National Movement is Pushing for Better School Food
There's unusual lunchtime chatter at ACE Charter School in East San Jose: Students are actually raving about lunch. School lunch. And so are some teachers.
September 3, 2009 | Source: The San Jose Mercury News - CA | by Dana Hull
There’s unusual lunchtime chatter at ACE Charter School in East San Jose: Students are actually raving about lunch. School lunch. And so are some teachers.
Just ask Arallana Sanchez, 11, in between her munches on a chicken barbecue sandwich and sips of organic, hormone-free milk. “At my old school everyone always drank chocolate milk because the regular milk tasted like it had expired.”
Serving healthful meals at school is tougher than ever – most campuses don’t even have kitchens anymore. And the federal government’s low reimbursement rate – $2.68 for each poor child who qualifies for free lunch – makes it tough to buy high-quality produce. As school budgets get squeezed, many districts are going with the vendors offering the best bargain, not the best food.
But now a national push is under way to improve students’ midday meal.
Schools like ACE Charter are contracting with companies that provide organic lunches. “Farm to School” programs that connect schools with local farms – like the relationship between Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara Unified School District – are popping up nationwide. And Slow Food USA is organizing “Time for Lunch,” a campaign designed to “get real food in schools.” The effort kicks off on Labor Day with more than 300 “Eat-ins,” or community pot lucks, planned across the nation.
Advocates hope the momentum will lead to an overhaul of the Child Nutrition Act, the bill that governs the National School Lunch Program and is up for reauthorization in Congress this fall.
“It’s the right time for this campaign,” said Gordon Jenkins of Slow Food USA. “People are more food conscious overall. We have Michelle Obama planting a garden in the White House lawn. Now the burden is on us to show that there’s a political will for this.”