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Local lunch on Think Out Loud - TODAY!

198913552_1a10c91521 If you can't make the national Farm to Cafeteria conference this weekend in Portland (drats) but are interested in the topic, you can learn what's going on and weigh in on OPB's Think Out Loud today, Friday 3/20 from 9 to 10 AM.  The title of the show is Local Lunch, and here's how they describe the issue:

Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup may not seem like the advance guard of a revolution, but that's exactly what Representative Brian Clem (D-Salem) is hoping for. Along with Rep. Tina Kotek, he's sponsoring House Bill 2800, which would provide up to $19 million in state money for schools that spend some of their federal dollars on Oregon food. What's Oregon food? Anything that was "produced, packaged, packed or processed" in the state. This is where the grilled cheese sandwiches come in.

Portland Public Schools is one of two districts taking part in a Kaiser Permanente-funded pilot program to see what happens when schools are given seven extra cents per meal to spend on local lunches. PPS chose to concentrate those pennies into monthly "local lunches" (grilled Tillamook Cheese sandwiches and Pacific Natural Foods' tomato soup were on offer this week). Gervais Schools decided to spread their grant money around more broadly. According to a recent report, the grant money triggered more in-state spending from the schools' existing coffers: grants of about $66,000 dollars turned into more than $225,000 spent on local products. What's more, argues Clem and other Farm to School supporters, that money in turn will itself have a multiplying effect as it makes its way around the state. The result, they say, will be healthier students, healthier farms, and a healthier economy.

If you can't listen this morning @ 9, you can always catch the rebroadcast tonight.  And of course you can join the conversation online, too - they regularly raise questions on the show that were posted online.

PS - They had another relevant show earlier this week on what books, plays, and other media are appropriate for school, and which are being censored right here in Oregon.  Check it out.


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This was a good show. I was disappointed by the guest from PPS in general. She did not seem very enthusiastic about the program, and sounded like it was a huge burden for PPS, for small benefit.

I was really irritated by her response to Sarah's call, asking if there was something parents could do such as pay more for lunch, to get the plan in their child's school, if parents as a group wanted it. Guest's answer was that they are not hearing from parents that they would pay more for the lunches to get them in the school. To me, she sounds like a staff member who dislikes and doesn't want parent involvement. Somehow I doubt they have polled parents in all the PPS, and written up an estimate of what it would cost and presented it so that parents could make that decision. Sarah obviously wasn't asked. She really doesn't think that parents would pay another $0.27 a lunch? Sarah said she'd pay double. The PPS guest basically put up a wall shutting out parents. Her attitude and response is why parents don't or can't get involved in their kid's schools.

I also thought the point about kitchens needing new equipment was just silly. So what? There are used restaurant equipment places, and it's part of the investment. And why shouldn't kitchen staff have to do a little more than dump something from a can into a steam table? We all grew up with more than that happening in the kitchen. At worst, it would add a few jobs, which at 10% unemployment, would be a good thing. Or they could step it up and maybe have a few students in the kitchen. I peeled potatoes at school for a year. I wonder how much they would save if they bought less processed food, and did more prep work in the kitchen.

thanks keenbeen! I listened to the show again tonight (to see if I sounded halfway intelligent ;) and was disappointed for most of the same reasons you were. yes, it's ok to teach our cafeteria staff how to cook! yes, it's ok to buy equipment to slice and dice and actually *cook* the food! and there must be a way to let parents pay more for good, healthy, seasonal food, without making the lower-income parents pay more. I think the problem is that (as others have mentioned) school food is a commodity with a zillion rules, not a part of the curriculum, and the host herself demonstrated part of the problem when she said something about how, of COURSE, we wouldn't want to substitute food for curriculum. why not? food seems to be a pretty basic part of our education. it's been proven time and time again that good nutritious food (and enough of it) (and not sugar or white flour or trans fats) makes kids perform better in both academics and social skills. and kids of *course* won't want vegetables and fruits if they're the ones that come as part of the commodity program. I've tasted them and they're nasty. broccoli that's been in a refrigerator so long it tastes like refrigerants. cucumber that's slimy and putrid. here kids. eat up!

it's not all the school food peoples' fault, though; there are so many government rules and restrictions. that part about the veggie chili (for those who didn't listen, they switched out a commodity food program beef chili for an oregon-made veggie chili -- but they had to serve it with cheese b/c the government requires a meat, or "meat substitute" i.e. cheese -- with every meal) made me truly sad. if the government didn't subsidize commodity food crops, we'd be able to create something so much more sensible. if... if...

I wish I'd had a chance to comment on the whole question about local vs. whole foods, but I think your comment gets at that; if we're using local foods, it's likely we'll have to do a bit more work to turn them (economically) into lunches and breakfasts, i.e. *cook* them, so we'll end up with more healthy foods. if parents want whole foods, as the system is now: we have to send them in our kids' lunch, further opening the chasm between low-income families and higher-income families. and it's not really income so much as time and resources (in my case, passion and a big yard) that separates us. but it IS our food that separates us. and that's a huge shame. all kids deserve real food.

and can you imagine if we could buy local pinto beans and a huge truckload of carrots and onions and make our own veggie chili? i'll bet we could do even better than that oregon company in price *and* taste. if only they'd let US cook.

Sarah I was really glad that your call was the one that made it on the air because it did bring up such a good point and was so poorly responded to by the PPS representative. I would be combing the schools to find which ones had an evolved lunch program, maybe I will be in a few years when it's my kid getting in somewhere.

And I completely agree with you on this guest saying that of course they don't want to take resources for curriculum for food. I'm with you, of course we do. Much better than some of the gimmicky things I've heard about in the classrooms, and to be honest, I think it's more valuable than a lot of technology. Also she failed to mention that there are schools that do have gardening/harvesting/preparing food as part of the curriculum, right here in Portland and other parts of the country that are conducive. There's a school that brings kids out to a farm to work on Sauvie Island, I can't remember which one.

I think as far as the government subsidizing food crops, we are on the cusp of a movement that might shift what those crops are. But, for now, farms have been heavily investing for years in what the government has told them they would support. So, it would be kind of harsh to all of a sudden tell them that they are no longer supporting that particular crop/commodity. But I could see it shifting gradually somehow, and maybe Oregon's program could be a start and a model. Furthermore, if local farms have such a dedicated huge customer as PPS, they could invest in what they need to produce more and at a more economical cost.

That's a very good point about so many people sending in a lunch with their kids because the food quality is poor, that there aren't enough kids buying to support the subsidy program.

*sigh* not perfect, but definitely a start, and I'm really glad it's even being discussed as a real option. If PPS had someone who was really gung ho and believed in it, it would definitely help. Sarah........

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