McDonald’s *Updated*

Is this a joke? It “hints” that its food is not processed. How an egg turned into an Egg Mc*Muffin took probably more than 137 steps including boxing, trucking, warehousing, and freezing. (Updated: McDonald’s uses real eggs cracked into a form) I took this photo of a bus stop ad, which was right in front of a grocery store. Go in a buy a dozen eggs if you want wholesome food.

It’s not a problem if you want to take your kids to McDonald’s. If you want to eat McDonald’s all the time or just now and then, do what is right for your family. Bottom line: you will not see the Q family at a McDonald’s. We think the food is utter crap. Additionally, my husband worked at a McDonald’s in college and that experience turned him off.

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Readers have told me that McDonald’s sells their food inside of some schools’ cafeterias. I am truly blown away by that. I want more information. Have you ever heard of McDonald’s food inside of schools? I can’t find a darn thing about it online! Keep fast food corporations out of our schools.

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Updated: I closed comments. The last one is my follow-up to this post.

Guest blogger: Organic School Project

Organic School Project provides the foundation for sustainable lifestyles, connecting youth with the earth and enabling them to make positive choices for themselves and the planet. OSP combats health epidemics such as childhood obesity, early on-set type II diabetes and behavioral problems, through an integrated Grow. Teach. Feed.™ Model for schools.

What Is the Grow Teach Feed Model?
Grow: We reconnect kids to their food source by growing organic gardens with schools and community members. Besides being a science lab where we learn about nature and ecosystems, the garden is a lovely place to get exercise and sunshine, to sit and think, to socialize, and to observe what it takes for living things to be healthy.

Teach: We provide curriculum and teach kids and families about nutrition, cooking, and caring for the planet, depending on the partner school’s needs. Our lessons get kids and adults interacting with nutrition through cooking and learning about healthy foods and where they come from.

Feed: We encourage the consumption of More Positive Foods as after-school snacks and ingredients in cooking lessons. More Positive Foods are wholesome, less processed, over 70% organic, and sourced locally when seasonally available—as often as possible, directly from the school’s own garden!

Organic School Project is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit organization from Chicago, IL.
Learn more about Organic School Project:
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Water

Do you remember drinking from the fountain at school? I remember drinking from a little ceramic fountain in first grade, looking up at the third graders and thinking, “They are so big!”

Now as an educator working in school I do not drink from the drinking fountains. I did when I first started teaching though. I got every illness going through the school and then one day I saw a little kid put her whole mouth over and around the spout (I see students doing that all the time). I never drank from the fountain again. And my health improved dramatically. Of course getting sick a lot during your first year is a rite of passage. I felt like the school hazed me.

When I take my students to the fountain, occasionally they grimace and wipe their mouths, “It’s hot.” As a kid I would drink out of the hose outside during the summer and it was often very hot until I let it run for a minute or two. Now I wonder how many chemicals I ingested by drinking out of the hose (see Dangerous Lead Levels Found in Some Garden Hoses).

Of course the water at school is not coming from a hose that has been sitting out in the sun for several hours leeching god know what into the water. But what about water quality at school? Should parents worry about this too?

There isn’t much about school water quality online (hint: journalists get on it). When I searched Google, I found one article from September 2009: Drinking water unsafe at thousands of schools. The article makes mention of schools who get well water being the most at risk. That makes sense to me having lived in rural places where we didn’t have access to city water. We had our water checked every couple years.

The EPA tackled this issue in December of 2009 (video here and below). Specifically they discussed rural schools that have their own self-contained water systems (about 10% of schools):

Giving your child bottled water is not the answer as that leads to increased consumption of single-use plastic. All water must be safe for children at school. We need to support the Clean Water Act and have all schools come into compliance. If you have concerns about water quality at school, you could send your child with a Klean Kanteen water bottle or the equivalent.

I think parents should have access to the water records for the school that their children attend. I’m all for transparency. You know, as clear as the water should be.

Titanium Spork Award for June

The winner is: Laura DeSantis

Congrats! If you want more information of about Laura, you’ll have to check out this blog post Model School Food Program in Marblehead, Massachusetts from Ali’s Brave New Lunch. Ms. DeSantis incorporates curriculum and food (e.g. they read “Three Cups of Tea” and made Pakistani curry). Parents also volunteer in the kitchen and kids clean up too.

Now I have to find Ms. DeSantis (and her mailing address)!

The results were:

Laura DeSantis, the Nutrition Director @ Marblehead Public School 37 (40%)
Chef Ann Cooper of The Lunch Box 32 (35%)
Ed Bruske of The Slow Cook 24 (26%)
Stephanie Alexander (in Australia) 8 (8%)

I have had such fun giving away titanium sporks. Thanks to everyone who participated whether they nominated or voted. I have no more sporks to give away so that’s the end of the award!

Open thread: Cold, hard numbers… the research

“Numbers do not lie,” as Mr. Q likes to say, “but you can manipulate statistics.” I’m looking for research articles, statistics and investigative reports linking any of the following:

1) School lunches as it relates to academic performance, childhood obesity, and physical fitness
2) Physical fitness related to academic performance
3) Childhood obesity related to academic performance
4) Salad bar research
5) Research on sugar, fat, and fiber and what it does for people (children if possible)

Where’s the proof? I want a smoking gun.

Pickles with splenda?

My kid loves pickles. When I was shopping for the right pickle, I saw these. I fell prey to the marketing and I bought them. I was unloading groceries and noticed that little logo to the right “Splenda.”

I avoid Splenda always. I cannot believe it’s in pickles! I returned them and bought a totally different brand. Are you as shocked as me? Why do need to put additives in everything?

New normal

A dear friend of mine just came back from living abroad for more than six months. It has been nice to catch up with her, but there hasn’t been the right moment for me to tell her about the blog project. We’ve met up and hung out and the other day we chatted on the phone for an hour…but I didn’t know how to start the discussion. I’ve got a lot of ‘splaining to do.

Did you see that old Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry David doesn’t want to find a new psychologist because he doesn’t have to have to give his whole “recap” to a new person? (aside: I love that show) That’s how things are for me.

Let’s see. When I count up how many people I’ve told in my real life about the project, it breaks down to about 10 family members and five friends. Until March it was only about five people total who knew. It was in March that I broke down and widened the circle to what it is now.

I probably need to bring a few more people into the fold. The longer I wait, the more awkward the conversation will be (they might feel left out). I might need to dedicate about 15 minutes of monologue to catch friends and family up on the blog. It’s been six months already and the project is half over! How would you tell people? Or would you just keep things as they are?

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Everyone in my family that knows has been pretty excited about the blog project, but I have to share with you that my dad totally doesn’t get it at all. Over the course of my life his reactions to changes in my life have surprised me. A couple years ago when I told him I was pregnant (he had been hinting about grandchildren for sometime), he was excited, but took it in stride on the phone, “That’s great.” I expected screaming. Other times I’ll tell him something I deem to be trivial and he’ll yell at me, “That’s stupid of you!”

I told him over the phone about the blog and eating school lunches around March. My nerves were pinging when I said, “I’m eating school lunch every day and I’m keeping a blog about it.” My dad was totally not phased. I could see him shrug through the phone line. “Why are you doing that?” he asked calmly. “To raise awareness about what kids eat at school.” Dad, “Oh.” Changing the subject he continued, “So your grandmother…”

And that was it. I don’t think he really comprehends the word “blog.” He never reads it either! I should probably expect more reactions like that from family and friends.

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What happens when the blog project is over? Do I go back to my normal life? Can I go back to my normal life…and job? Probably not. I’m still trying to process what the blog project means to my life. Sometimes I see myself handing in a resignation letter in December. Can I finish out the school year with my identity revealed? If I had been more with-it and sophisticated about the blog project, I would have done it over a complete school year. It seems clumsy that it covers parts of two different school years. Oh well. It is what it is.

Trucks and critters

That truck has the food you are going to buy at the grocery store tomorrow. Just thought I should remind you. It’s easy to forget that everything you buy at your local Kroger, Jewel, Copp’s, Wegman’s, Ralph’s, Albertsons, Winn Dixie, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, etc got there on a truck. Actually it was probably trucked around multiple times. Depending on how much processing went into the product, it could have been moved around all over the place:

1. Raw materials trucked to the factory…
2. Finished goods trucked from the factory to the company’s warehouse/distribution center…
3. Finished goods/products ordered by above grocery store chain and then trucked to that grocery store’s warehouse…
4. Individual grocery store orders products from warehouse and they are trucked in to the individual grocery store.
5. You buy it.

Since I read somewhere that 95% of food brought into schools is frozen, so you know there are a lot of trucks and warehousing involved in the transportation of school food. Essentially, it’s the opposite of Farm to School.
I’d also like to point out the obvious of this post (and the 101 school lunches I have eaten thus far): we’re relying on the abundance of cheap gas to keep this whole operation afloat. As soon as the price of oil goes up, our current food system gets a whole lot more expensive. Overly processed food is unsustainable.

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When a product is warehoused, it sits. And if you have every worked in food service, you know that a lot of the boxes you get have little “critters” visit them. Food companies spray warehouses to kill bugs. I never saw mice when I worked in food service, but I did see the occasional cockroach.

Do you remember when Milk*bone used to have just boxes of their dog biscuits without lining? My mom put two and two together and stopped buying them for our family dog because my mom was concerned that our family dog might be eating trace amounts of pesticides from warehouse fumigation.

Also I never accept cardboard boxes from grocery stores to use when I pack up belongings in anticipation of a move. In my opinion, I could either get cockroaches in my stuff or expose my clothes and housewares to toxins from spraying in warehouses. I prefer to purchase moving boxes from packing companies or in a pinch use old computer paper boxes.

I’ve got the creepy crawlies now. Shiver.