My Dream Cafeteria

The standard Swedish lunch. The crackers on th...

The standard Swedish lunch. The crackers on the left can be found in any US market. Very popular in Sweden with smor (butter) or margarin (margarine) This week was vegetarian week, but almost all lunches have this many vegetables. Swedish food is very wholesome. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got an email today from Phil Thomas, a Madison Heights parent.  It was really inspiring.  He offered his time and support for the farm to school program I’d like implemented in the Madison District.   He’s informed and he’s passionate–a good combination.  Several other parents have expressed interest in the project today, too.  I had been getting that “oh God, what have I gotten myself into” feeling this morning, but now I’m feeling better.  I can do this.

I talked to Pinnacle Farms this morning at the Town and Country farmer’s market.  They might be interested in a farm to school program, but like the IRC, transportation is an issue.  They don’t have the man power to get the produce into town every week.  I may start working on that next.

I also talked to JH Ranch (great lamb and beef, good chicken and eggs) and he’s doing a pilot program selling beef at PTA fundraisers (not sure of the district).  That’s a great way to generate business and connect with the community.  Maybe people will see how much better good food is and start to imagine the possibility of serving good food to children.  Of course, it will take time.  The next Farm Bill (4 years from now) probably won’t provide the resources we need.  But what about twelve years from now?

It will take a major paradigm shift.  It will take parents standing up and saying, “Feeding our children the best food is a top priority.  We want our tax dollars supporting this.  We want our kids to eat school lunches every day and we will not settle for mediocre food.

We need to open our minds and think of the possibilities.  I just read the book, French Kids Eat Everything, by Ann Billon and it made me realize that if great food is a reality in French schools, it could work here.  Unfortunately, things are changing in France–parents are up in arms, though and my hope is that they won’t tolerate cheap, processed food like we do.

Ann LeBillon

My ideal school lunch program would be based on the French model (by the way, French children are almost never fat).  Many schools have a full-time chef, everything is made from scratch, meals are sophisticated and beautiful, kids are served by staff on real plates with real glasses, children are guided in good manners and encouraged to try new things, and everyone is expected to eat slowly and savor their food.  Children have 45 minutes to eat and talk and ½ hour to play.  With very few exceptions, all children eat school lunch and unhealthy food is not an option.  Food is seasonal, often organic and sourced from local farms.  In my dream cafeteria, the school garden would contribute, as well.  Dairy and meat would be local, pasture-based and organic.  Food education would continue in the classroom, with lessons every year on the benefits of good, fresh food.  Parents would be encouraged to join CSAs and shop at farmers’ markets.

How many kids have to get diabetes and other obesity related illnesses before we start re-thinking how we feed them?  Paradoxically, many obese children are also malnourished.  Studies show that children are better behaved and more receptive to learning after eating a healthy meal.  I think in the face of an obesity epidemic and a struggling education system, we should pull out all the stops.  Eventually we as a nation will have to confront the fact that our children are our most precious resource.  Our future depends on us nurturing this generation in every way–starting with keeping them healthy and well-nourished.

I’ll discuss the picky eaters question and “but kids won’t eat it” bull**** in a future post.  For now, let’s jut imagine how it could be, not why it can’t be.  Thank you for the positive feedback, great ideas and support.  Madison parents aren’t unique (there are great parents everywhere), but they sure are my favorite people.

I’d like to conclude with this short TED piece by my hero, renegade lunch lady Ann Cooper yelling at you.


2 Comments on “My Dream Cafeteria”

  1. Did you reach out to Greg at yet? He might have some resources for you. Go girl! I posted this blog on the Madison Traditional Guild page on facebook. Hope you make some new farmy friends!

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