Scottish Schoolgirl Campaigns for Better Lunches

I’ve recently heard of 9-year-old Martha Payne’s funny blog, NeverSeconds.

Martha’s a Scottish schoolgirl and she’s on a campaign for better school lunches, and her blog, just two months old, has topped 1 million hits and has been featured in a number of publications (for example, here.)

(courtesy David Payne/Martha Payne)

Martha didn’t happen on her foodie-activism by accident; she lives on a farm where her parents raise sheep and pigs for meat and grow their own vegetables.

When my family and I lived in Scotland–where Martha lives–we were a little bit really appalled by what we saw schoolkids eating. I’m not sure what the deal was, but the schoolkids around us were let out for lunch and snacks and, by all appearances, they lived on chips (french fries), crisps (potato chips), chocolate bars, and ramen noodles.

Children are growing so rapidly, and how well they learn depends so much on how well they’re being fed–they deserve to eat well!

{via Martha’s blog…one of her school meals. Looks a little…sad.}

Browse Change.org for school lunch petitions!

Read more about feeding children well here, here, and here. Oh, and here.

The Food Companies Own You

Did you hear a bit of buzz about potatoes being banned from school lunches and tomato paste on pizza counting as a vegetable?

That was part of Congress’ push-back against new regulations proposed by the Department of Agriculture, which administers the National School Lunch Program.

Instead, Congress wrote a spending bill that has done the following:

~refuses to allow the USDA guidelines to limit starchy vegetables–including corn, potatoes, and peas–to two servings per week. (The goal here was to cut down on french fries, which many schools serve daily.)

~allows the USDA to continue to count two tablespoons of tomato paste as a vegetable, as it does now. The USDA wanted to require that only a half-cup of tomato paste could be considered a vegetable–but that’s much more than goes on pizza.

~requires “further study” on USDA sodium-reduction requirements. (seriously.)

OK. So why would Congress block measures to make school lunches healthier?

Quite simply, because Big Food Companies make big money from processing food. As Lucy Komisar wrote in the New York Times this weekend:

“Schools get the food free; some cook it on site, but more and more pay processors to turn these healthy ingredients into fried chicken nuggets, fruit pastries, pizza and the like. Some $445 million worth of commodities are sent for processing each year, a nearly 50 percent increase since 2006.”

So let’s say a district gets a box of chicken worth $10 for free as part of the USDA commodities program, and it’s up to them to prepare the stuff. Or they can contract with Sodexho, or Aramark, or some other multinational, who gets the free box of chicken and turns it into a box of chicken nuggets that costs over $30. There are big profits to be made in processing.

I think Jamie Oliver said it most clearly on Jimmy Kimmel:

the food companies of America own you…these moron frozen food companies — pizza industry, french-fry industry — have basically bought, bribed, bullied Congress, who have completely let everyone down, into basically making it okay to feed [students] french fries every day.”

Any wonder childhood obesity continues to rise?

And let’s not forget: it’s the poorest kids who most depend on school food for their nutrition.

Our kids deserve better than this.