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« Oregon Helps: One Stop Info for State Assistance | Main | All-Day Kindergarten Bill in Salem: Speak Up, Mamas! »

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AMY

Kinda ironic that I read in The O last week that the head of PPS Food Service got an award for her promotion of "healthy, local food" and banning sale of candy and soda in PPS cafeterias. The award was given by a group of the big food companies. (I could not find it online to get you the link...)

LTF

I was amazed at our (non-PPS) childcare center to find out how healthy and alternative our teachers ate based on the tater tots they were serving the kids. Being one of those parents, I HAD to ask about the menu, and it was cost and, in part, chef's choice. A chef with an institutional cooking background that didn't include the kind of food I want my kids to eat. Not an easy battle. Also, some of the USDA regs were crazy, and to have our kids drink soy rather than dairy there had to be a documented allergy. Wow. Complicated issue; I'm just glad that as we near PPS age this issue is getting some serious attention. Hopefully that attention will local, healthy food and fewer tater tots! I know I'll be more pissed when I'm in the thick of it, but honestly I was hoping it was one of those issues that would not be as bad as anticipated. Sounds like wishful thinking!

LTF

Burgerville, anyone? I read on 2/3 in the O that the owner is selling and moving on to share the message (he is way committed to local sources, community). Maybe he can jump into the frey with Cory S.? Mr. Mears sure is a success story with loads of local sourcing relationships!

sarah gilbert

I'm pretty pissed about school food. I'm sorry, but even the school's piddly farm-to-school efforts are not helping. they get *one ingredient each week* from a local farm -- it's beets this month, and I hardly trust our children to help themselves to big platefuls of beets when they could have tater tots and hamburgers (from cows, surely, that stood in their own excrement on a feedlot in the midwest somewhere for all of their short, sad lives). sure, it's largely the stupid governmental standards, but from where I'm sitting, high fat is SO not the issue. no, the issue is that everything is cooked, processed, trucked in from across the country. how much more would it cost to have our schools cooks a few things from scratch? probably not much, and we'd have more control over the stuff.

I've been trying to convince Everett to take his lunch but so far he would rather eat what everyone else is eating -- "it's good." i, however, would rather my children eat locally-grown boiled beans every day than chicken nuggets and "pizza" and the like, all mystery food products. the whole system is screwed up and I don't have any answers except, "scrap it and start from scratch," with the beef, with the whole program.

we need to totally re-evaluate what we consider to be healthy food for our children. we're not just swimming upstream, we're trying to reverse an avalanche of lax health standards. it's time we stopped putting up with it, i say!

Liz

Their excuse is a totally bogus! I was going to school at PSU a couple of years ago and we were attempting to work with PPS to get them to use local and organic foods. We showed them multiple studies in regards to schools that have done this in the past in Colorado and a couple of other states. It has been done for cheaper than the "worse than McDonalds" food and it has several benefits that were not expected. The grades of the school that implemented these organic, locally grown food programs decreased fights, the number of children sent to the principal’s office decreased, and grades went up. Many of the schools that implemented these programs also got rid of all sodas, and vending machines. PPS refused - even after multiple meeting and studies, they simply would not budge. Interesting that they blame it on funding - when that is absolutely untrue!

LTF

Here's a menu! Maybe they should just delete the hamburger icons on the nutrition page?? http://www.pps.k12.or.us/depts/nutrition/lunchcal.php. Anyoen know the outcome/impact of the new-ish Wellness Policy?

andrea

I don't really understand...if one school can do it ( Abernathy Elementary's Scratch Kitchen Programhttp://www.ecotrust.org/news/npr-abernethy_11232006.html ), why can't others?

olivia

The creation of Cory's position this year is largely due to efforts of EcoTrust's Farm to School efforts: http://www.urbanmamas.com/activistas/2007/09/farm-to-school-.html

I think there are things we can do on many levels. The Abernethy Program seems great and seems implementable on the school-by-school basis. I know that Beach was attempting a similar concept called The Edible Garden. I am not familiar with what it takes, but I did read that - although the cost per meal was something like 7 cents cheaper than the state food program - the program required 2 FT people to run it, so lots more labor costs.

There are folks working on the statewide level - and I think those are the Ecotrust efforts. There are folks working on the district level - and I think there is a person at PPS dedicated to that.

I am interested in learning more - what can we do? what is being done?

Shannon

In response to Lisa's contacting PPS about this topic here are some of the basic facts about school meals in Portland Public Schools from an "insiders" point of view...

Yes, PPS Nutrition Services is an award-winning school district food service BECAUSE we are working to change the existing school lunch one step at a time with the available resources.

We are striving to increase the amount of fresh, local and sustainable foods on our menus (true - we are adding only a few foods at a time such as beets, pears, cherry and blackberry cobbler, watermelon, strawberries, salad greens, plums, green beans, local pizza and bread products made from local flour).

PPS school meals are convenient, affordable and balanced to meet the needs and taste preferences of 20,000 picky eaters per day.
We serve 14,000 breakfasts, 20,000 lunches and 1,000 after school "suppers" each day. Students can choose unlimited fresh fruits and vegetables daily.

We do welcome partners from the community especially those who recognize the nature of the challenges inherent in changing a district-wide system of 90 schools. The community partners we have been working with closely over the past three years have helped to advocate for the Cory Schrieber ODA position and PPS will continue working with these partners and with Cory to develop and test new menu items that support local farmers and food producers and also appeal to students.

The Nutrition Services department is operated with a "break-even" budget that must pay for all food service operations by "selling" meals for $2.00 - $2.50 each and receiving federal reimbursement for meals (but no supplemental state or district funds). Only 1.00 to 1.10 of that amount can be spent on food - the rest must cover labor costs including union wages and health benefits, equipment costs, maintenance, and repair. For comparison, one Burgerville hamburger costs $3.50 (a la carte, w/o milk, fruit or veggies).

The Abernethy pilot is not "break-even" and cannot be replicated district-wide. Even though costs have decreased in year three, the lunch cost is still 1.00 higher than the district average. A district-wide expansion would cost a minimum of three million more dollars per year (a low estimate that does not take into account the shortages of trained cooks and the administrative oversight required to monitor whether 90 sites are following school rules and regulations and safe food handling).

We are a committed team of child nutrition professionals working from the inside to improve the school meal system and we welcome advocates who want to partner with us.

How can parents/activists best help? Here are some ideas...
1) Become informed about proposed legislation for the new ODE position that would be helpful for connecting education and agriculture. See Ecotrust website
http://www.ecotrust.org/farmtoschool/
2) The next step would be for the state to begin adding additional funding per meal (in the 7 cent to 25 cent range).
3) Another step would be to increase federal funding (perhaps with strings attached that districts meet higher standards than the current standards)
4) Communicating that the USDA commodity food allotment system needs to be changed to allow more local decision making with the $$$.
5) Communicating that school lunch should be part of the "educational day" integrated with health and wellness curriculum and that funding should be based on providing ALL children with the "educational school meal" (in place of the "adequate school meal" that the current federal budget). This is a vision that requires huge systemic changes nation-wide. The Berkeley Schools' experiments come the closest to this model but the funding is mostly foundation-based fundraising) If school meals were a required part of the education package and meals were funded as a necessary part of the day (like textbooks or curriculum materials) then nutrition services departments would not be in the position of having to sell meals (or snacks and beverages) to students to cover their operating expenses.
6) Communicating that lunch schedules should provide at least 20 minutes of eating time to allow it to be an educational experience.
7) Providing funding for teacher and staff lunches would also create more of a community lunch experience.
8) Having a parent/community volunteer network of Smart Eating coaches (similar to the SMART reading program) could be a way to get students eating more fruits and veggies.
(We do not have the capacity to organize a program of that magnitude at this time)
9) Getting involved in building a wellness team at your local school.
10) Please add to this list with your suggestions... Thanks for taking an interest in this important cause.


k

My child isn't ready for school yet so I'm not faced with this immediately but it does concern me and it's not a new problem. My parents were uber healthy when I was growing up (even moreso now!) and I brought my lunch to school. Oh how I wanted to have a hot lunch like my classmates. That rectangle of pepperoni pizza, tater tots, ketchup as a vegetable, hamburgers. I shudder to think about it now, how I wanted to give up my homemade bread with natural peanut butter sandwich (that I loved), apple and carrot sticks with homemade cookie for a package of Ding Dongs.

I worry that my child will trade her lunch off or toss it in favor of something much less nutritious. Right now it's easy to control her intake but once she's out there without me, I can't force her to make good decisions.

And what of the children who don't have any other options and who aren't, at least, eating healthy at home, if they have food on the table at all? Obesity is a growing and expensive problem and if a child isn't learning about nutrition at home and then comes to school where they are fed garbage, where will they learn healthy eating habits?

I hated gym as a kid. I still think it's a horrible thing to inflict on kids (kids like me anyway) but gym class seems to be a luxury these days and when you add to that a complete dearth of healthy foods for kids to eat, it's easy to see where these kids are headed if they aren't getting activity and healthy food at home.

k

"6) Communicating that lunch schedules should provide at least 20 minutes of eating time to allow it to be an educational experience."

This isn't one I think of typically when eating in a healthy manner but kids should not be taught that shoveling their lunch down their gullets in less than 20 minutes is acceptable. Eating too fast is another cause of obesity, as well as, a number of other health issues. I'm actually surprised that we don't have multiple choking incidents given the propensity of children not to chew properly.

LTF

A BIG thanks to PPS Nutrition services for taking the time to dialog with us! In just a week I have learned a ton. Anyone see an entree for a partnership? See a particular item on Shannon's (or your own!) list that you'd like to work on? Exploring/partnering with the other groups already working on this seems a great way to start. Any ideas on how to jump in, mamas? I have limited experience with the USDA guidelines - and how they don't match my own! But I've got a lot to learn...

HERE'S AN IDEA: maybe we should challenge the school board (and anyone else you think is a good idea? the leg? city council? the mayor?) to eat lunch for a week on $1, like the Gov and his wife dd for a week a while back. i was SO impressed when they did that, and it got a LOT of attention. Anyone willing? I can eat for $3 from Walgreen's, $4 for a pretty crappy egg salad sandwich downtown. But $1? Even a bag of lunch potato chips is $1.25.

while I love consciousness raising PR stunts like this (oh do I!), I think it is critically important to create positive partnerships. The nutrition staff has a tough job, and the district only has so much money. Thoughts???

Sheryl

Was anyone in PPS (or any public school, for that matter) when the Reagan Administration deemed catsup a "vegetable"?

Anyway...

Regarding the 20 minutes to eat.....that, I agree is not enough time, but it's really even less than that. At my daughter's PPS elementary, they get 20 minutes TOTAL in the lunchroom....that includes the time that it takes for the kids to get through the hot lunch line. Which can sometimes eat up 10 or more of those minutes.

I have the world's slowest eater. It was worse when she was at the age when she was losing baby teeth constantly. I was, at her request, letting her eat school lunch daily (why....blind eye? ignorance is bliss?) until she told me that she was never able to finish because of the long lunch lines.

Now it's home-packed lunch every day. If she has anything left from her lunch, she eats it at her after school program snack time. She seems to be in a much better mental place when I pick her up at the end of the day, and doesn't beg me to feed her dinner the second I pick her up at 5pm.

k

I'd rather see the Governor take that challenge.

While it's great to see the City Council / Mayor take part in activities like lunch for $1/day, the City Council really has no authority over the schools and their funding. PPS and the City are entirely separate entities (same with the County).

Any publicity stunt by a local politician for the schools would really just be publicity for the elected official taking part, much like the Mayor's stint at Jefferson did very little to make a difference for the students. I know that a good lot, if not all, of the students realized it was all about publicity and not really for them.

Sheryl

A couple more randow points:

*My daughter's school of around 500 students has one "cafeteria lady". You would have to multiply her 3 or 4 times in order to serve the types of meals we'd all like our children to have. No arguments that food served at school should be better, but it's just not food cost. Labor cost would go up exponentially.

*I haven't had a problem with my kid tossing her food or trading it off. I involve her in the lunch making. When I've let her pack both of our lunches without my input or supervision, they pretty much mirror what I would have packed. We really try to think outside the sandwhich "box."

*She will, however, occassionally buy a school meal and eat that in addition to the HUGE lunch I send with her everyday. Or she'll eat breakfast at school in addition to the one she got at home.

*PPS uses a debit card, of sorts, for school meals. Except for milk purchases, our PPS does not accept cash in the lunchroom. If you don't want your kid to buy the school lunch, don't fund their account.

*My daughter is a competitive swimmer, and we talk a TON about fueling her body properly so that she can perform in school and in the pool and still have enough left to play and GROW. And she's in tune with her body well enough to know when she's had a bad eating day--she feels it. She's only 10, but these are conversations we've been having forever. You have to tie the importance of what they are eating into something they can relate to.

*To K's point....I don't rely on school breakfast and/or lunch. But a lot of kids in PPS (and beyond) do. IT's those kids I worry about.

k

Sheryl -
Thanks for the positive input about your child not trading or tossing her lunch.

I'm definitely giving DD a foundation of taste for good, healthy foods now but it's scary and disheartening when so many moms tell me "you can't control it so you might as well give it to them now". It's great to hear that there's hope! I didn't trade or toss simply because I wasn't a rulebreaker (then) but I can't predict what DD will do yet and I need those positive stories!

Christina

I have heard so much about the Abernethy program and now reading that it costs an extra dollar a meal to produce,is going to take something to bring it district-wide. I think Portland is going to have to put their pocketbook to use. What about donating a dollar to a non-profit food foundation each time you shop at New Seasons or go out to a local restarant. I'm sure Cory can get his foodie connections to support something like this. I am afraid if we wait for Salem or Washington to help fund this it will not happen. I understand the larger philosophical argument of the governement having a moral need to provide safe, healthy and sustainable lunches. I'm just not ready to wait for it.

KMat

We tend to use school lunch as a backup--you know, when I have forgotten to buy lunch stuff to pack, or I'm just too tired/sick/lazy to make a lunch. To date, we are averaging about 1 school lunch per week. I prefer my son eats lunches I pack, but I don't want to turn school lunch into the forbidden fruit that he's always dying to have but I never give in to. I mean, once a week...is it really any worse than pizza night at home?

k

I noticed there is an older thread on healthy eating at schools. There aren't a lot of posts on it but in case anyone wants to see what's there, here's the link (sorry, I don't know how to make it an actual link):
http://www.urbanmamas.com/urbanmamas/2007/09/bringing-health.html

catmom

We're not school age yet, but this is bringing back many memories of really sad, crappy school lunches - and this was back in the day, when in theory things should have been better. They weren't. When it comes down to it, this whole system only works if many, many many people throughout it care that a kid has a good lunch.
I remember how much I dreaded opening the little carton of milk. Maybe someone was dumping old milk on the school. Maybe sitting out in those stacked plastic crates on wheels didn't do it any favors. But what I got was often warm, and often sour, and what kills me is I never told my parents! If the hamburger contained unchewable gristle, I never told my parents! It never entered my mind as a kid that I had a right to at least edible, unspoiled food, or that loads of public servants, from the Department of Agriculture to the school board to the cafeteria, should have considered that part of their job. But I think to many of them, meals were just widgets, made of mandated parts, delivered to the widgets in the lunch line.
I know things have changed, but not necessarily for the better. The last time I was in a high school cafeteria (not PPS, but in east county) I was amazed by the giant amount of fast food rubbish being served - and also, as one poster commented, by the giant lines I remember from my youth.
And it also reminded me to thank my parents. For most days of my childhood, they considered it their job to make us a really lovely homemade lunch, with hot soup and cold milk, sometimes a salami sandwich or an incredible pickled tuna fish, sometimes my mother's homemade fruit rollups or granola bars. There wasn't anything prepackaged, and whether it was because they were pretty broke or because they had standards, I don't know. They took a lot of care about it, a lot of pride in it, and even though I sometimes feel like a freak because I never had a Hostess product until I was in college, I am just overcome with love and gratitude every single time I think about it now. Especially now, when I realize how precious every second is when children are sleeping.

anon.2

I can't get past the whole "less than 20 minutes to quickly gobble down your lunch" bit... That sounds awful enough in & of itself.

sarah

just read this in the organic consumers association newsletter... thought the part about school lunch program would disgust and fit in with this discussion...


WEB VIDEO OF THE WEEK:
SHOCKING VIDEO THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR DIET - If you still need motivation to get factory slaughtered meat out of your diet, please watch this new investigative piece on business as usual in a slaughterhouse. Diseased cattle are being inhumanely fed into the National School Lunch Program. Denial doesn't make it go away. Boycotting factory farm meat can make a difference.
Beef: http://youtube.com/watch?v=zhlhSQ5z4V4
Poultry: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Mkgz2iuMpw&NR=1

LTF

No funds...yet! So bad and good news, I think. Nothing ever happens fast!! A summary from my Rep, Ben Cannon:

Farms to Schools Program (House Bill 3601): Funding was not set aside for a position at the Department of Education to work with Corey Schreiber (former Wildwood executive chef and notorious local foods proponent) at the Department of Agriculture. However, the bill passed unanimously, the position is in law, and this means that the funding will likely be found for the next biennium.

k

April 2008's Portland Monthly has an article on p. 56 called "Remedial Eating" featuring Cory Schreiber talking about school lunches if anyone is interested. It's just a page long but it's there.

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