Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Upcoming Parent Meeting about School Food!

Current, Prospective and Soon-to-be SFUSD Parents,

Are you interested in learning more about the food in SFUSD schools, and how to improve it? Do you want to see more fresh fruits and vegetables served with school meals? Perhaps you have heard about the food in Berkeley schools and wonder why San Francisco is different? Are you dreaming about locally-grown foods in our cafeterias?

If you answered yes to any of the above, this is your chance to learn about SFUSD’s food program, and discuss options for change.

Please join us for an evening of information, conversation and brainstorming!

Where: Mission High School
3750 18th St. (at Dolores) 94114
Cafeteria, 1st Floor
Accessible by MUNI (J Church; 22, 33 buses)
Parking available via Dolores Street

When: Thursday, May 21, 2009
7pm – 9pm
Light refreshments will be served

To RSVP and for more information, contact:
Lena Brook, Parent, Grattan Elementary
lenabrook@yahoo.com <mailto:lenabrook@yahoo.com>


  1. The meals they serve taste terrible and contain huge amounts of high fructose corn syrup.

  2. Who is putting on this event? SFUSD? PPS? Is there childcare? Is there translation in Chinese and Spanish?

  3. The meals they serve are the best that can be provided given that the program is grossly underfunded by the federal and state government. Could they be better? Of course - but that will take a lot more money.

    Despite running its own deficit, the SFUSD already kicks in over $1 million to help pay for the program; as a parent, I really don't think it is right to ask the district to redirect even more of its scarce education funds to pay for better food. So, where will the additional money come from to help improve the quality of the food?

    Instead of just complaining, come be part of the solution. I have been heading up the movement to improve school food here in SF since 2002; my youngest child graduates next month, and although I will still be active in this movement, I commend Lena and her colleagues for trying to expand the pool of volunteers and bring more people into the tent to work on this issue. If you are an incoming K family, or a family with children in the younger grades, then this is YOUR issue. It is YOUR children who will be eating these meals for many years to come, and if not eating them, then at least sitting in a classroom with other children who are eating them. Do you want your child - and your child's classmates - to be better nourished, so that they can focus and learn to the best of their ability? If so, then please attend the meeting Lena is organizing!

    She is doing her best to arrange for childcare and translation, given that she is just a volunteer parent with no budget to support the meeting; she is NOT a district administrator, nor working on behalf of a CBO with resources. If she can't get those amenities together before May 21st, then I hope those who are able to participate even without translation and childcare will still show up. This is just the first of what is likely to be many, many meetings to identify and work towards additional outside funding for school meals. A good showing at this first meeting will be ample demonstration to SFUSD and other agencies that they should be more forthcoming with providng childcare and translation.

    Really, folks, the school meal situation in SF is at a crisis point, more so than you know. If a new crop of volunteers does not materialize to carry on the work that has been done over the past 7 years, then it would not surprise me in the least to see the district move towards just handing over the program to an outside company like Aramark or Chartwells, who will bring in things far worse (nutritionally) from what is currently being served, moving us farther away from the ideal of scratch cooking with locally grown fresh ingredients (which is what we all want), and instead selling baked flaming hot Cheetos and Gatorade hand over fist to help support the school meals.

    This is your chance to make your voice heard, to get involved in what could well be one of the major children's rights issues of our day - do our children have a right to be offered real food in their government-sponsored school meal program? Or must they continue to be a captive market for government commodities, helping to prop up agribusiness interests based almost exclusively on corn, soy, and crude oil?

    Do you favor a school lunch rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean protein, or are you satisfied with students eating "popcorn chicken" and "potato stars"? Now is the time to speak up, or you will have no one but yourselves to blame for the quality of our school food.

  4. "It is YOUR children who will be eating these meals for many years to come, "

    I wouldn't let my kid eat that crap.

  5. Is this an official Student Nutritional Services event? If so, SFUSD should provide translation.

  6. I have already put Lena in touch with a district person who should be able to provide translation. This is NOT a Student Nutrition Services event; it is not in any way associated with the school district. This is a meeting put together by some parents (not including me) to help bring in other parents to work on getting better food in the schools. I am assisting in a small way to help get the word out about the meeting, but this is Lena's meeting, not mine and certainly not the school district's.

    I too believe that the district should provide translation, however, and am helping to try to get that done.

  7. Thanks Dana for summarizing the info about this meeting.

    First and foremost, one of my personal motivations for spearheading this effort is to get the SFUSD and frankly the SF-at-large community beyond the food bashing, complaining and disengaging that is evident on a small scale in the comments here.

    My hope is to provide an opportunity for those willing and interested in creating a long-term vision for transforming our school food to coalesce our energy, ingenuity and passion toward change. The current meals are, frankly, both terrible, and the best they can be. And we need as a community must figure out - eventually with the District's support of course - how to get past this. There are many ideas to consider, reference, and create. Perhaps we can even envision a school food program that views food as a classroom that shapes children for life, that values curricular, experiential and dietary connections. But the first step is to provide a venue for these dialogues and that is what May 21st is about.

    As Dana made clear, this is NOT a District-sponsored meeting. This is a grassroots, community meeting and as such, we are doing the best we can to accommodate everyone's participation. Childcare can be set up if needed - please let me know - but again, we are operating without a budget at this point and starting with a bare bones process.

    In terms of translation, I have requests into SFUSD, SFUSD School Health Programs and SF School Volunteers. There are individuals and organizations in a holding pattern of sorts waiting for this to be sorted out before doing higher level outreach to the Latino and Chinese communities. If any of you are capable of acting as lay interpreters, I would most welcome your participation.

  8. There's a really interesting podcast by the Commonwealth Club that talks quite a bit about school food (along with all sorts of info about the hungry). It was a wake-up call for me.

    Anyway - it's free on iTunes - the title is A New National Food Policy – But What About the Hungry? It was posted on 5/6/9.

    A.G. Kawamura, Secretary, California Department of Food and Agriculture
    Paula Jones, Director of Food Systems, San Francisco Department of Public Health
    Paul Ash, Executive Director, San Francisco Food Bank
    Michael Dimock, Executive Director, Roots of Change
    Amy Sherman, Food Blogger – Moderator
    Michael Pollan, Alice Waters and other food activists have advocated for radical changes in U.S. food policy. But those changes could have a surprising impact on people living in poverty. According to the San Francisco Food Bank, 150,000 people in San Francisco (including one in every four children) are unsure where their next meal is coming from. This panel will examine the future of food in our city, state and country and the impact reforms may have on the hungry. How can we create a food system that is good, clean and fair for all?
    This program was recorded in front of a live audience on April 23, 2009

  9. I really appreciate the efforts of those of you who have gotten involved in this issue. My son chooses the school lunch 3-4 days per week, and I am grateful that he gets fresh fruit every day, access to a salad bar, and healthier main courses than I had when I was a kid. Obviously, we have a long way to go, but given the funding crunch you all have done a tremendous amount.

  10. Just a heads up to say that we have found a Spanish translator for the 5/21 meeting who is providing the service on a volunteer basis. So please spread the word!

  11. This is slightly off point but I wanted to comment about one method of improving kid's nutrition that I think is working wonders. My third-grade SFUSD public school son was the pickiest eater in the world with a terrible fondness for the junkiest food in the world until ---his state-funded Excel after school program instituted "cooking classes." Suddenly my kid wanted to eat sushi, curry, and SALADS!!! This is a child for whom no natural green thing had ever passed his lips before! And he was lecturing me (ME!) about how cake is bad for you. I know that we have terrible budget problems, but I'm wondering whether spreading these types of "cooking classes" (and believe me, it is not that fancy) throughout the public schools to be incorporated into regular classtime would not be a relatively low-cost way to have a HUGE impact in improving nutrition standards in schools. What do you all think?

  12. Thank you Lena for taking this on. This is a such a big job, but so important. Dana has been working tirelessly on this for years and years, and things have improved a lot. If some parents can get things moving to get some outside funding then things could continue in the right direction.

    Does anyone know the status of the School Lunch program renewal in Congress? I wrote to my congress people a few months back but haven't heard anything about it recently.

  13. I wanted to respond to the last couple of comments together.

    First, in terms of cooking classes... You make a great point! The positive impact of growing and cooking food on children's eating habits is profound, well-researched and the underlying theory behind most garden-based education these days. The trick is to connect this to what kids experience in school cafeterias! It would also be amazing to develop cooking classes in more and more schools over time.

    In terms of Congressional reauthorization of the National School Lunch program, the process is underway in the Senate and likely to be in the House come fall. We will see what comes out of it - probably a few good things for sure - but we are not expecting a comprehensive shift away from current policy.

  14. I know this isn't related to the nutritional content of food per se... but why do so many schools serve lunch before recess?

    It is my understanding that schools who have switched the order and let the kids play *before* eating are finding that the children end up eating better and are more focused and settled when they return to the classroom.

    Sounds like this is a key learning and best practice.

    WHy aren't other following suit?

  15. Which schools do recess first, lunch later?

  16. I believe Hillcrest does (Stephanie, are you reading this and is that right?). Hillcrest has pioneered some good practices lately.

  17. charter School MomMay 21, 2009 at 12:58 PM

    Creative Arts has lunch after recess.

  18. No, Hillcrest hasn't yet implemented recess before lunch, although it's being discussed.

  19. What about Miraloma?

  20. Starr King has lunch after recess.

  21. My Kindergarten students cook at least once a week, and it's actually not that inexpensive, even when we use things from the garden. Or it may just feel expensive to me since I am the primary funding source!

    It is also extremely fun, academic, social, confidence-building, nutritional, and messy - so it's worth it. However, if you're interested in a robust cooking program, consider offering financial/grant-writing/volunteer support if possible. The more adults in the room, the more the kids can do (since it's easier to supervise them and to get things done in time to feast together).

  22. When my son was in fifth grade I had a cooking group once a week that the kids rotated through. The food we cooked was related in some way to the curriculum. (I remember doing shepherd's pie for some reason!) It was really fun, but a lot of work. I also made latkes at Hanukkah in my kids' classes every year when they were in elementary school. I have that down to a science.

  23. Over 60 parents, youth and SFUSD staff (but mostly parents) participated in our meeting last night and brought with them palpable energy, passion and dedication for the issue of school food.

    The foundation for something special was built last night. I hope that many of you will join in as this effort develops.

    A list serve is in the works and will be posted here once set up.

    Thanks so much to all of you who gave up a Thursday to learn, brainstorm and contribute.

  24. Miraloma does recess before lunch, and in my opinion it makes a huge difference. The kids are excited to get out and run around at recess -- so they're amped up after being in class. Then, after that, they are able to sit and eat their lunch more calmly. They only get 20 minutes to eat lunch, so it's really important that they are focused and eat during that time. Then, our K class goes back to the classroom for "rest and read" after lunch. They have about 10 minutes of quiet time where they can either look at books in the classroom's book center, or just rest on the rug. Overall, I think this flow at Miraloma -- recess, lunch, rest -- works really well!

  25. If your kitchen has space and you have the patience, I think it's great to cook with your kids at home. I found it helpful to start with sugar cookies that kids can cut and decorate with colored sugar. Not nutritionally ideal but the fun of cutting and decorating and the appeal of the fat and sugar to young palates drew them into the kitchen. Now we cook dinner together often, things like souffles and spaghetti and meatballs. My six year old calls our time in the kitchen after school his cooking lessons.

  26. A new Yahoo Group called SFUSD FoodFuture is available for those interesting in communicating more about SFUSD school food issues:

    check out http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SFUSDfoodfuture/ and please join!

  27. Kate has abandoned her blog.

  28. I would have to agree with the above comment. Hey, on other news, did anyone check out the new "Matrix" chart that SFUSD put up on its website? It shows how schools are performing in a grid with two axis's. The ensuing chart is a little confusing, but it is kind of interesting to see how the schools stack up with each other.

  29. ^ link, please. I can't find it.

  30. Here's the link: http://portal.sfusd.edu/apps/home/strategicplan/sfusd.html

    Hurry it has all the earmarks of something that may not last on their website! That is, something with lots of useful information!

  31. I am totally in love with this Matrix thing, even though I'm not really sure I understand any of it. The coolest thing is that, if you click on the left arrow on the bottom axis, it will do a slide show showing you how each school has gotten better or worse. Check out Creative Arts going down to the bottom left but then rebounding up to the upper right more recently. Kind of like a video game! There's also some way you can compare schools, but damn if it doesn't seem just a tad unclear. Is it just me or is this thing a little nonintuitive?

  32. It IS a little strange. I imagine that the smaller the population of the school, the more they might fluctuate from year to year.

  33. Kate has left the building.

  34. I can assure you that the district is committed to keeping the Matrix up and maintaining it.