Friday, February 25, 2011

Jamie Oliver Needs Our Help

For those of you following the school lunch revolution, you might have heard that the Food Revolution television show and Jamie Oliver were recently kicked out of the Los Angeles Unified School District. We certainly applaud Jamie's efforts and passion to shine a spotlight on the state of school lunches in this country, but we have to admit that he's sadly uninformed about the USDA National School Lunch Program, and the requirements that have to be met for reimbursement.

One example of this is when Jamie tried to remove chocolate milk from the cafeteria. The lunch ladies insisted that they had to have the chocolate milk to get reimbursed. If Jamie had only known that instead of offering plain milk and chocolate milk he could have offered whole milk and 1% milk, the reimbursement problem would have been solved, and he would have avoided serving the chocolate milk.

That's why we think Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution show need the help of Organic Fresh Fingers. In the past four years, we've hurdled every reimbursement requirement of the USDA National School Lunch Program while still serving healthy, local, fresh and organic lunches to kids. Our schools don't serve chocolate milk because we know what the requirements are. We learned pretty quick that in order to get into the school lunch arena, you've got to know the rules of the game.

So Jamie, give us a call. We'd be happy to offer our knowledge and real-life experience in the fight to give children healthier food in schools!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Problem with "Healthier" School Lunches

We all know that school lunch needs to change. With the recent legislation of the new Child Nutrition Act in December, schools are required to change their school lunch offerings to a traditional food based approach. Currently, most are using the "enhanced nutrient based approach," which essentially means that vitamins, minerals and nutrients can be added to the food after processing. The traditional food based approach doesn't allow for adding nutrients back in - it has to come from directly from the natural food.

This new approach creates quite a problem as schools struggle to adjust to the new requirements they are expected to meet at the beginning of the next school year. Many providers of school lunch are simply unable, currently, to meet these requirements. This has led to schools trying to serve "healthier" school lunches which taste and look worse than the processed junk food that is currently being served.

For example, take a look at the description of a Chicago school district's new lunch offerings:
"Complaints arise with the reformulated items, including new pizza products with grainier cardboardy crusts. The same goes for overly tangy and tomatoey red beans with whole wheat pasta; chalky whole wheat macaroni salad; a mixture of beans, cheese and tomato called "enchiladas"; nearly flavorless rice and beans; brown-tinged, formaldehyde scented iceberg salad in a cup; a stiff flour tortilla wrapped around fish sticks named a "fish taco"; canned pears that taste like wet toilet paper and, worst of all, waterlogged and unsalted boiled vegetables.

We all know that kids often reject food just to be difficult, but I'm an adult with a high appreciation for whole grains (even whole wheat pasta), vegetables, beans and salad. If I were served the CPS versions of these foods in a restaurant, I would send them back immediately. At the very least, I would sprinkle the vegetables with a few crystals of salt, but students are not allowed salt and cooks are never allowed to use it on meals made in CPS kitchens. If these were my first tastes of broccoli, zucchini and carrots, I might never want to try them again.

Most students love the fresh fruit --even though one table reported that their apple skins taste like hand sanitizer--which makes it even sadder that each day thousands of students are forced to throw away their whole unbitten fruit if they don't finish it during the 14 minutes of average eating time." - Chicago Tribune, Healthier school lunches make kids, and one adult, cringe.
If only we could get the message out about what Organic Fresh Fingers can offer to these struggling school districts! Not all healthy food has to taste bad. In fact, we currently have 25 entrees in our current rotation that kids love. It's our philosophy that during the most important formative years of a child's life, they should have access to quality, delicious and nutritious food - even at school. It's our mission to make that happen - one school at a time!