Sometimes I live in a bubble. A bubble where sixth, seventh, and eighth grade boys viciously attack a salad bar, a bubble where the chef and faculty work in harmonious efficiencies to prepare for the up coming school garden where the kids will learn about growing herbs, squashes, take great pride in it, and then allow the cooks to use it in the meals they prepare.
And then the bubble pops and I read about how difficult it is to get salad bars into schools, how peas (and green beans!) won’t count as green vegetables by the government, how big potato lobbyist are attacking the USDA because they want to reduce the amount of starch in school meals… and the list goes on. We are often failing to see the bigger picture of health in this country.
Everyday in school food there is a struggle. Whether it’s the above ridiculousness of big ag, or kids missing breakfast because Mom works 7097890902478 jobs and slept 10 minutes over her alarm, or the faculty is not willing to get behind the chef’s food, or tensions occur in food costs because the cost of wheat is going up globally….everyday there is a struggle of some kind. That’s life, right?!
But every once in while you get a glimpse of hope that progress is being made; that we really are getting more kids to eat better, that we are increasing time spent cooking with students and their families, and that maybe, just maybe, we are making food a bigger part of people’s lives. Last week I got hit with a lot of hope and I wanted to share it with you.
I plan the school menus about one month ahead of time. This ensures the requirements are met, planning for seasonal produce can be ordered and planned for, vacations and field trips are scheduled, and of course, so the menus can be checked to ensure we meet government reimburse regulations. In planning for April’s menus I met with my lead contact at the school (we meet each month) to access what the kids are eating, why they eat it, and what new items we should try. It’s the most interesting part of my job; food anthropology.
Pupusas. “Can you make pupusas for us?” Faculty member asks me.
“Can you give me your recipe?” I said.
“Si,” she says.
And just like that, the food service handler/ part time teacher/ and part time staff supervisor at one school tells me about how her mother made pupusas growing up and how she was going to begin a monthly cooking club at school. I left the meeting calm, happy, and with a recipe in my hand that conveyed so much to someone. I was glowing knowing that the more I spoke to people one on one about food and it’s importance in their lives, the more they wanted to talk more about it too.
Food connects us all. And on days when bureaucracy, red tape, and personalities get in the way, it’s imperative to relish days like this one. These are the days when we see the light at the end of the tunnel and realize how delicious good health can be.