When I began this blog, part of the intent was to learn more about food and the current issues surrounding it and develop my own opinions and use those opinions to influence my cooking and lifestyle. All that said, Relishments has largely degraded into a demonstration of how many ways there are to use oil, garlic, herbs and canned tomatoes to make lunch (which I did once again today, though I’ll spare you a post). It’s becoming apparent to me that I really need to look into this issue and develop a stance, both as someone who loves food, and as a teacher.
On February 19, Alice Waters and Katrina Heron published an op-ed piece in the NY Times called No Lunch Left Behind. They make a lot of good points, but as a high school educator, I don’t think their plan is going to have all the “magical” consequences they’re hoping for. I do agree that “without healthy food (and cooks and kitchens to prepare it), increased financing [of the current school lunch program] will only create a larger junk-food distribution system,” but I’m unsure if there’s enough locally grown, untreated, unfertilized, fresh foods to supply every child in America with the perfect lunch every day, as Waters and Heron envision.
The column also argues that healthy meals could be created for $5, but that does not include the “one-time investment in real kitchens”, providing students with the education they recommend or new training for cooking staff. I suspect a tab of far more than $27 billion dollars would result, especially in the first few years. I’m also not sure that the long term benefits and savings would be as far-reaching as Waters and Heron hope (though I’d love if they were right). I think school lunch programs can only do so much. The real issue is frequently at home; even if children are educated about good eating habits and given good food at lunch (which may or may not actually taste good), I believe that youth are more influenced by what they see and experience at home than at school; yes, “…parents should be able to rely on the government to contribute to their children’s physical well-being”, but the keyword is contribute.
Finally, I love Ezra Klein’s commentary on The Internet Food Association: “There are things we should do because they should be done. We’re the richest nation in the world. We can do better than feeding our children inventively presented corn syrup fresh from the microwave.” As much as I can be suspicious of Waters and Heron’s proposal, I’m sure that there are improvements that can and should be made to the school lunch program. Changing school lunches is not going to revolutionize American health, as the column seems to envision, but there’s no reason why America shouldn’t make changes where we’re able.
Mouthing Off, from Food and Wine
Alice Waters Proposes New School Lunch Program, from Serious Eats
Anthony Bourdain on Alice Waters, from The Food Section
Alice Waters’s Open Letter to the Obamas, from Gourmet