Friday, February 20, 2009

Making Over School Lunch

Our friend A. Waters just wrote an op/ed piece for the Times yesterday. Here is a link to the full text on the NYT website. The key takeaway seems to be this:

"How much would it cost to feed 30 million American schoolchildren a wholesome meal? It could be done for about $5 per child, or roughly $27 billion a year, plus a one-time investment in real kitchens. Yes, that sounds expensive. But a healthy school lunch program would bring long-term savings and benefits in the areas of hunger, children’s health and dietary habits, food safety (contaminated peanuts have recently found their way into school lunches), environmental preservation and energy conservation."

Here's the thing. I love her. She's an amazing cook (I am currently ravenously devouring her Art of Simple Food), and I commend her efforts to help change the public school food system, but she's not a leader and she misses the mark (in fact, I am almost stepping my feet in the camp that claims her to be elitist...she is certainly at the very least disconnected from many things I see in my Brooklyn neighborhood everyday). I mean, quite simply in this paragraph failing to mention that focusing on children's nutrition can have a long-term impact on societal health which will in turn save Americans billions in medical costs which will fall more on the government as we begin to move toward a more socialized system of medicine in this country. If Waters wanted to hit home, she probably should have mentioned this. Here are some incredible facts on this issue from the CDC.

Yes, we potentially need to scrap the system and start anew, but let's recognize that using local and organic foods to feed mass populations is TOUGH. Especially in certain areas where many types of food do not grow. I am not saying it is impossible, but perhaps it would be more impactive and effective for her argument to start a bit less loftily, with some smaller goals, i.e. no trans fats, no fried foods, no junk foods types of things, less potatoes, less corn, etc. Instead it reaches way past the basics and starts saying, "Let's bring in organics." People are going to laugh and say that's impossible! Please, Ms. Waters, in the future try to outline some goals that are potentially quickly and readily acheivable and then we'll work our way up to this--as it is, it seems to daunting a task.

The thought coming out of Berkley is always a bit too flowery these days. M. Pollan is somewhat of an exception with his excellent journalistic skills, but who is really leading the charge in the nutrition/food revolution in our country? I feel as though we don't have someone with the right combination of charisma and authority telling our leaders that the 'food issue' can change the face of our nation as it affects the environment, energy issues, health and the general well-being of our people. It seems like the time is now, the willingness and interest are there...we just need someone to champion the cause a bit more aggressively. Argh!!!

*As a final note, I was googling for an image of school lunches to attach to this, and came across this little blog about school lunch by a high school student--it's pretty interesting!

1 comment:

Linda said...

Where is the conscience of the adults making the decisions that have led to this pathetic lack of nutritious foods that kids need more than ever? Perhaps they have been eating too many quarter pounders.

The school lunch issue is a travesty, along with the lack of health insurance for children.

Obama needs your leadership, Erika. I think you may be the one.