Have You Done Your School Lunch Homework?

I’m hanging out with my best nine-year-old friend this week while her mom is on a business trip, so I’ve been making her lunches.  Luckily for me, she eats just like I do—peanut butter sandwich and a snack on the side. Not every kid gets a homemade lunch, and school lunches have become a hot topic, taken up by Michelle Obama, Jamie Oliver, blogs like The School Lunch Project, and a vocal “mommy” political movement.

There’s a lot to keep track of—this website has a good roundup of some of the issues. If you don’t know the difference between the Child Nutrition Act and the National School Lunch Act, check it out.

Welcome to the Jungle, Again

Those who talk about food safety are usually talking about the quality of the food we eat. Those who talk about factory-made food generally focus on the quality of the food the produce and how humanely any animals being processed are treated. Both of these outlooks ignore the factory worker.

From the Dept. of Labor:

Food manufacturing has one of the highest incidences of injury and illness among all industries; seafood product preparation and packaging and dairy product manufacturing have the highest incidence of injury and illness among all food manufacturing industries.


Many production jobs in food manufacturing involve repetitive, physically demanding work. Food manufacturing workers are highly susceptible to repetitive-strain injuries to their hands, wrists, and elbows. This type of injury is especially common in meat- and poultry-processing plants. Production workers often stand for long periods and may be required to lift heavy objects or use cutting, slicing, grinding, and other dangerous tools and machines.

This is another issue we can’t handwave away with the magic organic button. There will always be factories: How can we make them safer for the workers while at the same time improving the quality of the food they produce? I would like to see Jamie Oliver take this on, maybe he can team up with Michael Moore.—Snacktime

Lunchtime Politics

A former school food administrator on Jamie Oliver’s program (thanks LA Foodie for the tip:

The school lunch program is broken and it will take the critical mass of a lot of people saying this isn’t right and demanding change. Nowhere in the Child Nutrition Act is there any requirement for nutritiona education. In my years as a Director I never saw, nor was I asked about nutrition education curriculum. It was, however, a topic of concern and discussion among my peers, we saw the need but no one listened. Today’s parent can’t shoulder this burden by themselves because most likely they didn’t receive much in the way of nutrition education either.

School meal programs are current up for reauthorization and are being actively discussed by Congress. If you’re concerned, outraged or simply want to see change, write to your local representative and state senators. Demand systemic change in the way the program is administered and operated. Demand training, demand nutrition education, but let your elected officials know that how we’re treating our youth of American with the existing program isn’t acceptable to you.

You know what’s better than blogging? Action. Here’s some links that will get you in touch with your Congressional reps.

House of Representatives



PS I wanted to note I queued this up last night before the Jamie Oliver palooza of this morning but I still think it is good reading.

On Jamie Oliver’s New Show

Haven’t watched it, but Melissa at Shakesville has (and has embedded it neatly in her post). But her critique is worth a read. I know he’s doing good things with school lunch programs, but reality TV nearly always brings out the worst in people…

The premiere episode has absolutely zero structural critique, not even a passing comment about the reason that millions of mothers feed their kids processed foods is because it’s cheap and fast, which is a pretty good solution for people who are short on money and time.

Oliver places the responsibility for unhealthful eating exclusively at the feet of the individual, seemingly without concern for the cultural dynamics that inform individual choices. The extent of the explanation provided for why someone might choose to stock their freezer with frozen pizzas is that they’re lazy and/or don’t know any better.

And then he wonders why he isn’t greeted by the citizens of Huntington with open arms.

At the end of the episode, a newspaper article comes out in which Oliver’s evident contempt for the community has been reported. Oliver claims his words were taken out of context; the people with whom he’s been working to revamp elementary school meals don’t believe him—and understandably so, given that he’s been a patronizing ass to them.

In the final scene, Oliver speaks directly to the camera, and he is crying, wiping tears from his eyes as he throws himself a little pity party: 

It’s quite hard to cut through negativity, always. And defensiveness. You know, I’m giving upmassive time that is really compromising my family—because I care! You know, um, the tough thing for me [exhales deeply] is they don’t understand me, ‘cuz they don’t know why I’m here. [sniffs] They don’t even know what I’ve done, the things I’ve done in the last ten years! And I’m just doing it ‘cuz it feels right [sniffs], and when I do things that feels right, magic happens! [sniffs; shakes his head disbelievingly] I’ve done some amazing things, you know? And that’s when I follow my heart. And when I never follow my heart, I always get it wrong. 

Look, I’m gonna be really honest: You do live in an amazing country. You put people on the moon! You live in an amazing country. And so do I, you know? And, right now in time, is a moment where we’re all confused about how brilliant we are and how technically advanced we are, and that is fighting with what once made our countries great, which is family, community, being together, and something honestly as simple as putting a few ingredients together and sitting your family or your friends or your girlfriend or your mother-in-law around that table and breaking bread. And if you think that’s not important, then shame on you!


Also, I mean, come on, her title is “Save me from myself, skinny Jesus chef!” 

-Julia Childless