I had the pleasure of hearing Chef Ann Cooper, aka The Renegade Lunch Lady, speak here in San Diego. She visited for a weekend of events, sponsored in part by the Junior League of San Diego and benefiting the Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center in National City, CA.
I was somewhat aware of the issues surrounding school lunches after watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution last spring, but it’s still pretty shocking.
Even if you don’t have kids, this is an issue that concerns everyone in America. Why? Because obesity and diabetes cost this country $174 BILLION dollars per year… that is $567 per year for every American—and we have to pay for it somehow, whether through taxes or higher insurance premiums.
Children born after the year 2000 are the first generation of Americans who will live shorter lives than their parents… and 40-45% of them will get diabetes if things don’t change.
So, what can you do? If you are a parent, here is what she suggests:
- Start talking to your school’s principal, school board, and school superintendent about change. They have provided a ton of resources for free here.
- Work on getting recess scheduled before lunch.
- Lunch should be at least 20 minutes. (In most schools it’s 10 minutes, and the kids haven’t had recess yet, so they don’t want to eat, they want to get outside.)
- Work on getting a salad bar in your school. They have funding to provide salad bars… apply through www.saladbarproject.org
- Find out what the Wellness Policy is in your district. Read it. Demand that it be implemented.
- Go to the school and eat the school lunch. She guarantees that you will be horrified.
- Take a school lunch, and a camera crew if possible, to a school board meeting and make a stink.
- Once things start to change, get more families to commit to buying school lunch. They need more people signed up in order to have enough money to buy better food.
Goals for the lunch reform:
- Processed food out.
- Fresh food from local farms if possible.
- When organic is available and fits into your budget, use it. Use the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides list so you’re spending your money to get the most benefit.