. They were blunt about it. They also didn’t seem to have much hope for the situation ever changing. Without hope, there’s no action. Then again, without action, what good is hope? (Jerrick Jensen of Orion Magazine taught me that one. The coolest writer at the best environmental magazine, Jensen’s columns make you think.)
From now on I’ll be doing a roundup for Mrs. Q about once a week, of news relating to school lunches. Who knows—maybe I’ll even get to interview one of the big players: Ann Cooper, Jamie Oliver, or Michelle Obama. With any luck I’ll talk to the Chicago reporters who cover education and nutrition and see where they are in their work. If any of you have more suggestions for articles or important people I could call to talk to, feel free to list and/or link them in the comments.
Just FYI, this first update will include links to items that are kind of old. I’m not trying to be timely this time, but rather establish a knowledge base on which we can all build. And thank you for all the great book suggestions on that one post. Now I don’t feel bad neglecting all the great long-form writing out there.
Here, a coalition of famous people and big corporations work to get “low-fat, low calorie” drinks in schools and ban other stuff. But the writer seems to be more into celebrity star power than what goes in kids’ mouths, because crucial details are lacking: what does “low fat, low calorie” actually mean? Some chocolate milks have nearly as much sugar as soda, and the bottled “teas” do have that much, barring brands like Honest Tea. Another question: what other metrics should we be using to measure the healthfulness of school food? Simply lowering fat and lowering calories doesn’t solve the problem of nutritional deficiency.
Another question good journalists should ask: Who benefits from these changes? I’m always wary of situations where companies seemingly try to limit their own ubiquity for the greater good. They always seem to get the revenue back in some other way. This recent expose explains that big polluters sponsor many environmental organizations in order to get on their good side and, in effect, shut them up.
Re: “who benefits from these changes?” All the following milk manufacturers are now owned by Suiza Foods Corporation: Dean, Borden, Lewis Trauth, Reiter, and, at least in part, Horizon Organic. Right this moment portions of opensecrets.org is down, or else I’d tell you how much Suiza spends on lobbying.
Since Mrs. Q is an Illinois teacher, a lot of food-centric thinkers in Chicago follow her. All you Chicagoans won’t want to miss “the midwest’s premier local food event,” the Family Farmed Expo. Running March 11-13, this thing should be a blast. Just about every local farmer will be there, selling CSA (community supported agriculture) shares, talking about their upcoming crops, and (hopefully!) getting financing from investors. There’ll be a local-produce dinner, seminars for young and old about all things responsible food, and cooking demonstrations from the likes of Rick Bayless and other famous Chi-town chefs.
Some of the biggest food news in Chicago recently was that the city went berzerk on some responsible food businesses using a shared kitchen. But the story should get all of you thinking about whether your local laws are prohibiting responsible food startups.
Good magazine recently had a contest for its readers to come up with the healthiest school lunches, and these are the winners. I think you all should start posting pictures of good packed lunches on the Flickr page. If school lunch officials ever look to this site for advice, they could get ideas from there.
Bad school food often comes down to subsidies. It won’t be enough to just add to the federal school lunch program budget—we’ll have to revamp what crops get free rides. Why a salad costs more than a Big Mac
That post also it includes a chart first seen here.
Here’s one of my favorite pieces on subsidies: a book review that encapsulates a work called Raising Less Corn, More Hell
A recent Washington Post editorial: To make school food healthy, Michelle Obama has a tall order
A decent summary of Jamie Oliver’s goings-on. (Oliver, a British chef, is trying to revamp nutrition habits in America.)
Here’s the Oliver TED award acceptance speech in its entirety (Previously linked-to by Mrs. Q)
Three TED talks that will change how you think about food. (The Ann Cooper one is really moving. I can credit it with inspiring my journalistic interests)
Cooper’s Mar. 5 column in the Washington Post
Cooper’s web site
I know these are bits and pieces of a much larger, deeper whole, but I’m trying to give you a smattering of ideas you could slog through in an evening. Kind of the anti-book.