Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Welcome New York Times Readers

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

If you are visiting our parents blog for the first time, please feel free to take a look around. A few months ago, after I ran a series of articles at The Slow Cook blog documenting the industrially-processed convenience foods being served at my daughter's elementary school here in the District of Columbia, many people wrote me asking what we could do about it. We formed Parents for Better D.C. School Food.

We are a Google group, a Facebook page, and this blog, which tries to document with photos and written nutritional analysis the food that the D.C. Public Schools' contracted provider--Chartwells-Thompson--serves on a daily basis.

One of our primary concerns is the sugar level in these meals packed with flavored milk, juices, candied cereals and cookies at breakfast. D.C. children, who have one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the nation, routinely consume up to 60 grams of sugar in school cafeterias every morning. That's the equivalent of 15 teaspoons of sugar, more than a quarter-cup.

Unfortunately, there are no standards regulating the amount of sugar that can be served in school meals sponsored by the federally-subsidized meal programs, nor are there any limits on sugar in meals in the "Healthy Schools" legislation recently approved by the D.C. Council. There is now a battle over a "soda tax" proposed as a means of funding the "Healthy Schools" bill.

Every day, you can see children like the one in this photo pouring strawberry-flavored milk containing 28 grams of sugar in a one-cup portion over brand-name cereals such as Apple Jacks containing even more sugar. This is no studio shot. It was taken at H.D. Cooke Elementary School here in the District of Columbia, about a mile from the White House where Michelle Obama is waging her own war on childhood obesity.

We called this meal "glycemic bomb" because of all the starch and sugar involved. Carbohydrates like this turn into glucose--a form of sugar--when eaten, triggering an insulin response. Insulin is a powerful hormone linked to obesity and attendant, crippling diseases such as diabetes.

This is the kind of industrially-processed convenience food served every day for lunch in D.C. schools. "Healthy Schools" legislation would not eliminate this food, but it would provide extra money to D.C. schools for food, even to incorporate local produce into school meals.


  1. Having lost my leg 20 years ago and enduring the high cost of prosthetic legs, I can't see where the government would not save by money by cutting back on the sugar and high fat foods! (After a high sugar diet like that, what kid wouldn't bounce around the classroom needing 'medication' more money.) The current lunches are not about nuturing our children, that is not food. Thank you for what you are doing, Ed.

  2. Great blog. Could we also please talk about the styrofoam containers that the 'food' is served on? There is absolutely no excuse for styrofoam cups and plates these days - especially with all of the talk about cleaning up the Anacostia. Styrofoam is an environmental disaster. San francisco appears to be succeeding in switching em masse to conpostable containers.

  3. I'm Nichols Morin's wife (who wrote about french school catering in may 20th post). It happens that i also lived in the united states from age 11 to 14 and have been exposed to junior and high school catering. The transition from french school catering to US catering (in new jersey) was a bit of a challenge. I put on weight in those 4 years and actually have never been heavier than when i was 14... (i'm 33)
    Ps:DrunkleDean's comment is very interesting (above). In France, i've never ever seen a plastic/paper/foam plate/spoon/fork in school catering... Plain old dishes, just like home!