Food in American Schools

| November 5, 2010

Have you ever walked through a school cafeteria at lunch time? Or do you remember those days from when you were a student in a cafeteria? Having not grown up in the States, I have nothing to compare school lunch of recent years to, but from what I have seen in the past few years as I’ve been involved in local elementary schools is that we need to do much better for our kids in providing them with wholesome food. Yesterday, for example, my kindergarteners had lunch in the classroom, and the school lunch they got consisted of three or four pieces of fried chicken tenders, rice, some sort of overcooked vegetables, and a banana. The items my students were most interested in eating were the chicken tenders and the banana. How is that an adequate lunch for kids who need a well-rounded and well-balanced diet to develop optimally both physically and cognitively?

This summer while I was sorting through recently checked in books, I came upon Free for All: Fixing School Food in America, by Janet Poppendieck, and immediately checked it out to myself. (Being highly interested in both food and education, I could not help myself.) I found the book extremely informative in terms of how school food developed, what shapes the menus, how (un)nutritious school lunches are, as well as issues of access, participation, and stigma. On the other hand, Poppendieck also offers hope and insight into new possibilities as she highlights what some local communities are already doing to improve school food in innovative and resourceful ways. If you are interested in issues around school food, I highly recommend that you read this book!