Behind the (Lunch)lines: Preparing Cafeteria Food

| 2/25/2010 1:41:33 PM

In February, Barack Obama signed a memorandum to establish a  Task Force on Childhood Obesity , including the launch of  Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign  to address childhood obesity and nutrition. One day earlier, British chef Jamie Oliver won a  2010 TED award , which will help him to launch a cross-industry initiative to fight obesity by educating families about food. This week we will be looking at childhood nutrition by highlighting books and articles that have passed through our library of late. –The Editors 

Cafeteria ChroniclesSchool cafeterias are frightful. Social hierarchies play out at the tables, economic inequality is highlighted in the cashier’s line, and then there is the food. Chef/farmer/blogger Ed Bruske embedded himself in the cafeteria of his daughter’s elementary school and wrote about the experience in a six-part series for Grist. In recent years, H. D. Cooke Elementary (of the D.C. Public School System) has reverted to “fresh cooked” meals:

When I asked to spend time observing the kitchen operation at my daughter’s elementary school, I thought I was going to see people cook. The food service provider for D.C. Public Schools, Chartwell-Thompson, had recently ditched the old method of feeding kids with pre-packaged meals from a food factory and replaced it with something they called “fresh cooked.” Being one of those folks who is trying to return to cooking from scratch with fresh, local ingredients, I was anxious to see how Chartwell’s plan would play out.

Was I ever in for a surprise. As I soon discovered, there wasn’t much “fresh” about the food being served at H.D. Cooke Elementary School. When I passed through the doors of the “Kid’s Stop Cafe,” I walked straight into the maws of the industrial food system, where meals are composed of ingredients out of a food chemist’s lab, where highly processed food is doused with all sorts of additives and preservatives in distant factories, then cooked and shipped frozen so that it can be quickly reheated with minimal skill and placed on a steam table.

Are these really the lessons we want our kids to learn about food?

Source: Grist

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