In a previous article in Grist, announcing the release of the new standards, the author, Ed Bruske, bemoans the fact that the "quality" of the food served to the nation's children seems to still be in question--and possibly not as high a priority as it ought to be. He refers to statements made by Margaret Wooten, director for nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who has been the chief lobbyist in the campaign to pass the new rules. In an interview in The Washington Post, she implied that the "pennies" being thrown at schools to help meet the new standard would be enough and that going for quality is a "foodie" concern. But as Mr. Bruske said in his article,
"But of course the quality of food does matter if you want kids to eat it, and if you’re trying to teach children the difference between real food and the junk they’re exposed to every day.
What Wootan and these guidelines fail to take into account is the growing belief that schools should not merely feed hungry children, but show them there’s another world of food besides the junk food culture they grow up in.
It’s not just a matter of putting calories in kids’ bellies, not when food insecurity and obesity exist side-by-side. This is really a question of social justice for our times. Do the disadvantaged children for whom the subsidized meal program is designed deserve the opportunity to eat the same quality food as children from families who can afford to shop at a farmers market?"
At Farmer Frog, we're on Bruske's side. We believe that everyone deserves healthy and quality food and that it should not just be available to folks who can shop at the high-end stores. Food insecurity is high on our list of priorities to overcome. Eating right starts with access to good food in the first place.
But its more than that. Americans have learned to eat poorly--in part, I believe--because we have had access to too much cheap, unhealthy foods. And many of us are so far removed from knowing what is healthy and how to prepare it that we just don't want to eat better. I am reminded of my recent stay in the in-patient rehab clinic at a major medical center in our region after suffering from a stroke. The food that I was offered at that fine establishment was probably not too far off from the local school lunch. It was heavy on the carbs (and not necessarily healthy ones at that!) and light on fresh fruits and vegetables (in fact, even though it was the beginning of the summer season the only fresh fruit I remember was an apple and "fresh" veggies were represented by very "tired" iceberg lettuce).
One day, not long after I arrived I received a visit from the Nutrition Director for the clinic. She was there to advise me--as I'm sure is standard protocol for patients who have suffered heart attack or stroke even if their stroke (like mine) was not caused by a clot in a clogged artery--on healthier eating habits to help prevent a repeat of the attack. She talked to me about healthy choices (again, making assumptions--this time that I didn't have a clue how to eat!) and handed me a one-page print out of better food choices. At the top of the list were whole grains, legumes, and dark leafy vegetables and yet...not one of these items was ever offered to me or the other patients in that clinic! When I questioned this to one of my PT's later she concurred that it was a conundrum and could only offer that they had to gear their menus to the majority of their patients who were elderly and needed softer, more bland foods.
Truth be told...I believe that the real reason is because those mountains of mashed potatoes and gravy and mystery meats were just cheaper to serve in order to meet some established caloric goal and more likely to be eaten by people who just didn't know any better! I wanted to know where the whole grains and legumes and dark leafy vegetables were that they were touting as healthier for me and why they were not taking advantage of this opportunity to teach people a better way!
That what Farmer Frog aims to do...teach people a better way to eat and give them access to better food they is affordable and healthy for them and the planet. Will you join us?