Lucky for me, I received a copy of Amy Kalafa's Lunch Wars in the mail the day before I left for our huge trip to Yosemite National Park to celebrate my sister-in-law's 40th birthday. We flew into San Jose, rented my husband a boy-toy of his own and high-tailed it to Beale A.F.B., California to visit my childhood home. As we drove closer to our destination, I reminisced about a certain route that my family would take when we traveled back from a day trip to Sacramento - the "back way" through some wide-open spaces and golden fields. So I suggested that we do the same and my husband, great guy that he is, totally humored me.
As we made our way toward Wheatland (can't you just see the golden fields in your head? What a great name, right?) we were pleasantly surprised when suddenly we were driving through groves upon groves of walnut trees. And came across this fruit stand.
As we walked around the cute little fruit stand, picking out peaches, corn, apples and pluots (which, quite frankly is the best fruit I've tasted in awhile) we struck up a conversation with the lady that was "manning the booth".
Turns out, she worked as a school cafeteria lady...
IN MY CHILDHOOD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL! And?! (get this) Her name is FLO! (How much more lunch-room lady can you get?)
I just love, LOVE when my world proves to be synchronous.
Of course I start talking to her about her experiences and she's so nice and sweet and she tells me how "back in the day" they actually made every thing from scratch right there in the kitchen. When I told her that one of my favorite meals from childhood was the square pizza (don't judge), she obliged me the story of how they made the dough and rolled it out in such an efficient way. It was such a fantastic conversation.
Really. It was beautiful.
So when I finally had the chance to pick up Lunch Wars, of course the entire time I'm thinking about Flo and about when it was, exactly, that Americans sold-out. And, based on my conversation with Flo, I think it happened during my generation (Flo mentioned changes started happening in the mid 1980's).
Amy Kalata is a documentary film maker who explored the state of school lunches in her film Two Angry Moms. In Lunch Wars, she provides thoroughly researched statistics on our food culture and the food industry itself and how they both have such a huge (sadly, negative) impact on our children's health.
The point that stands out to me the most is that despite how hard we, as parents, work to not only provide our children with healthy nutrient-rich foods, and educate them on eating healthy and making right choices... all of that is undermined in the very school lunch room that we send them off to each and every day - without question.
And because school food is one of the first times an individual makes choices over what he/she eats, ultimately even learns how to make food choices for their entire lives, this is not only an alarming realization but, for me, a catalyst in getting involved with my daughter's school on a whole different level.
As I mentioned, the book is written as a guide on how to create your own school food revolution. And I think one of the most helpful tips in the book is to go have lunch at school with your child. Even more importantly, Amy points out ways to audit and analyze the entire lunch room experience - from weather or not it's too noisy, to if the kids have a place to sit at a table, with enough room, to if there are any parents helping out as volunteers.
What a great way to learn about the food culture that is being passed on to your child.
What I value most about Lunch Wars is that it provides you with an actionable plan that any one of us can follow to make our own "one small step" toward fixing the food culture in our schools. And I would recommend it to every parent, teacher, principal, et al.
Please join me in the conversation about Lunch Wars and the state of school lunch programs in general at the BlogHer Book Club site.
Disclosure: This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.