Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Readers Give Fairfax 'F' for Food

By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

We recently published an item here noting that the School Nutrition Association, representing school food workers across the country, had designated Fairfax County just outside the nation's capitol as having the best food program in the country.

I have to admit, I did not have a high level of confidence when I printed news of the nutrition association's award. If the food in Fairfax schools was so great, wouldn't we have heard more about it before now?

Well, this just shows the perils of accepting press releases at face value. The Washington Post made the same mistake in a July 15 article by health columnist Valerie Strauss. The photograph used to illustrate Strauss' piece should have been a giveaway: it shows what appear to be high-schoolers eating chicken nuggets, sugary yogurt and chocolate milk.

Readers were quick to set Strauss straight. Here's a sampling of the many comments:

"This is so ridiculous I can't even believe it. The picture used for this article has a group of kids eating pizza, chicken nuggets and drinking chocolate milk. I was in the Fairfax county school system from k-12, and I can assure you that most kids subsisted off of pizza, nuggets french fries and chocolate milk. I doubt that much has changed in the 10 years since I was in grade school, and the photo used confirms it. What a low standard. Jaime Oliver is right, our food education is appalling, we do need a food revolution if anything is going to change. This award for FCPS sickens and insults me."

"If FCPS is the best, I'd hate to see the worst. The food at my child's elementary school was terrible. And I'm in no way disgruntled, as my child brought his lunch every day and no longer attends FCPS.
Lunch was the usual high hamburger/pizza fare and the exotic Give Me 5 offerings are things like cauliflower, bell pepper and oranges. Breakfast is prepackaged food that was high in calories and sugar, basically junk food. Wonder about behavior problems in the classroom? Look no further than the sugar content at breakfast. Here's an example breakfast: EZ Bear Breakfast on the Go”
Box includes:Cereal, Crackers or Pop Tart, Juice
or Yogurt w/Elfi n Graham Crackers
or Cereal w/ Elfi n Graham Crackers

"Come on! Graham crackers for breakfast? I'd hardly call that excellent.WaPO needs to read the menu before doing a story about how great the food is in FCPS and instead do a story about how FCPS contributes to poor childhood nutrition."

"High frutose corn syrup, enriched flour, sodium nitrate, red#4, blue #1 etc...What a joke!!!!!! Their food sources are horrible. It is laughable when you actually look at the menus. These poor children. It's no wonder why obesity is such an epidemic. Why are the adults so ignorant - oh perhaps they are in bed with the manufacturers.
I agree with the previous poster- shame on The Washington Post for doing an article on this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"Hah. FCPS food is high quality? I must agree with the majority of comments here- it is terrible. I attended FCPS k-12. On a few occasions the food literally made me sick, and in high school I generally refused to eat it. The "sweet potato wedges" mentioned are simply sweet potato fries loaded with oil and fat- no more healthy than normal ones. The "salads" are in fact a few shreds of lettuce topped with a paper thin slice of tomato, and it is indeed true that students at all levels of FCPS education tend to choose a few cookies and a Caprisun for lunch rather than an actual meal.

"If this is the best fare in the country, I shudder at the dilemma of our public school systems."

Thanks go to one of our own readers, Jane Hersey of the Feingold Association of the United States, for setting us straight on this and providing a useful link to School Lunch.org. It just proves that where school food is concerned, you can't believe what's written on the menu or in anyone's award citation. The only thing that counts is what kids actually see on their cafeteria trays.

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