Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Two Angry Moms

I just came back from a little neighborhood screening of Two Angry Moms, a documentary on school lunches. Two moms take a cross-country trip investigating what goes into school lunches and why, and what you can do if you want a better lunch program for your kids.

I send Jasper to school with a packed lunch (except on his cooking class day) and have always planned to do so when he starts elementary school. So does one of the angry moms -- but when she went into her daughter's school one day she found out her daughter had been supplementing her nutritious, home-cooked lunch with junk food purchased in the school cafeteria. As it turns out, as pathetic as the nutritional requirements for school lunches are there are no nutritional requirements for the "value-added" a la carte snacks sold in most schools. In fact, those chips, sodas, and twinkies are actually considered an important revenue source for the school.

Revenue source indeed -- a profitable revenue source for the junk food companies subsidised by parents of school children.

Anway, it's not all gloom and doom. The two angry moms visit some innovative and successful school food programs such as this one in Berkeley (and if you're really interested, you should read Chef Ann's blog). As it turns out, there are resources out there to support food changes in your school, such as the Farm to School program. And I hear there's some sort of similar lunch program at our local elementary school. So I'm feeling excited about the possibilities.

By the way, the Two Angry Moms have declared a National School Lunch-In for next week. Those of you with school-aged kids, here's what you can do:

The Two Angry Moms National School Lunch-In will run from October 15th - 19th. It will be held concurrently with the School Nutrition Association's (SNA) annual National School Lunch Week and follows the USDA guideline suggesting that every parent should go to school and have lunch with their child.

How is the Two Angry Moms National School Lunch-In different? We are asking every angry mom/dad in the country to "do lunch" with their kids that week, to do it with their eyes open and to ask a lot of questions.

While you're there read more than the menu.

Ask to see a list of ingredients for every item in the cafeteria.

Read labels, check out what's in the vending machines.

Don't be fooled by health claims and "low calorie" branding. How much of the food being served is real food and how much of it includes flavorings, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, binders and unpronounceable ingredients?

Find out from your child if this is normal fare or if the school is sprucing things up to make a good impression for your visit.

More tips of what to do/look for while you are visiting for lunch: Kate Adamick - Searching For Food In The School Cafeteria, Better School Food – Lunch In Check List

Ask yourself how healthy you would be if you ate this food as your primary source of nutrition for ten months of the year.

Then ask your school board for a wellness policy that requires real food, not junk! Let us know how your visit goes ( and send us your favorite school food photos ( - we'll post them on our site.


Hevansrich said...

I don't know where the two angry moms are from, but I do know that in the five years we've been a part of the public school system here in So Cal things have changed - my kids (and my husband's where he administrates - different districts) school have never sold supplementary snacks like soda or twinkies - but in the past two years they've really cracked down on parent's bringing in sugar for class parties, kid's birthdays etc. The district sent out a whole new set of guidelines with a detailed list of what is and what is not allowed for kids to bring in (for other kids). I don't know how much of that is federally or locally mandated. Lunches from home have never been addressed. And the only vending machines on campus are for dasini water, it may be different at the Jr. High and High Schools.
I will say I also pack all my kids a lunch every day, because they demand it. One time two years ago my twins wanted to buy lunch tickets for the novelty of it, they didn't even make it through one week before they wanted to bring in their own food from home. But from what i've seen visiting their school at lunchtime, the lunches don't really look that evil. except for one Friday a month, that is Pizza Hut day. And that probably does have to do with revenue for the school in some way. (they also sponser the Book It! program, kids earn pizza hut coupons through reading x-amount of pages) When I take my kids to get that free personal pan pizza with the coupon, I just tell myself its all part of supporting public education.

Lane said...

One mom is from Texas and the other is from Westchester Cty, which is interesting in of itself.

Vending machines aren't allowed in New York City public schools, either... except those owned by Snapple. But they suck, too, because they put high frutcose corn syrup in everything.

That's funny about your the birthday parties, though. The mom from Westchester has been labeled as "that lady who'd gonna outlaw cupcakes for birthdays" and so she made a point of saying she's all for cupcakes for birthdays -- as long as they're freshly made with real butter and sugar instead of a bunch of chemicals in some factory.

Hevansrich said...

Hey - saturday morning here and I just heard the two angry moms interviewed on KCRW's Good Food with Evan Kleiman. I don't know if this show is on NRP all over or just locally - but i listened a bit more closely now being familiar with them from your post! Good for them and good for you for joining in and becoming one of the vital 2 million angry moms.....

Luisa Perkins said...

I've always packed all of our kids' lunches. My kids aren't interested in what the cafeteria has to offer, but it seems to me that one solution to the problem of kids buying junk food is not to let them take any money to school.

Anne Bradshaw said...

Like Luisa, our children always took packed lunches so avoided the junk. Mind you, there wasn't too much junk on offer in England back then. But some kids loaded plates with chips (French fries) and not much else. Not good. I love the swing toward healthy eating in schools.