Who we are
We are a group of Washington DC based Chef / Parents dedicated to transforming how we feed our children in the school lunch system.
Is to transform school lunches-one school at a time. We will transform their kitchens, engage children and the community in our cooking, connect curriculum and educators in the quest to become a national catalyst for change. Along the way, we hope to support educators and strengthen communities through food.
A bit of history
"It was nearly midnight on a bitter January night in 2010 when a group of Washington's most celebrated chefs assembled around a long table at downtown hotspot Brasserie Beck to debrief one another on their recent House mission. Enlisted by the first lady's office in her war against childhood obesity, each chef had eaten lunch at a D.C. public school. The unanimous verdict was fairly predictable: zero stars." (The Washington Post)
Since then, inspired by the possibility of change, we visited facilities that cater school lunches. The results: shocking. How did we get so far from the food source? Realizing a way to change it: use our skills, become involved, act - as both chefs and parents.
What We Believe
Everyone today believes that we need to fix school lunch and feed our children healthier. So, if so many agree that the system is broken, then why isn't it getting fixed immediately?
Most school food is unhealthy. It's fatty, over-processed and it's making our children sick to the point that this generation may be the first in our nation's history to die at a younger age than their parents.
Why? - Nutrients are missing. Calories are high. Vegetables are low. Additives, preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup are aplenty. The typical lunch is 800 calories worth of mostly frozen processed food. Example: A chicken nugget served in some school lunches has over 23 ingredients.
Why? - Because it's cheaper to add fillers and it lasts longer if we add chemicals.
Why? - Because the less money spent on ingredients, the more money available for profit. As restaurateurs and business owners ourselves, we believe companies have the right to profit - but not at the expense of our children's health.
As chefs, food is our culture. Salt, bacon, butter and the like find it's way in much of our cooking. The idea is to not change food children enjoy. Raw carrot sticks and yogurt is strictly not the cure. We can feed our children pizza, macaroni & cheese, and french fries - but there has to be a balance with other healthy choices and they must contain real, locally sourced, authentic ingredients.
As parents we practice this daily with our own children. In doing so we naturally teach the provenance of food; being able to trace what's on your plate back to its very place of origin - and this helps children learn.
While it is our profession to make food 'taste good', It is also our responsibility as parents to make 'good food'. We can do both - this is why we will succeed.
A Menu Example
One of Chef Ann Cooper's (The Renegade Lunch Lady) meat-and-potato recipes illustrates how to enrich shepherd's pie with "stealth" vegetables. Seventy-five pounds of ground meat are combined with 5 pounds onions, 15 pounds carrots, 5 pounds celery, 10 pounds peas, some tomato paste and beef stock -- then covered with 60 pounds garlic mashed potatoes made with 2 1/2 gallons of 1 percent milk and 20 cloves of garlic. - That's how to upgrade the nutrition of 450 school lunches!
A Garden Example
Bringing healthy, nutritious food into schools can be done. Alice Waters has proved that with her Edible Schoolyard, a project she tackled over a decade ago, along with a willing principal and an engaged staff. They transformed an asphalt jungle into a one-acre farm. A farm that grows fruit, vegetables, grains, flowers…that recycles and composts. Most importantly, it feeds the children —their minds, their souls, and their stomachs.
An Economic Example
Community supported agriculture feeds the people as well as the economy. There's never been a more critical time to support our farming neighbors. With each local food purchase, we ensure that more of our money spent on food goes to the farmer. Buying local food keeps our dollars circulating in our own community and schools.
A Global Example
We limit our consumption of fossil fuels by reducing the distance our food travels. Green areas that farms provide help to recharge our aquifers and cleanse the air.
How We Are Going To Do It
Adopt one school in Washington DC as a model (school adoption in process.) Once we have a working model with measurable results it can then be repeated. As in the 'economy of scale' - bulk items can be purchased and costs can be shared. Until such time we will use our influence in the private sector to pay for funding.
Leverage our collective knowledge, network of chefs and our relationships with food purveyors and farmers.
Demonstrate to adopted school how to change their menu planning and purchasing habits.
Reintroduce an updated home economics course for schools. Many families don't cook, because they just don't know how.
Partner with existing programs that provide school meal improvements to support their grassroots efforts.
Fundraise to foundations and individuals who are supportive of change.