Friday, January 30, 2009

The Standard School Lunch Program :: The Horrors

Alice Waters and her Edible Schoolyard students. (Lucky kids!)

Our daycare experience, to date, has been pretty seamless. I was able to nurse Willa at lunchtime - every day. When solid foods were slowly being introduced at daycare, it was mostly Cheerios and some vegetables. We started bringing in snacks and our own organic vegetables and homemade baby food as she gradually made the transition.

Then, the shock. Our first lunch menu was sent home - giving us a glimpse of what they planned on feeding her - lest we forget to bring in lunch. And, I've learned, what they have fed her a few times, 'supplementing' our from-home lunch.

Bologna, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, sausage sticks. Canned fruit cocktails.

Holy. Crap. There's no food in that food. I'm kicking myself for thinking they would know better. As an organic gardener, it is a huge leap from homemade baby food to chicken nuggets.

I'm not one for confrontations. But I just can't be okay with this. So we are planning a sit down with the daycare's director. To see how we can make sure what we bring for her is all that she eats and how we can make this as easy as possible for them.

Alice Waters - heroine of the slow food school lunch movement - oh, how I wish you had an East Coast outpost. I fear that we have a long battle ahead of us.

Anyone else out there have experience navigating these waters?

9 comments:

Pam/Digging said...

Our public school lunch menus used to read like that. Plus ice cream every day, and when I'd join my daughter for lunch at her elementary school I'd watch kids eat only ice cream and throw out everything else.

But in the past couple of years, a movement has been afoot to make the school lunches in Austin healthier. Now they serve oven-baked fries instead of fried. Chicken burgers instead of hamburgers. A good selection of cooked vegetables and salads (though the veggies are too salty). And ice cream only on Fridays. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than it was.

Nick said...

In Charlottesville, there is a movement to create a Local Food Hub that would provide food distribution, storage and logistical support to local farmers. It would also work to get organic, locally grown food into local schools and senior homes. There is a funding vote on this Wednesday at the Albemarle Board of Supervisors!

Tell your representative that you support the Local Food Hub to help bring better quality food to kids in our county public schools! You can contact them here.

Lonnie said...

I'm so glad Ariel comes to work with Sharon. While not all that she eats is "healthy", it's a billion times better than that.

At home, generally she eats what we eat; which means things ranging from venison (they eat my garden, and I eat them) to local vegetables and such, or ethnic foods like Indian and Mexican.

I've heard about efforts to have local schools use exclusively local produce, but never heard what came of that proposal.

Carrie Coulson said...

What a timely post. I have been working on a proposal for my son's middle school to adopt many of Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard ideas to better use an existing vegetable plot as both a teaching tool and a food source.

I would love to discuss ideas with other Charlottesville parents with similar interests and ideas...

Tracey said...

So incredible to hear from parents and community members who care about this. I have A LOT to learn, but it is worth it. Thank you - each one of you!

Nick - Thank you for the link . . .

Carrie - I would definitely be interested in hearing much more . . .

Ann said...

I used to work at a daycare center in Cville and we had lots of kids whose parents wanted specific diets followed. The providers will probably be willing to meet your needs. And you may be able to brainstorm with them inexpensive and healthy alternatives to their current menu.

I am lucky now to have my kids attend a Waldorf school where my kindergartener makes her own healthy snacks each day.

Tracey said...

Ann - Thank you for your perspective! We are now working with the center on how we can keep it as simple as possible for them while bringing in all of her food.

Small steps, straightforward conversations. But, this will remain a huge decision-making component as we explore future pre-schools, schools, sitters, etc.

Amy said...

It's even worse in the public schools. My son is a non discriminate eater. By that, I mean he will eat anything and everything. He looks at food pretty much as an adventure, and he doesn't really turn down anything.
We still try to edit what he eats as much as possible. He occasionally asks to purchase school lunch with his friends, but we also insist that he takes his bento box at least 3 days a week. He helps us pack it and he is very good at self-regulation now. He will tell us if he has too much sugar, or if he hasn't eaten enough vegetables. He's 6, and I am glad that he's become so self-aware. He does eat some junk, because frankly, he isn't always with us, and we feel it's most important that he learns to choose properly. The school lunch situation is pretty disappointing and appalling. There is a great national group called MomsRising.org that is doing everything that it can to make changes on the national level. I have been following their work, and you might also be interested. Love your blog. Take care.

Tracey said...

Amy - Your ideas and your experiences are so helpful. The Bento Box idea is what I was picturing. I can also understand it if she wants (in the future) a day to eat with the other kids. I need to remember that . . . and let a few things go . . . :) Thanks so much for writing and visiting . . .