On a recent Friday outside San Diego, California, 26 farmers and eight food distributors set up tables at a local ranch. Representatives from dozens of area school districts (plus a few folks from universities, hospitals, restaurants, grocers, senior centers, and preschools) shuffled from booth to booth, tasting growers’ products, shaking hands, and hashing out potential business deals. When asked how he’d done at the end of the day, Colin Bruce, salesman for the award-winning hydroponic farm Go Green Agriculture, pulled a wallet-sized stack of business cards from his pocket and fanned them out. “This is a unique event,” he said. Read more
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Ten students frolic along a path, passing flowering cilantro and Swiss chard leaves the size of elephant ears. One pauses to point out a ladybug, which leads to an impromptu lesson from gardener Suzanne Stone about aphids. Another student marvels at periwinkle-blue borage blooms, an opportunity to teach companion planting and culinary herbs.
This is a garden class at New Day School in Portland, Oregon, a preschool for two-and-a-half to five-year-old children that enrolls between 80 to 100 students throughout the year. Read more
When Mark Abbott’s son was in fourth grade, his local elementary school recruited students and their families to participate in a fundraiser for the school. After successfully selling cookie dough and candy to friends and family, Abbott’s son remarked that he had just sold $400 worth of things the family would never eat at home. “It’s too bad we couldn’t try something healthy like apples,” said his son. Read more
Lunch time at Harris Bilingual Elementary School in Fort Collins, Colo., displays all the usual trappings of a public school cafeteria: Star Wars lunch boxes, light up tennis shoes, hard plastic trays and chocolate milk cartons with little cartoon cows. It’s pizza day, the most popular of the week, and kids line up at a salad bar before receiving their slice.
Imagine a daycare center serving your child doughnuts or Pop Tarts and then demanding proof of your child’s medical “disability” when you ask to send healthier food from home. As bizarre as that scenario may sound, it’s one that parents around the country may face if they send their children to daycare centers participating in the federal Child and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP). Read more
Back in November, 2010, only a few months after starting The Lunch Tray, I wrote about running my children’s elementary school Election Day bake sale. In that post I expressed a little bit of ambivalence about selling sweets to raise money — ambivalence that would evolve over the next four years into outright activism against junk food in schools — but at the time I was clearly charmed by the old-timey, innocent feel of the event. I wrote:
. . . . the bake sale I’m running today couldn’t be more Norman Rockwell: there are flags and buntings everywhere, kids clamoring to take a turn behind the cash box, and almost all the goods are homemade.
It’s rare that a university system commits to solving a social issue on a global scale. That’s why the University of California’s recently announced U.C. Global Food Initiative could mark a critical moment in the history of world food production. If the initiative unfolds as promised over the next few years, it “will align the university’s research, outreach and operations in a sustained effort to develop, demonstrate and export solutions—throughout California, the U.S., and the world—for food security, health, and sustainability.” Read more
At 7:15 on a Friday morning in a large, culinary classroom at Bend High School, 25 energetic students dressed in crisp, white chef coats begin breaking down two half hogs. Over the next two hours, working in teams, the students will separate the animals into primal cuts — shoulder, loin, belly, and leg — and then into smaller cuts. “The kids can now visualize where their meat comes from,” says Molly Ziegler, the culinary teacher at Bend High School, “and they are learning how to utilize lesser known cuts, or cuts that would often get tossed.” Read more
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