Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Love Your Lunch Ladies!

I’m slow at reading this year – only four books so far, when in the past I’ve averaged up to 20 a month – and though my reading pile has held a number of books about food, I simply haven’t gotten around to them.

I did, however, finally grab hold of Lunch Lessons by Chef Ann Cooper and Lisa M. Holmes, and I plowed through it pretty quickly. I’m delighted that, as part of the local- and sustainable-food movement, more attention is being given to the school lunch program in America, because the more I learn about the issues, the more I realize that to get people to eat in a healthy, sustainable, joyful way, we have to make good nutritious food – local, organic, sustainable – economically available to everyone from an early age.

Since Tom Philpott has reviewed the book in detail over at Grist, I’ll just share some of the statistics found in the book. (I’m afraid the information in the book is not documented in footnotes, so I’m wary about sharing them, but I think the essence is on target.)

A full 78 percent of the schools in America do not actually meet the USDA’s nutritional guidelines, which is no surprise considering the fact that schools keep the cost of lunch between $1 and $1.50 per child. (p.xv)

Every year we spend $7 billion on school lunch, $50 billion on diet aids, $115 billion on diet-related illness and more than $200 billion on the war. (p.34)

In the United States we produce 3800 calories for every person and most of us should be eating less than two-thirds of that. (p.97)

The book contains many more such nuggets that should make you sit up and wonder what has happened to the idea of building healthy bodies through good food.

The authors describe a number of inspiring programs throughout the country that prove that with the will and support of everyone involved, the drab standard school lunch can be transformed into a positive, healthy meal. And if you’re inspired enough to wonder how you, too, can make changes in your local school district, they offer a resource guide for approaching school boards and several useful web sites, such as the Center for Ecoliteracy and the Lunch Lessons site itself.

Are you hungry for a change?

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