Sarah Wu went rogue in her school, eating school lunch every day, photographing it, and blogging about it at night, uncovering the ghastly daily diet of many of our nation’s school children.
Sarah W started the Fed Up with Lunch blog after eating school lunch one day at her school. She was struggling to get her non compliant toddler son (who hasn’t been there) ready for daycare, and she ran out of time to make her own lunch.
“The bagel dog (a hot dog encased in soggy dough) came in a plastic package. Tough on the outside and mushy on the inside, it was like no bagel I had ever tasted. The hot dog was bland, not juicy. The tater tots (which counted as that day’s federally mandated vegetable) were pale and wilted in my mouth. Instead of a piece of fresh fruit, like a crunchy apple I would have packed if I had time that day, I was given a few cubes of pear, suspended in bright red Jell-O.”
When she realized this was the food that was being fed to her students, primarily kids living in poverty, and kids with special needs such as autism, she got mad. She knew that eating right is critical for learning, development, and overall wellness. So she decided to eat school lunch every day for a year and blog about it. What resulted is shocking photos of what most kids are eating in today’s large, urban school systems– and meaningful suggestions for parents, teachers, teens and health advocates to change it.
In her new book, Fed Up with Lunch: How One Anonymous Teacher Revealed the Truth about School Lunches– And How We Can Change Them, she chronicles the challenges facing students in her school district– second language learners, parents working several jobs, and how crucial food is to their education and growing bodies.
She showcases the filth they eat on a daily basis, such as chicken nuggets made of what she calls “chicken foam” which contains less than 50 percent chicken. And that more than 90 percent of food brought into cafeterias is frozen.
Sarah comments on the colossal packaging waste this kind of eating creates. Endless miles of plastic packaging, mountains of plastic utensils, piles of waxed cardboard, all destined for landfills– it is a disgrace, without even considering the terrible health and educational effects of eating this kind of diet.
One of Sarah’s most compelling points is that countries with far fewer resources are able to feed their kids whole foods cooked in school. She’s had guest bloggers from Japan, who feed their school children whitefish, sushi and rice dumplings; Koreans who make seaweed and tofu soup; and Croatians serving barley soup and bacon pate. These menus show the cultural preferences of a region. If they can do it, so can we.
One issue I’ve written about frequently here and in my book, Why Great Teachers Quit, is the loss of recess time for children. Many schools have eliminated or lessened recess time for students, even while all the research shows that recess benefits kids emotionally, academically, and physically by leaps and bounds.
The most important part of this book, I think, is “Mrs. Q’s Guide to Quiet Revolution: An Action and Resource Guide.” This handy section is written specifically for parents, teachers, kids, teens, chefs and nutritionists, with clear action steps for how to get involved and work to improve school lunches nationwide. This is a complex problem, as this book (and others) have described. It will take all of us working together, locally and nationally, to change the pattern of injustice to our children with what our schools are feeding them.
Thanks to Sarah Wu for shining a light on this critical problem, and empowering people to take action to make school lunches healthy, benefiting our kids and communities for years to come.
So, I want to know what is happening at your child’s school. What are the school lunches like? Have they made any recent improvements? I’d love to hear about your experience, any successes or challenges, or ideas for reform.