School Lunch News: The Bad, the Good and the Ugly

Okay, there’s lots of good news, but I always like to start with the bad.  The morning after I said that states and school districts need to forge their own paths and not wait for the federal government to improve school lunch in meaningful ways (Don’t I sound libertarian?), I read this New York Times article.   The New York City Department of Education is pulling a program by the not for profit Wellness in the Schools, which sends local chefs to public schools to provide healthy, made-from-scratch meals and nutrition education to students as well as training for staff.  The program has been a great success and parents love it.  Even though the WITS meals far exceed federal standards,

. . . according to Marge Feinberg, a department spokeswoman, the program’s approach does not comply with the requirements of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, which sets higher nutritional standards for the food served to students across the country, and provides an additional subsidy of 6 cents per meal for schools that comply.

Ironically, it has been nutritionists working with the program who have urged the department of education to improve school nutritional standards.  Once again, the letter of the law trumps the spirit of the law.

Okay, enough.  Now for the good news:

I spoke with the IRC late on Friday and the New Roots Farm coordinator, Jessica Woiderski, said they are very interested in working with the Madison district in a farm to school program.  I meet with Patty, Camelview’s school nutrition director, on Wednesday to discuss it.  If we could get produce from the New Roots farm program into Madison schools, I might be the happiest mom in the world.  The IRC is one of the most valuable and effective not for profit organizations I have ever encountered.  The work they’ve done with my refugee students has been nothing short of miraculous.  It would be a privilege to partner with them.

I also got some good information from Patty:

  1. Arizona Farm to School is on Facebook!                             https://www.facebook.com/ArizonaFarmtoSchool
  2. The Arizona Department of Education has made it easier to offer students produce from school gardens: FD 04-13 Addendum

If you’re at a different Madison school and interested in starting a farm-to-school program, I urge you to get to know your nutrition director in the coming weeks.  They will be invaluable if you decide to get involved in school lunch reform.

A friend of mine is doing the fall festival at Heights and asked if we wanted to do a booth.  If we can get our act together by then, I ‘d love to do a farm fresh produce table with lots of samples.  Anybody at Heights interested?

I’ll post an update after my first meeting with Patty on Wednesday.  At that point, we’ll be ready to go to the PTO with the idea.

Finally, I just had to share this news tidbit that could be considered good or bad, depending on your perspective.  Missouri senatorial candidate Rep. Todd Aken (a.k.a. “legitimate rape” Aken) has declared that the National School Lunch Program is unconstitutional and has called for the federal government to stop funding it.  I have to say, I’d rather hear those words coming from him than anyone else in the world right now.

Remember, the first step in getting involved in school lunch reform, is finding out what it is.  I’m including two great publications on the basics of school lunch reform that can offer you a great introduction.

Rethinking School Lunch Guide

Jamie Oliver’s School Lunch Basics

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