Book Club and Titanium Spork Award

How many of you have decided to join me in reading Free For All? What do you think of the book so far?

I learned facts and statistics just from reading the introduction. My yellow highlighter is by my bed…wait a moment, my toddler has absconded with it… At first I thought it would be heavy reading, but it really isn’t. But I have only gotten through the introduction and the first chapter.

The first chapter covers when Dr. Poppendieck, the author, volunteers in a school cafeteria for a week. If you ever doubted how much work lunch ladies do, you should read this chapter (it’s no surprise that she puts it in the first chapter). For me it wasn’t new information: I see lunch ladies working hard all day, every day. Although I don’t know the machinations of what happens behind the counters, I see enough of the lunch line to know two very important things: 1) It’s a tough job 2) Lunch ladies care about the kids. Period.

Dr. Poppendieck goes on to talk about Breakfast in the Classroom, which she witnessed firsthand. I have not seen it yet, but according to recent news reports it’s coming. I don’t believe having breakfast in the classroom will mess up the morning routine greatly and I really want the kids to eat something first thing in the morning. Dr. Poppendieck explained in the book that there were positive benefits like reduced visits to the nurse in the morning, decreased tardiness, and reduced disciplinary action in the morning (p. 36). The teachers were unanimous is their concerns about the quality of the food (exactly as I blogged about last week). I’m excited to see how this will play out in my real life…

Dr. Poppendieck also covers a little bit about the offer vs serve approach (p. 40), which I’m sure she will go into in more depth later into the book. It is mandated in high schools (came about in the 1970’s to reduce waste, which makes me laugh) and that is how kids can choose to eat pizza and fries every day and still have a federally reimbursable meal.

I like how Dr. Poppendieck says “I knew so little to begin with…” — that’s exactly how I feel and why I’m excited to read the book. She’s taking me down a road that was new to her once too. This should be interesting!


The winner of December’s Titanium Spork Award is Dana Woldow! She won by a landslide! Ms. Woldow is a mom on a mission in San Francisco. Read up about her on, on and an essay contributed on The Lunch Tray last fall. Thank you so much for what you have done for children!

Please comment below for your nominations for January’s Titanium Spork Award!

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10 thoughts on “Book Club and Titanium Spork Award

  1. Chef Anne Cooper gets my nomination AGAIN. If she doesn't win this month I think I'll buy her one on my own.

    Sheesh. 🙂

  2. I'm reading Free for All based on your recommendations –I'm in chapter six. It has been enlightening, depressing and a bit hopeful.

  3. Embarrassingly, I have only gotten through chapter 3 at this point. But it is a really good read! And yes, a bit depressing. Loving all the history that I never knew.

  4. Dana Woldow is awesome! She's been a huge help to me in getting school food reform off the ground in Spring Branch ISD, (houston, tx). Thanks Dana!

  5. I agree with Alyse. Chef Ann Cooper, a.k.a. the Renegade Lunch Lady, deserves to be nominated. She has made school lunch what it ought to be for kids in both Berkeley and Boulder and she freely shares all she has learned with anyone who wants to do the same in their community. As if she doesn't have enough on her plate in Boulder, she's handling the application and grant process for Michelle Obama's "Let's Move Salad Bars to School" campaign. Bravo Chef Ann!

  6. I am definitely enjoying Free for All! Sadly I kept a good reading pace over the holidays, but have fallen a bit behind of late. My favorite thing about the book so far is how Dr. Poppendieck is not afraid to explore complexities. Sometime the text can be challenging, but I think she does a good job of illuminating deeper connections.

  7. Yay for Dana Woldow! I feel like she's a true unsung hero in the school food reform world — until now. As Jenna noted above, she's unfailingly generous with her time and knowledge, and she's accomplished so much in her district.

  8. Thank you to everyone who voted for me. It is such an honor to receive a Titanium Spork and I share this honor with all of the many people who have worked so long and so hard to improve school food here in San Francisco. Fixing school food is a team sport, and no one person ever does it alone; I have been privileged to work with members of our board of education, administrators in the San Francisco Unified School District, our wonderful student nutrition services director Ed Wilkins, and many parents and community members who value children's health.
    I have been doing this work since 2002. Back then our cafeterias were like 7-11s, selling soda and chips and every manner of junk food, and the hot lunches were garbage like corn dogs, french fries, and apple turnovers. No child was ever offered a fresh vegetable or piece of fresh fruit. Now we have fresh fruit nearly every day; salad bars in all of our middle and high schools, and elementary schools get a fresh raw vegetable 3 or 4 days a week; all of our grains are whole grains; the chicken is not "chopped and formed" glop but instead whole pieces of breast meat; we have been trans fat free for years and no artificial colors or flavors allowed. Breakfast cereals are all low sugar and we serve fruit with breakfast, not juice. And yes – the kids do eat the fresh fruit and veggies, and we have the plate waste study to prove it; they eat the brown rice and whole grain bread too.
    But all of these improvements cost money, a lot more than the government reimbursement provides, especially in a high cost of living area like SF. To pay for the better food, our school district last year had to contribute over $3 million from the general fund, leaving less money for teachers and textbooks. Schools shouldn't have to choose between meeting students' academic needs and meeting their nutritional needs! The school meal program in San Francisco is the largest public feeding program in the city, and the fact that it will continue to be almost criminally underfunded by our government, with a mere 6 cents extra from the Healthy Hunger Free Schools Act of 2010, is unconscionable.
    When I started this work, all three of my children were students; now they have all graduated. I am hoping that new, younger parents in San Francisco will take up the fight to move our school food to the next level, with the passage of a bond to pay for the construction of a central kitchen, so that our hot entrees can be scratch cooked right here, instead of being brought in precooked. Meanwhile, I expect to be devoting more of my time to sharing what I have learned about improving school food, with parents all across the country who are just getting started trying to do this in their own schools. Please feel free to contact me at nestwife at owlbaby dot com. And thank you again to everyone who voted for me!

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