I got so jacked up when Jamie Oliver’s first season of Food Revolution was on last year. I had such high hopes for the outcome of his visit to Huntington, VA. Although he didn’t achieve his desired goal of changing the food in the schools of this city, he did make a lasting impression and changed the lives of many people who live there.
Jamie spent years in his home country of Britain changing the way schools fed their children. He has most recently been working with L.A. Unified School District – the nation’s second largest school districts – trying to revamp the school lunch program there for the second season of his show.
See clips from last season and previews here. The new season will start on Tuesday, April 12th.
Here are some of the highlights from last season in Huntington, WV: I love how Rhonda McCoy, director of Food Services, says that they don’t want to eliminate the sugary milk because kids won’t drink it without. If you remember back to just how bird-brained this woman is, she’s the one who told Jamie one day at the school that there weren’t enough vegetables being served that day (even though he and the staff carefully prepared and weighed all the vegetables to make sure there was the recommended amount), and said to add french fries because they are considered a vegetable (fried in rancid vegetable oil…YUCCKKKHHH!).
She’s also the one who said that things weren’t working out because the kids weren’t eating the food, and that if Jamie wanted the program to continue, he would have to do “a lot better than what he’s shown us in the first couple days.” Showing her complete aversion to a program that serves children healthy food, and the fact that she wasn’t even willing to give it time – which, with anything like this, time has to be given in order to instill good habits in children who have been used to eating junk for so many years. It’s not going to happen overnight. Jamie firmly impressed that we should give the kids what we should give them, and they’ll get used to it. Go Jamie!
My thoughts about the school lunch program
For many years I’ve been active and vocal about school lunch reform. I spent over a year in my own city spearheading an effort to change the school lunch program in my son’s district. We brought the film Two Angry Moms to our city. Then we went back to home schooling for a year and my efforts on that project stopped. Since then, even with the efforts of other parents, nothing has changed. Now my son attends a public charter school and there is no lunch program. I’m a co-chair of our lunch committee and we’ve spent our time on various measures to help the families of our school be more aware of sending healthy, nutrient-dense foods with their children for lunch. Last fall, we had two holistic health counselors come and give classes for the parents to help teach them some simple ways to prepare nutritious foods that will give their kids the support they need while growing and learning.
I see some of the obstacles to improving school lunch (besides the huge piles of government bureaucracy about funds and “standards” created by the USDA about fat content) being the fact that most of the staff in the schools are incredibly rigid about the changes Jamie wants to make. They have done things a certain way for so long, they just don’t want to make the needed changes – whether it’s because it takes to long to prepare something or it’s just something they are completely unfamiliar with how to prepare.
I have to say, cooking has always been a challenge for me. I’m still nowhere as proficient at it as I’d like to be and feel like a total novice. And yet, I prepare just about everything in our house from scratch that I possibly can. I’m certainly no master at traditional foods like fermenting or culturing vegetables or sourdough breads, and I’m not great at trying new recipes or procedures that are new to me. But I still make all our meals from scratch.
As one example, we’ve started making all our beans from scratch by soaking them at least overnight (sometimes longer) in filtered water and apple cider vinegar, and then cooking them and adding lard to make authentic, traditional refried beans. If you make large batches up at a time, you can freeze and use later. We also make all our stocks and bone broths from scratch. When I have enough raw milk, I make my own home-made yogurt. With a little planning, practice, and preparation, anyone can do simple things like this to improve the food they eat for themselves and their families.
What can you do to improve the quality of your child’s school lunch program?
- Get involved. Parents who make their voices heard cannot be ignored!
- If your child attends a public school, send your child healthy lunches every day.
- Use fresh, real ingredients and avoid processed, prepared, canned, and jarred foods. Use leftovers from last night’s dinner in a thermos or hot pack, send fresh meats, seafood, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, organ meats, whole milk yogurt, almond butter, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other whole foods
- Go organic or sustainable, if possible.
- Avoid processed, industrial meats, eggs, cheese, and fats like canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil (check labels). Do use traditional, healthy fats in your cooking and with your children’s meals like butter, lard, tallow, olive oil, and coconut oil.
How does healthy food support your child’s health?
Your child’s growing brain, nervous and immune systems, and whole body need nutrient-dense foods found in healthy fats and proteins to be successful in his or her future.
The USDA Food Pyramid recommends limiting calories and fats, and eat more grains. But this advice is actually counter to the foundations of health. Grains are not easily absorbed by the digestive tract, making the nutrients in these foods hard for the body to use. And, consumption of grains can actually lead to the loss of nutrients in the body (including the bones, where critical nutrients like minerals like calcium, zinc, and iron are stored).
Nutrients from fats and proteins are easily assimilated in the body and contain more of what children need for energy and growth, and foods containing fats are some of the most nutrient-dense available. Since fat is more nutrient dense and provides the necessary energy in the most efficient way, why are we not taught that these are the foods which are the most important foundational elements of our modern diets? People all over the world for thousands of years have eaten traditional fats for health and survival, and our children should too.
Vegetables are important for children, but they are seldom prepared in a way that can be most easily digested. Vegetables contain nutrients that should be accompanied by fat-soluble vitamins from animal foods for absoption, which is why serving salads with healthy fats like olive oil and vinegar or steamed vegetables with butter is so important, and makes them especially delicious.
Sign Jamie’s petition and join the revolution in your community!
This post is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival