American Flatbread Flatbread Kitchen
Friday and Saturday November 6 + 7, 1998
Tonight’s menu and baking are dedicated to:
PUBLIC SCHOOL FOOD STUDY #3
THE EVOLUTION OF CINDERELLA CUISINE
The story of Cinderella is a story of beauty and merit gone unrecognized. In too many cases the beauty and merit of the food served in our public schools goes unrecognized. Too infrequently is it a feast for the eyes and a joy to the mouth; too infrequently is its value and role in the health and wellbeing of our children taken seriously. Public School food service functions, for the most part, as an unwanted stepchild within the family of our public educations institutions. Compared to other departments, food service is often marginalized and considered to have a secondary role in the education of our children.
How did this happen? How could food be so thoughtlessly considered?
Schools, of course, didn’t start out being in the food business. That was the work and domain of the family. But families changed. It began in earnest after the war (WWII) but went largely unrecognized until the early sixties when school nurses started to observe symptoms of malnutrition. Recognizing a Public Health crisis in the making, government began feeding kids, and public schools were the convenient institutional delivery vehicle. It basically worked. Because of public school food programs a lot of kids, for the first time in their lives, got enough to eat. The kids grew and they were able to concentrate on their studies because they were not chronically hungry.
Starting some time in the late seventies and accelerating in the eighties, school food programs came under the scrutiny of dietitians and nutritionists who recommended less salt, sugar and calories from fat and more fresh fruits and vegetables. It was another step in the right direction, and generally, school menus became nutritionally more balanced, at least in theory. There are studies that show that what a lot of children actually eat is not so well balanced.
In this decade, competition has permeated almost every aspect of society and school food programs are no exception. Increasingly, these school food programs have been bidded out to professional food providers who see the children they serve as discretionary consumers. The result of this competition has enhanced the role of appearance and taste at the expense of non-sensory and long term qualities such as food integrity. Integrity is the flip face of nutrition. It is food’s other chemistry. Nutrition is the chemistry of minerals, vitamins, calories, proteins, etc. Integrity is the chemistry of pesticides, preservatives, artificial colorants and flavorants. These chemicals are tasteless, odorless and often make food, in the short term, less expensive. And so they are pervasive, and no place more so than in the subsidized, price-is-god world of public school food.
It is a Faustian bargain. Because many of these chemicals are problematic to human health. And children, because of their unique metabolism and long exposure periods are especially susceptible.
Organic food for public schools benefit bake Friday November 20, 5:30-9:30 p.m. Please come.
Thanks for coming tonight.