Here’s a link to the USDA News Release about the Child Nutrition Act and what’s been added to it. The list looks promising. It includes:
Hi folks — working on a really exciting redesign, so expect to see the maintenance mode page again over the next week or so.
In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about school food. The Billings Gazette had a piece about an elementary school that was about to start offering breakfast to all students. Which sounds like a great idea, except that I read about it right on the heels of Ed Bruske’s series, Tales from a DC School Kitchen in which he spent a week in his daughter’s school, and discovered fun facts like the breakfast offered contained as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar. Hmm. Breakfast is good, but is that breakfast good?
The Bozeman Chronicle reports that the Farm-to-School movement is getting some additional support, but it doesn’t yet sound like they’re seeing much local food in the local schools (and no, selling “local” huckleberry jam as a fundraiser doesn’t count.) Personally I think a great use of stimulus money would be to rebuild actual kitchens in the schools, and, as Tom Philpott has suggested, run a debt-exchange with culinary school graduates to run them. They could learn budgeting and cooking for picky eaters, and the kids would get real food. Or just hire lunch ladies again. I’m a huge fan of lunch ladies.
The way we pretend to use agricultural surplus to feed our schoolchildren should be a national shame. There’s nothing “agricultural” about the sorts of highly-processed heat-and-eat crap we’re serving them. Here’s an eye-opening blog post by a mother from Houston who gave in to her daughter’s wish to buy lunch (which was social in nature, the kid ate food she knew would make her sick three days running). She told her kid she could try school lunch for a week, if she’d take a picture of each lunch. Take a look here at what the kid was eating.
To top off this little school-food roundup, here’s Jamie Oliver’s terrific Ted Talk. He can be a little annoying, but you have to give the guy credit for fighting the good fight for cooking and real food. It shouldn’t be so hard.
Seems we’re all still reacting to the Flanagan piece slamming school gardens. Here’s a piece from Civil Eats that quotes Booker T. Washington on the value of physical work. The contempt shown by so much of the middle and upper-middle classes for people who work with their hands is, I’m convinced, partly responsible for the devastating loss of manufacturing jobs here in America. When you believe that work is only something other people do, and when you believe that those others, because they work with their hands and bodies must necessarily be inferior to you in your nice clean office, in your nice clean house (cleaned by whom?) and when in many parts of the country, even your yard and garden are tended by strangers who arrive once a week in a truck and then leave again, well, if your experience of the physical world is so mediated, then how could you ever know how satisfying physical work can be?
Is the real fear behind this school garden backlash that the kids might like it? And then what? Is the real fear that they might want to be farmers or gardeners or carpenters or to actually do something with their hands rather than to march off in lockstep to law school or MBA programs (because god forbid we deprive Wall Street of another generation of those all-important hedge fund managers)?
I remember when Patrick went off to Sterling College in Vermont, a terrific little school where he not only learned to write a paper for the first time, but learned to skid logs with draft horses, and to birth sheep and cattle, and tap trees for maple syrup (although boiling syrup’s not a good job for the ADD-inclined, look away at a crucial moment and it burns). That school was full of upper-middle-class kids whose parents were, in many cases, appalled that their kids wanted to be farriers, or farmers, or environmental biologists — you know things they could do outside, that involved working with their hands. And Patrick’s fellow students had, for the most part, spent their entire school lives being told they were dumb, or that they should apply themselves more, or that they just weren’t trying because they weren’t the kinds of kids who could sit in classrooms all day without doing something.
What has 40 years of insisting that college is mandatory and the only path to success gotten us? A nation where we have no plumbers or electricians or even just factories that make things. A nation where ordinary middle-class suburbanites don’t even know how to run a lawnmower. A nation of kids being raised in front of screens and in the back seats of SUVs being driven from “activity” to “activity” but not allowed to just play outside. Hmm. Progress?
Maybe it’s time to take another look at what Mr. Washington had to say. Civil Eats » Booker T. Washington on School Gardens and the Pleasure of Work:
Above all else I had acquired a new confidence in my ability actually to do things and to do them well. And more than this I found myself through this experience getting rid of the idea which had gradually become a part of me, that the head meant everything and the hands little in working endeavour and that only to labour with the mind was honourable while to toil with the hands was unworthy and even disgraceful.
…While I have never wished to underestimate the awakening power of purely mental training I believe that this visible tangible contact with nature gave me inspirations and ambitions which could not have come in any other way. I favour the most thorough mental training and the highest development of mind but I want to see these linked with the common things of the universal life about our doors.
While in some ways I hate to give Caitlin Flanagan any more web traffic for her flameball of an article about school gardens, the response has been very heartening. Here’s a link roundup:
- Red Herrings Are Not Dinner Food, or why Caitlin Flanagan is WRONG about school gardens | Oakland Local
- Mag writer: Alice Waters and school gardens are evil
- An Edible Schoolyard in Durham: How Kids Grow (Video)
- Samuel Fromartz: Atlantic’s Caitlin Flanagan Blames Arugula for California’s Failing Schools
- Chef Kurt Michael Friese’s response was probably my favorite, in part because I find the contempt for manual labor among the upper classes both incomprehensible and odious.
- And even this morning’s New York Times Food section had a piece on a school in Greenpoint that is poised to build the first edible schoolyard in the New York area.
As someone who comes from a long line of experiential educators, as well as someone who watched a number of very very smart family members struggle with dyslexia (and thrive when given something concrete to do), I think anything that gets kids connecting what they’re learning in the classroom to applications in the real world is a great thing …
Caitlin Flannagan’s latest article at the Atlantic has folks up in arms. We all know I’m not Alice Water’s biggest fan, but I am a big fan of interactive education. Here’s a good rebuttal to Flannagan: REAL Gardens: Why school gardeners reap more than they sow : Super Eco.