"A group of prominent Washington, D.C.-area restaurant chefs has volunteered to introduce a novel concept in school-food service to one Capitol Hill elementary school: collaborating with parents to take over kitchen operations on a nonprofit basis, replacing the prepackaged, reheated factory meals that Tyler Elementary kids currently eat with food cooked from scratch, served on real plates with real cutlery.
Led by Cathal Armstrong, chef and owner of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Va., the group would undo the historically knotty issue of school food finances by putting parents to work in the cafeteria as volunteers, and using the savings in labor to buy better food, much of it from local growers.
... Armstrong['s] involvement with Tyler Elementary stems from a meeting last year with White House assistant chef and food advisory Sam Kass. Last October, Kass provided chefs with a list of local schools to visit and urged them to find a way to get involved in improving school food. Armstrong was assigned to Tyler Elementary at 1001 G Street SE, an economically diverse school with 300 students, 81 percent black and 12 percent white. Sixty percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price meals in the federally subsidized meal program.
Armstrong said he was alarmed by the food he saw being served at the school by the school system's contracted food service provider, Chartwells. "It was just awful stuff," he said. In January, he met with other chefs at Brasserie Beck, where he reportedly said, "What we are feeding our children is an outrage. We should be marching with picket signs and pitchforks in revolution." Armstrong subsequently formed a non-profit corporation -- Chefs as Parents -- to fund and operate a school venture.
Among the group's goals: "Get rid of all processed foods filled with preservatives, additives, food coloring, and other chemicals. Find local farmers, ranchers and dairies from which to buy directly. Find foods that are at their peak of ripeness," as well as "organic or sustainably produced to the maximum extent possible." And "send positive messages about eating to children and lure them into the kitchen."
... School meals have always been hamstrung by poor financing. The federal government currently provides $2.68 to the schools to offer a fully subsidized school lunch, but most of that goes to pay for labor and overhead, leaving only about $1 for meal ingredients. As a result, many schools don't actually cook at all, but rely on reheating cheap, industrially processed convenience foods -- those famous chicken nuggets and tater tots -- for their cafeteria menus.
Health education is part of the proposal, too. The meal program will work with "nutrition professionals to address the larger issues at hand caused by type-2 diabetes and childhood obesity, as well as linking food and meals with behavioral and other issues." - Article from www.grist.com