Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Two Angry Moms" with Slow Food Boston

Last week, Slow Food BU hosted a film screening of Two Angry Moms with Slow Food Boston.

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:
  1. Have lunch with your child in the school cafeteria
  2. Join a committee or coalition
  3. Survey your district
  4. Read your contracts
  5. Market your new program
Read the more detailed action plan here.

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.
All three acknowledged how significant Lanni Orchards has been in providing local produce to public schools within the area.

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:
For another recap of this event, read Slow Food Boston's followup.


VivaciousVegan said...

I have been fighting the school lunch program in Kansas for years, do you know that they are feeding our children for less than one dollar per child, per day! How outrageous is that. Disgusting, cheap food that has no nutritional value, is being served to our children. The more I try to talk to the food director, the angrier she becomes.
More money needs to be fed into schools for a healthier lunch program. With childhood obesity on the rise, one would think schools would be the first place to start!!

Sorry to go on a rant, but the childhood obesity epidemic is very upsetting to me. I have always sent vegan lunches with my youngest daughter, and she has benefited from it greatly!

Anyway, Hi, I am vivacious vegan!
I am obviously outspoken, and
I loved your blog and found it very enlightening!!!
Can't wait to read more soon!!

Annabelle Ho said...

@VivaciousVegan glad you came across our blog! It really is upsetting how little money goes into the food for children at schools. The Washington Post published an article last week regarding some recent proposals for adjusting the federal school lunch budget. Create a committee and get some parents and faculty on your side! For issues such as this, people power is important and can make a big difference. Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

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