Two Angry Moms is a documentary following filmmaker and mother Amy Kalafa, who searches for schools that offer healthier school lunches. Susan Rubin of Better School Food is the other "angry mom" in the documentary, and the film shows the efforts of Susan and other leaders in the movement to improve school lunches. The film offers steps for those interested in improving the quality of food in children's schools, such as:
- Have lunch with your child in the school cafeteria
- Join a committee or coalition
- Survey your district
- Read your contracts
- Market your new program
After the film, Alex Loud of Slow Food Boston spoke about Slow Food's Time for Lunch Campaign. The Child Nutrition Act is a federal law that was created in order to help meet the nutritional needs of children in the National School Lunch Program. Because the Child Nutrition Act is reauthorized every five years and is planned to be reviewed by Congress in early 2010, it is the perfect time and opportunity to make change. Currently, Congress allots $2.68 per school lunch, with $1 allotted towards ingredients. Only 20¢ of that $1 is devoted to fruits and vegetables, which simply isn't enough to provide children the real food that they need. If you are concerned about this issue or would like to become more involved, look at Slow Food's Time for Lunch Campaign.
A panel discussion followed, featuring JJ Gonson of Cuisine en Locale, Claire Kozower of Waltham Fields Community Farm, and Kim Szeto of the Farm to School Initiative.
Claire discussed some of her previous involvement with the Farm to School Initiative in Somerville. In Somerville, children only have 12 minutes to eat lunch. 12 minutes is hardly enough time to eat lunch, much less enjoy it. It is because of this short lunch time that they found that children ate more apples and left less waste when the apples were small- children simply do not have enough time to eat a large apple during lunch. These small apples are now provided to the public schools in Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston, and are locally sourced from Lanni Orchards based in Lunenburg, MA.
Kim is involved with the Farm to School Initiative in the Boston Public Schools. Despite the mere 20¢ devoted to fruits and vegetables per meal in school lunch, they have found that buying local is sometimes cheaper, and they have been able to serve local and seasonal produce including corn on the cob, collard greens, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash.
JJ, involved in Cambridge's Healthy Service Task Force Food Advisory Board, provided a parent's perspective on the issue.
- Because the 12 Cambridge schools feed thousands of kids a day, commodity products are extremely important in controlling costs. Commodity products are provided for free to schools, because they are excess products available from the government as a result of agribusiness subsidies. However, one needs to question the health implications of these commodity products, such as tuna, which poses health risks for children due to the mercury levels in tuna and the potential health risks from the can linings.
- The classic yet deceptively innocent PB & J sandwich has its health implications as well. The bread and peanut butter contain hydrogenated oils, the peanut butter and jelly contain high fructose corn syrup, and the jelly contains unnatural colorings.
- Schools are not allowed to serve water because it has "no nutritional value." Schools typically only offer milk, chocolate milk, and apple juice.
- Read more about what JJ has to say on school lunches here.
Although there is a lot that needs to change in the school food system, there are many ways to become more informed and to become more involved. Here are a few resources to get you started:
- Find more ways to become active at the Two Angry Moms site and review their action plan
- Better School Food
- Slow Food's Time for Lunch Campaign
- The School Nutrition Bill (H2092) and the Local Farm Products Bill (H2107/S1437) were recently passed by the House of Representatives in MA. However, these bills still need to be passed by the Senate. Read the article on the passage of these bills, and keep updated and find out more about what you can do through the Massachusetts Public Health Association