Now serving: school lunch reform
The editing process has begun and we’re entering the final phase of our pilot episode on urban agriculture. Now I’m thinking about our next episodes. The short list includes one-hour programs on sustainable fishing and aquaculture, meat production, school lunch reform, food psychology, dairy production, alternative forms of agriculture, hunger, and 21st century farmers.
The school lunch episode is of particular interest to me. I have a 6-year-old son we pack his lunch everyday so I know exactly what he is getting. His class also makes a snack each day, soup, muffins, stir-fried vegetables over brown rice…good stuff. But I know what my son eats is the exception. Most kids at public school eat food that we wouldn’t dream of serving to our families or ourselves. It’s garbage.
The federal school lunch program ensures every child has access to school meals, but it began not as a way to make sure kids got nutritional meals but rather as a way for agribusiness to offload their publicly subsidized commodities. Feeding children was a secondary concern. This shameful system will all its Tater Tots, chicken nuggets and corn dogs has been in existence for so long we’ve accepted it as normal. But it not normal. It’s the product of a twisted set of values that puts the welfare of industrial agriculture over children’s wellbeing. Every member of Congress and the president owes an apology to the children of America for the industrial slop the put before them. It’s a national disgrace.
But the federal government not be capable of producing the kind of change we need. In my opinion we need to toss the whole system out and start over. It’s broken. instead of showering wasteful, chemically dependent agribusiness with subsidies to overproduce commodity crops I say we take that money and reroute it to school districts so they can upgrade their kitchen equipment (or in many cases buy kitchen equipment; many school “kitchens” don’t have stoves and ovens), train staff to actually cook instead of punching buttons on a microwave, and purchase locally sourced, organic produce and meats. While we’re at it, why not develop at new curriculum that teaches students how to grow and cook food like Davenport, Calif.’s Pacific Elementary School does. Chef Ann Cooper, whom we shot in our series trailer, is also a leader in school lunch reform and we’ll be catching back up with her.
Reforming school lunch isn’t really that hard. It just takes money and will. The federal government has the money. Our money. We the people need to demand they spend it in a way the benefits our children.