Sea Cliff Nutrition Committee. The Apple People

Sea Cliff Nutrition Committee. The Apple People

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Maybe We Could Use a Chef

So, last night the Top Chefs did get to cheat - they had about $2.60 per meal for food to make a healthy school lunch. There was a vague reference to the fact that schools did have overhead expenses but apparently a realistic school lunch that costs only a $1 in food (like ours) doesn't make for exciting TV. And they complained about the $2.60 even so.

But in other ways, they faced some of the same constraints real schools do. They had very little time to prepare the meal, very little space to do it in, and they had to feed normally picky kids (caught on tape calling a few items 'nasty'). One chef was criticized for the two pounds of sugar in her strawberry-banana dessert for 50 kids -- but really, we're close to that in the frozen strawberries we get from the government. Another was in trouble for cooking the chicken in sherry -- and frankly that did strike me as, well, odd. There was a strange squabble over considering a tomato a vegetable instead of a fruit. Our lunch would be happy to see the fresh tomato dish either way. So, maybe the money wasn't the biggest cheat. It might have been the fact that they were not required to cook with the canned commodity products we have to use to make ends meet which is kind of the same as the money problem.

It is hard to make a healthy lunch with very little money, time or equipment (although that foam gun they had went a long way to making some very appealing food.) I think a lot of the districts that have made notable strides in improving their lunches did so with the help of chefs - notably, Berkeley and a number of schools in the film Two Angry Moms. It makes some sense that knowing not only how to cook but how to improvise with the fresh foods available in an affordable way from week to week would be an advantage.

If you want to imagine what school lunch might look like one day given a lot of creativity, take a look at the meals shown here from last night's show:

For the recipes, use this address - - and look for Season 7, Episode 2, Elimination Challenge recipes.

Then, call Congress and ask for at least a little more money for food, training and equipment when they reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act. (See 6/14 post for details.)


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