Monday, October 11, 2010

Farm to school week

You may have heard about Bike to Work Day... National Walk to School Day... International Talk Like a Pirate Day. (Yarrr!) I even recall during my time teaching at a public high school here in DC a couple of years ago a celebration of National Punctuation Day. I love themed days that raise awareness and get people thinking a little differently about their everyday choices (especially if the focus helps to improve the general public's understanding of how to use an apostrophe correctly). Tomorrow marks the beginning of DC Farm to School Week.

Yes, folks, school food reform is so important that it gets a whole week. Having witnessed the slop that passes for food in most public schools these days, I'm surprised nobody has issued a code red food quality alert. (I mean, we already have such a system for air quality and terrorism threats, and yet obesity-related diseases kill far more people each year. Then again, who can take these alerts seriously when we're always at code orange? Maybe I'm a touch grumpy about the transportation security measures that seem to get increasingly more ridiculous. I mean, have you been to the airport in Salt Lake City? Good lord.)

The overall poor quality of school food is a systemic problem, with cafeteria offerings just as abysmal in NYC as they are in DC. It's not just urban schools, either. I didn't have a chance to follow Jamie Oliver's attempts to fix things in rural West Virginia schools -- Ollie and I were somewhere in the Southwestern deserts dodging scorpions, I think -- but I heard it wasn't pretty (though things seemingly ended well). The problem seems to be universal, according to the documentary "Two Angry Moms." I know I've written about the need for better food in schools a few times now, but with initiatives like the first lady's "Chefs Move to Schools" -- love her! -- and the passing of the Healthy Schools Act, we Americans are, at long last, doing something about it.

Now, the outsourcing of school lunches is far from a new concept -- my own former school in Southeast DC trucked in loads of fried, frozen, and otherwise unrecognizable trays of gov't surplus slop to the stoveless cafeteria -- but the approach this time around is very different. With a funding stream designed to encourage more fresh fruits and vegetables and provide cafeteria food lower in sugars, salts, and fats, the Healthy Schools Act has the potential to help public school lunch programs come around an important corner. Revolution Foods and DC Central Kitchen, for example, have both won contracts to privately cater school food at a handful of locations around the District, sourcing some ingredients from local producers and emphasizing seasonality and lots of produce in their menus. These are pilot programs underway that, if successful, could revolutionize the way school food is sourced and prepared.

Want to learn more about improving school food in the District? Check out the goings on this week: A number of DC schools will be preparing and serving farm-fresh foods. There will be student-led education booths, farm field trips, and chef demonstrations to help DC area families learn about their local foodshed and get excited about healthy food options. Me, I'll be slicing and handing out local apples at the kick-off event at Thurgood Marshall Academy tomorrow afternoon. (So long as I don't have to use my multi-tool for slicing, nobody should get hurt.)

Hooray for good food in schools!

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


  1. Thanks for the shout-out Ibti! Glad that here in DC we're part of this national movement to get healthier, farm-fresh foods on our kids cafeteria trays.

  2. This is awesome. I wish we would have something like that in Houston...maybe someday. And I LOVE the Flash Gordon lunchbox.


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