Beyond Irony: School Lunch Group Disputes Study That Finds Kids Like Healthier School Meals

Imagine a restaurant getting a great review, only to have the chef call the newspaper to complain that the critic was sorely mistaken.

That bizarre scenario was all I could think of when I received an email yesterday from the School Nutrition Association (SNA), relaying SNA president Julia Bauscher’s refutation of a new, peer-reviewed study in Childhood Obesity finding that kids actually like the healthier school food mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA). Read more

Battle Lines Drawn Over Healthier School Lunch

When I walked into my first Houston ISD School Food Services Parent Advisory Committee meeting, I knew next to nothing about school food except that my district seemed to be doing a pretty poor job of preparing it. But in the intervening four years, in which I educated myself about the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), started this blog, continued to work closely with my district, and also met school food professionals around the country, I’ve come to believe that there are few jobs on this planet harder than managing a district’s school food program. Read more

State of the Tray: Will Recent Improvements in School Food be Rolled Back?

Editor’s note: Have you had a hard time keeping up with all changes on the school lunch front these last few years? If so, you’re not alone. We asked Lunch Tray blogger Bettina Elias Siegel to give us an update on the state of the tray.

In late 2010, Congress voted to overhaul school meals. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (“HHFKA”) was championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and generally lauded by public health experts, anti-hunger groups, and food policy advocates as landmark legislation that would get America’s kids on the right track. By adding more whole grains, more fruits and vegetables, and simultaneously lowering sodium and capping overall calories on school lunch trays, the law promised much-needed change. Read more

Chinese Chicken: Why I’m Starting Another Food Petition & How You Can Help

As many of you know, in March, 2012 I launched on The Lunch Tray a Change.org petition seeking to remove lean, finely textured beef (“LFTB,” more widely known as “pink slime”) from the ground beef procured by the USDA for the National School Lunch Program.  The petition garnered over a quarter of a million signatures in just a few days and ultimately led the USDA to change its policy, allowing school districts for the first time to opt out of receiving beef containing LFTB. Read more

Schools Interfere With Home-Packed Lunches–Why I’m Not Offended

A few weeks ago, the Internet was buzzing over news reports that an elementary school in Richmond, VA—allegedly in accordance with federal law–is requiring parents to obtain a doctor’s note if they want to send a home-packed lunch to school with their child. Then, this week, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff reported on his Weighty Matters blog that a Canadian mother was fined $10 under Manitoba’s Early Learning and Child Care lunch regulations for failing to include a grain product in her child’s home-packed lunch of  ”leftover homemade roast beef and potatoes, carrots, an orange and some milk.”  (The child was supplied with less-than-nutritious Ritz crackers by the school.)  Both of these stories have gone viral, if my own Facebook feed is any measure. Read more

Is Perfect the Enemy of Good? In the Food Reform World, Yes

At an August 2013 press conference, a frustrated President Obama stated, “I don’t know a law that solves a problem 100 percent.” He was referencing the painful fight over immigration reform. But food reformers should take his comment to heart. There’s no such thing as a perfect food policy or solution and those who pursue perfection are not only destined to fail, they may also unintentionally harm the cause in the process.   Read more

USDA Misinforms Parents Re: Chinese-Processed Chicken in School Meals

Editor’s Note: The USDA responded to Bettina’s post here.

Further Update here.

On August 30, the USDA announced that it will allow four Chinese facilities to process poultry raised and slaughtered in the United States, Chile or Canada, and then export the cooked poultry products back into the United States.  The USDA’s move is widely seen as a preliminary step toward eventually allowing China to export its own raw poultry into this country, in exchange for China’s opening up its lucrative beef market to American beef producers. Read more

Texas Passes Law to Keep Junk Food in Schools (Yeah, You Read That Right)

The USDA earned praise this past June when it released its ground-breaking new rules for “competitive” school food, i.e., the snacks and beverages that compete with the federal school meal and are offered to students through school stores, snack bars, vending machines, and other outlets.  These new rules, while not perfect, will go far to eliminate junk food from school campuses in an era of childhood obesity and poor nutrition.  But even as the nation as a whole is moving ahead to improve student health, here in Texas, the legislature has just taken a big step in the wrong direction. Read more

Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory: A Children’s Story about Processed Food

Back in the spring of 2011, Slate magazine decided to “crowd-source” the problem of childhood obesity by asking readers to submit their own solutions to this difficult problem. I blog daily about children and food on The Lunch Tray and over the years I’ve written literally thousands of words about childhood obesity and poor nutrition. But until I sat down to write my own entry for the Slate contest, I’d never really asked myself what I personally would do to improve the status quo. Read more