Wow, you step off the school food circuit for a couple of weeks and lots of interesting and hopeful stuff happens. Countdown until school gets out — about six weeks in our district — so I’ll be blogging on various aspects of school food over the next few weeks.
For now, a little roundup, a cheat sheet of sorts, to bring you up to date on recent developments. And don’t worry, even though it’s testing week in my town, there won’t be a quiz after you read this list.
FoodCorps: How (potentially) fabulous is FoodCorps? An AmeriCorps program (think domestic Peace Corps) that would put members in school gardens and establish farm-to-school relationships, particularly targeting towns lacking regular access to fresh produce. Perhaps the most reported item out of last week’s annual W. K. Kellogg Foundation Food & Community Conference (for coverage check out Civil Eats, 5 Second Rule, and The Washington Post), seed funding is in place and a tentative start date of 2011 announced. FoodCorps is a project of the National Farm to School Network, and the planning committee includes good food folks like Curt Ellis, who co-created the documentary film King Corn, and NFSN’s Debra Eschmeyer. Similar state programs are already up and running, including in Montana, and these initiatives may well serve as models for the national program.
Will FoodCorps folks also help out in school cafeteria kitchens prepping all that garden produce for scratch cooking or the salad bar? As Food Revolution revealed to the nation, lunch ladies like Alice Gue need extra hands to help get good food served up at school.
Food Revolution Legacy: Whatever you think about what Jamie Oliver did or didn’t achieve in Huntington, West Virginia, his admirable efforts there have created a momentum that is likely to have a ripple effect for some time to come, both in that town and across the country. Heck, at least Huntington kindergartners now know their veggies as well as their colors. The Naked Chef himself says he’ll continue with his U.S. school food crusade and you’ll find references to the six-week show in predictable and unlikely places. For starters, check out this list from the MRI Technician Schools (what is that, exactly?): 80 Ways You Can Join the Food Revolution and Jane Black’s positive piece for The Washington Post, which lays out the many benefits of bringing the Brit wonderboy to town.
Changes in Chicago: The Windy City’s school board recently adopted new nutritional standards that make Chicago one of the largest school districts in the nation to try to exceed federal school food so-called gold standard guidelines. Next fall, a greater variety of vegetables, with more dark-green and orange veggies and fewer starchy ones, will appear on school lunch menus. More whole grains too. And less healthy stuff will either get the flick or be served less often: Sayonara nachos, doughnuts, and Pop-Tarts. The national non-profit Healthy Schools Campaign is working with the Chicago public school district to challenge 100 schools to meet this higher grade over the next three years, writes Melissa Graham, of Purple Asparagus. Graham’s nonprofit plans to work closely with Chicago school parents to make sure as many schools as possible “go for the gold.”
Blogosphere Beats the Drum: There’s growing momentum to this school food revolution, as I point out in a previous post, and the cause is getting loads of attention online. Case in point: Over at Simple, Good and Tasty, Lee Zukor of Minneapolis served up a school lunch challenge to his readers — go eat with your kids and report back from the field. Way to both educate and mobilize a community. Folks across the country ate, snapped, and got all fired up over the muck that passes for a meal at school. Read all about the results right here.
And, of course, Mrs. Q continues to report from the trenches every day at Fed Up with Lunch: The School Lunch Project. Recently she made an appearance on Good Morning America, bringing her blog-based, fix-school-food campaign to a much wider audience.
Children Champion the Cause: Check out a newcomer to the school food blog arena, School Food Found Guilty, which chronicles what’s for lunch in a public middle school for girls in New York City. The students’ descriptions are classic: “Now just look at this type of food…Our stomach ached from the potato salad. It just tasted so bitter and horrible! It also felt so gooey and felt like mud. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich was squished and tasted like expired food. The jelly felt so gooey and the peanut butter was like ice! Everyone felt like vomitting [sic] out all of the food.” Tell us how you really feel about the food, kids.
How about all that? What have I missed in the last few weeks? Is change happening in the cafeteria of your local schools? Let us know below. For now, class dismissed.