Monday, November 8, 2010

Big Lunch

I went to an LAUSD meeting this afternoon about school breakfasts and lunches.

Dennis Barrett, head of the Food Services Division, was there along with the head chef, Mark Baida. Mr. Barrett covered some of the highlights of a document he distributed, the "2010 Strategic Performance Review."

There were some amazing statistics in Mr. Barrett's talk and in the document:

12,000 LAUSD students are homeless

That's 12,000.


168,000 receive food benefits of some kind
80% of the students receive free or reduced meals.

LAUSD served 122,000,000 meals last year for $89,000,000.

LAUSD Food Division has reduced the use of salt, sugar, and fat and increased the number of fresh fruits and vegetables served. 90% of the fruits and vegetables come from California, most from within 200 miles.

What concerned me most was that 96% of secondary schools do not allow their students 20 minutes to eat, in fact, some students do not have time to eat at all, relying instead on a black market of junk food and food carts. For many of the students, lunch is the most substantial meal of their day - and they are missing it.

What concerned the other parents was flavored milk - strawberry and chocolate, which I agree is unnecessary but was absolute anathema to them. They kept bringing it up, harping on the number of grams of sugar.

When reminded that this wasn't a menu meeting and that the milk issue had to be addressed at a board meeting, one woman practically yelled that she would keep bringing it up until there was no more strawberry or chocolate milk.

What was the next burning concern? Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution and how LAUSD was making a big mistake not letting this wonderful man help our children.

He may be wonderful - I don't know. I watched one or two of his shows in West Virginia and found them contrived and emotionally exploitive. I felt embarrassed to hear the parents fawn over a celebrity, as if he were the only answer to the district's problems.

I couldn't stay after that. I was really embarrassed.

I love the food movement and believe it has great potential to change lives. That's why I went to the meeting. But more and more I have to wonder. All I ever see are white people at these events, and on the rare occasion when there is a person of color you can bet he or she will be front and center in a photo on the blog.

To live up to its potential the food movement has to resist getting bogged down in issues of flavored milk when kids in the schools are going hungry. For too many children in LAUSD, the choice between strawberry or chocolate milk is the kind of problem you want to have.

1 comment:

  1. The LAUSD has said "thanks, but no thanks" to the offer to be part of the reality TV show: "Due to these budgetary challenges, participation in the 'Food Revolution' program would prevent us from committing 100% of our efforts to our students." This seems reasonable given the enormous challenges and increasingly constrained resources the LAUSD faces. There remains lot of opportunities for people interested in reforming nutrition - hopefully in a more grounded, day-to-day approach. Personally my taste in celebrities leans more a bit more towards Jamie Kennedy...