Wouldn’t it be great if eight-year-olds immediately thought of a banana, instead of a bag of chips, when they wanted a snack? In the decade that I have been involved with school food here in San Francisco, we have added salad bars in all our middle and high schools, replaced juice with fresh fruit at breakfast, and added fresh fruit daily at lunch.

But it is still a hard sell to get some kids to take and eat the fresh produce, because it just isn’t in the mindset of many inner city kids, who may rarely if ever see a fresh vegetable or piece of fruit at home, or in the corner store. Meanwhile they see thousands of commercials a year for junk food, which is available everywhere. Read more

Every now and then, a story appears in the media gushing about a “school food miracle worker” apparently serving healthier, higher quality food than usually found in school lunch programs, and costing no more than what a typical school district spends on a less healthy meal. The reader is left wondering why all schools don’t just do what the “miracle worker” does.

It will come as a surprise to no one to learn that things are not always as they appear in the media. The “miracle worker” who seems to do more with less is usually doing more with more. Additional funding, student demographics, labor issues, and facilities are just some of the factors that can make or break a pilot innovation, and which get short shrift in media gushfests.

How can you tell if your school can do what the “miracle” school does? You need to determine whether an innovation is replicable (can it be easily reproduced in any community?), scalable (does it work just as well for 30,000 students as it does for 300?) and sustainable (is it financially self-supporting?), because if it is not all three, it may be something that can only succeed in that one place. Everything doesn’t work everywhere. Read more