It’s a challenge making sure that low-income children who get free- and reduced-priced meals during the school year continue to get fed during the summer months.
Government meal programs served 3.8 million children on an average summer day last year — far fewer than the 22 million children who got subsidized meals during the school year.
Now, the Obama administration wants to change that. The president will propose in his 2017 budget next month that families who qualify for subsidized school meals be given a special electronic benefits card that will allow them to buy an additional $45 in groceries per child each month when school is out.
The Inside School Food online radio program, which airs on the Inside School Food website Mondays at 11 AM EST, features discussions with experts about ways to make school lunches healthier and more sustainable. Host Laura Stanley explains, that Inside School Food is a “forum for professionals and advocates working in K-12 food service.”
Past episodes have featured a variety of advocates for better school lunches, including: Dr. Kate Hoy who explained how lunchroom layout and design can influence healthier choices; and Mark Coe of Goodwill Industries in Northern Michigan, described how entrepreneurs, farmers, and FoodCorps members collaborate to bring local produce into cafeterias in Traverse City, Michigan. Other episodes have focused on federal nutrition standards, free and reduced-price meals, and school composting programs.
For years, the U.S. has been funding school lunch programs at a level that pretty much only allows for disgustingness. And that hasn’t changed. But the USDA is now parceling out money to help various pilot programs and projects around the country. On Dec. 2, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack went down to Common Market, a sustainable food hub in Philadelphia, to announce a new round of Farm to School grants (details here).
You can lead a child to vegetables, but can you make her eat them?
A child, for instance, like Salem Tesfaye, a first-grader at Walker-Jones Educational Campus in Washington, D.C. Tesfaye picked up a lunch today that’s full of nutrition: chicken in a whole-wheat wrap, chopped tomatoes and lettuce from local farms, a slice of cantaloupe and milk.
But, she confesses, sometimes she throws her lunch out. I ask her what she did today. “I threw all of it away,” she says softly.
The lunch ladies loved Marshall Matz. For more than 30 years, he worked the halls and back rooms of Washington for the 55,000 dues-paying members of the School Nutrition Association, the men and still mostly women who run America’s school-lunch programs. They weren’t his firm’s biggest clients — that would have been companies like General Mills or Kraft — but Matz, wry and impish even in his late 60s, lavished the lunch ladies with the kind of respect they didn’t always get in school cafeterias. Many of the association’s members considered him a dear colleague. “He would tell everybody: ‘You are a much better lobbyist than I am. You are how we get things done,’ ” said Dorothy Caldwell, who served a term as the association’s president in the early 1990s. “And people liked that.”
In many communities, the local school district is the largest food provider, filling thousands of hungry bellies every day. But trying to feed healthful food to some of the pickiest eaters can result in mountains of wasted food.
Now, many schools are finding that giving kids a say in what they eat can cut down on what ends up in the trash.
At the cost of 25 cents each, school meals are one of the most affordable investments the world can make in its collective future. It’s also one of the smartest. WFP estimates that every dollar invested in school meals yields $3 in economic returns.
School meals don’t just help hungry children either. They improve the lives of entire families and communities by boosting attendance and graduation rates. School meals encourage parents to keep their kids in the classroom by easing the burden of putting food on the table. In developing countries like Somalia, school meals improve gender equality by helping feed girls who would otherwise be forced into marriage or the workforce to feed themselves. When prepared using locally grown food, school meals create a reliable market for small farmers and boost local economies.
School officials and Alaska farmers are raving about a program that’s putting substantial state money toward school meals for the first time, saying the $3 million grant has improved student diets across the state and given challenged growers a reliable market.
School cafeterias from Unalaska to Juneau are suddenly dishing up everything from smoked salmon to crab cakes to halibut fillets. Plans are in the works for more Alaska delights, including bison stew, sweet-potato fish sticks and birch syrup instead of refined sugar.
9-year-old Martha Payne of western Scotland has been documenting the unappealing, poor nutritional meals offered by her public school.
Payne, whose mother is a doctor and father has a small farming property, started blogging in early May and went viral in days. She had a million viewers within a few weeks and 2 million this morning; was written up in Time, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and a number of food blogs; and got support from TV cheflebrity Jamie Oliver, whose series “Jamie’s School Dinners” kicked off school-food reform in England.
Martha was informed recently that she was no longer allowed to bring her camera to school. To hear about what happened next, read on.
9-year old Scottish student Martha Payne found her school lunches lacking– lacking in nutrition, substance, and overall inspiration. So, with the permission of school administrators, Payne began to photograph her lunches with her father’s digital camera and post them to her blog NeverSeconds, along with a rating system she devised, in order to raise awareness about the sub-par meals. Payne is now an international sensation, and proof that viral video culture can carry important stories with profound implications.