aka The Slow Cook
How did we miss this story? Back in June, New York City was considering a plan to cut school lunches in order to save money. Cut school lunches? It sounds almost impossible. Yet this is what the Wall Street Journal reported:
"Schools where students have three hot-meal choices a day will begin offering two, and those where there are two hot choices will cut to one under a budget proposal being considered by the Bloomberg administration. Combined with a plan to cut the number of schools where all the students get free lunches, the proposal is projected to save the city $23.7 million a year."
Parents contacted by the Journal were none to pleased. "This is a dramatic reversal to all the inroads that parents and food activists have been trying to make with regards to school lunch," said Elizabeth Puccini, a parent of a child at Children's Workshop School in the East Village and founder of NYC Green Schools, a coalition of parents trying to make schools more environmentally friendly, in part by addressing food issues.
That was two months ago, and with school about to resume for the fall term, I can't find anything more about it. Did New York in fact make the cuts? Maybe one of our readers can fill us in....
Ann Cooper, the nutrition director for schools in Boulder, Co., and "renegade lunch lady" is partnering with Whole Foods to try and put a salad bar in every school. According to the press release:
"From now until Sept. 29, shoppers may donate to the project at the check-out or make a donation online through saladbarproject.org. Each salad bar kit costs approximately $2,500 dollars, and includes a Cambro® portable 5-well salad bar unit with all the necessary insert pans, cutting boards, knives and shipping costs. Salad bar training tools and videos for school nutrition staff will also be available through TheLunchBox.org, which Whole Foods Market shoppers helped to raise funds to build last year so all schools can have access to tools for healthier food.
"The salad bars will be donated to local schools through a simple online grant process. Whole Foods Market is partnering with Cooper's nonprofit, F3: Foundation, which will administer the process. Any public elementary, middle or high school within 50 miles of a Whole Foods Market is eligible to apply with the support of the school principal, nutrition service director and the superintendent of the district. The online application and full criteria is available at saladbarproject.org.
"The application asks for basic school information such as the percentage of students enrolled in the Federal Free and Reduced Meal Program and participation in the school's Reimbursable School Lunch Program. Grant applications will be accepted between Sept. 1 and Nov. 1. Applicants chosen based on the grant criteria and the level of the school's commitment to sustaining the salad bar will be announced in early January 2011.'
Even some school food directors think Pop-Tarts, the little processed treat with 13 grams of sugar in each serving, are just fine to give kids for breakfast. But now Kellogg's, the company behind Pop-Tarts, wants to conquer the world and to that end has opened a store in Times Square--the hub of New York City--to hawk its brand with all kinds of products you probably have never hear of.
Listen to the account in the New York Times:
"The menu includes the Fluffer Butter, marshmallow spread sandwiched between two Pop-Tarts frosted fudge pastries; the Sticky Cinna Munchies, cinnamon rolls topped with cream-cheese icing and chunks of Pop-Tarts cinnamon-roll variety; and Ants on a Log?, which is celery, peanut butter and chunks of the Wild Grape version.
"And then there’s the Pop-Tarts Sushi, three kinds of Pop-Tarts minced and then wrapped in a fruit roll-up. “We did an internal tasting here at the building, and it was the winner,” said Etienne Patout, senior director at the Pop-Tarts brand, part of the Kellogg Company.
"Visitors can also build their own Pop-Tarts, starting with a basic pastry and asking servers to add frosting, toppings (coconut, sprinkles) and drizzle (caramel, raspberry). They can take their pastries frozen, toasted, microwaved or uncooked, but there will be no self-serve.
"There is also a Varietizer, a custom-built vending machine that carries about 23 of the regular Pop-Tart flavors (seasonal offerings, like pumpkin and gingerbread, are excluded for now). Customers use a touch screen to select six two-packs of the tarts for $12, assembling their own variety packs"
As if that weren't enough, there's a light show every hour, and computers are available to link visitors to Pop-Tarts social networking sites and video games. Ain't capitalism grand?
Meanwhile, National Public Radio reports that nearly 17 million kids in the U.S. don't always know where their next meal is coming from. Their mothers are constantly trying to make ends meat and put enough food on the table, and often it's not the healthiest food. Hence, at the same time we seed "food insecurity," the nation is battling an epidemic of obesity.
The reason: there's a glut of cheap, processed food on grocery store shelves, while fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables are too expensive for some people to afford.
Legislation approved by the U.S. Senate re-authorizing the Child Nutrition Act would, for the first time, give the U.S. Department of Agriculture authority to regulate the nutritional content of foods served in school vending machines, stores, and al la carte lines. Supporters hope that signals an end to junk food in schools.
But some states aren't waiting for the feds. In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick recently signed very similar legislation into law giving state health officials authority to regulate foods sold outside the subsidized lunch line. Under this law, schools are required to offer fruit and vegetable snacks wherever vending machine food is sold.
The new law also encourages schools to buy more food from Massachusetts farmers and establishes a commission to address childhood obesity.
Finally, school districts all over the country are grappling with the issue of whether to continuing to serve chocolate and other flavored milks that rival sodas for sugar content. The dairy industry, battling to maintain milk sales, recently trotted out a study it paid for (and won't release for public scrutiny) trying to show that many kids won't drink milk at all if they can't have flavored milk.
Here's an example of how this debate is playing out, as described by a newspaper serving suburban communities outside St. Louis. (And, yes, they do mention what our schools here in the District of Columbia are doing to remove flavored milk from schools.)