Sea Cliff Nutrition Committee. The Apple People

Sea Cliff Nutrition Committee. The Apple People

Friday, July 30, 2010

Weekend, Reading and Watching


The USDA will increase testing for e. coli on beef sent to school lunch programs according to a recent press release. These new regulations are believed to be in response to USA Today's reporting that beef sent to schools was subject to less testing than even fast food beef and had been linked to illness. Still, cheap junk food isn't much of a standard -- and the USDA commodity beef served at our school - sliders, meatballs, etc. are stuffed full of far more than just beef. You can search this blog for "beef."

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal this week (may require subscription) about a new nutrition information system being licensed by some grocery store chains. NuVal assigns a single score of 1-100 (100 is the best) to packaged foods based on a algorithm the company behind it says they are trying to keep out of the hands of the manufacturers. There is some interesting information at their website. They say it works best when comparing two similar products (which peanut butter should I buy?). I wish they'd score our lunch but it does speak to the need for consumers to have clear and easy to use nutritional information. I think the same applies to children choosing lunch and the need for nutrition education.

And, I've been meaning to give you this link to Pt 2 of Jill Richardson's (La Vida Locavore) coverage of the House hearings on the child nutrition act reauthorization.


The Future of Food is a full-length documentary you can watch online about genetically-engineered food crops (like corn - present in one form or another in just about every lunch.) Watch it here.


As far as I know, you've all been doing a lovely job of having fun this summer. But if any of you feel fun-challenged, you could go up to the NY Botanical Gardens as their Edible Garden series continues with Chef Derek Lee of the Best Food Blog Ever. Their children's gardens are always terrific.

The Oyster Bay's Farmers' Market is today -
Located north of the Oyster Bay Post Office on Audrey Ave., Oyster Bay. 516-922-2517. 12 – 6 pm. All ages. Fee: Free admission. Also on Aug. 6, 13, 20, 27. Celebrate the splendors of summer with fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and other delicacies at the “first ever” farmers’ market in Oyster Bay. Local growers, artists, bakers, and soap makers will gather in this historic town to sell their goods at an idyllic outdoor market.
The Teddy Roosevelt Sanctuary (also in Oyster Bay) has a hands on learning program this Saturday morning for teens and adults at their nature preserve.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Additive of the Week - MSG and Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein

Our additives of the week - Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP) and Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) are found in the following foods served by our school -- and as USDA commodities, by many schools.

Chicken Nuggets (HVP)

Gravy (HVP, MSG)

Ground Turkey (yeast extract - another name for MSG)

Beef Sliders (textured soy protein -also like MSG)

Meatballs (textured soy protein -also like MSG)

Mozzarella Sticks (calcium caseinate - also like MSG)

From the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

HVP consists of vegetable (usually soybean) protein that has been chemically broken down to the amino acids of which it is composed. HVP is used to bring out the natural flavor of food (and, perhaps, to enable companies to use less real food). It contains MSG and may cause adverse reactions in sensitive individuals. . . . (MSG) brings out the flavor in many foods. While that may sound like a treat for taste buds, the use of MSG allows companies to reduce the amount of real ingredients in their foods, such as chicken in chicken soup. In the 1960s, it was discovered that large amounts of MSG fed to infant mice destroyed nerve cells in the brain. After that research was publicized, public pressure forced baby-food companies to stop adding MSG to their products (it was used to make the foods taste better to parents). Careful studies have shown that some people are sensitive to large amounts of MSG. Reactions include headache, nausea, weakness, and burning sensation in the back of neck and
forearms. Some people complain of wheezing, changes in heart rate, and difficulty
breathing. Some people claim to be sensitive to very small amounts of MSG, but no good studies have been done to determine just how little MSG can cause a reaction in the most-sensitive people. To protect the public's health, manufacturers and restaurateurs should use less or no MSG and the amounts of MSG should be listed on labels of foods that contain significant amounts. People who believe they are sensitive to MSG should be aware that other ingredients, such as natural flavoring and hydrolyzed vegetable protein, also contain glutamate. Also, foods such as Parmesan cheese and tomatoes contain glutamate that occurs naturally, but no reactions have been reported to those foods.
I'm surprised by the prevalence of MSG in our lunch. These are major entrees, and we could easily be feeding our kids MSG four times a week. Enough already.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dreaming of the Fall

I just ordered Ezekiels backpack for first grade.  The truth is half the summer has disappeared already.  Evening bike rides, fireflies, boxes of greens from our CSA, Sunflowers, grape tomatoes from our little producers, yoga in the garden.  I must confess I love imagining the fall, look longingly at my beloved cobalt blue Enamel soup pot and can practically smell the woodsmoke from the fireplace, but with autumn comes school lunches.  Do you think any of the students from Sea Cliff School are fantasizing about Tyson Chicken nuggets and rushing lunch ladies?  

I taught in the NY City schools as a visiting poet in the classroom for years.  Which means I've been in just about 100 elementary schools from The Lower East Side, to Westchester to the East End of LI, and I've only seen one cafeteria with a lunch tray I'd cozy up to.  The school I'm thinking of had PTA meetings in the cafeteria.  Adults would voluntarily meet to talk about issues of the day over  bowl of soup, or grab an apple from the bushel on the shelf.   Parents would eat breakfast with their children in the cafeteria before heading off to work.

Sara has been doing such a great job highlighting the ingredients in the school food.  I for one appreciate this effort immensely.  But the blog is also a space for imagining and dreaming.  What would your lunch tray look like?

Mine would have brown rice and black beans, a bit of avocado salsa and a corn tortilla.   I don't think it would cost much to produce.  Add grilled chicken if you like, oh and filtered water in a reusable bottle with each kids name on it.  

I'll post on water later this week.


Action Alert - Soda Tax - must act Today or Wednesday!

From the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

The soda tax is back "on the table" and may be considered at a special session of New York's legislature Wednesday night, July 28.

Please act right away to let your state legislator know that taxing sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages represents a potentially powerful public health measure to attack serious and debilitating health problems and reduce the state's health care costs, as well as the personal suffering from obesity and overweight.

To contact your representatives, send an email to your legislators NOW and let them know you support the tax. Or, make a quick call to the leaders of the Assembly and House (see information below).

To call the leaders of the Senate and Assembly and tell them you support a tax on sugary beverages:

Senate Leader John Sampson: 518-455-2788
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver: 518-455-3791

Please act NOW! Thank you for your concern and support.

Julie Greenstein
Deputy Director, Health Promotion Policy
Center for Science in the Public Interest


See The World According to Monsanto on Thursday

Films on Food co-presented by Slow Food Huntington & Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre is a great series of films this summer followed by a guest speaker and a lovely reception! - Sara

This Thursday – July 29, at 7:30pm

The World According to Monsanto

Guest Speaker: Steve Storch, Watermill, LI. Biodynamic Teacher & Farmer

From Iowa to Paraguay, from England to India, Monsanto is uprooting traditional food supplies and replacing it with their patented genetically engineered seeds and systems. And along the way, farmers, communities, and nature become collateral damage. Monsanto’s controversial past combines some of the most toxic products ever sold with misleading reports, pressure tactics, collusion, and attempted corruption. They are the world leader in genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as well as one of the most controversial corporations in industrial history. Since its founding in 1901, Monsanto has faced trial after trial due to the toxicity of its products, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polystyrene, devastating herbicides like Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam War. Today, Monsanto has reinvented itself as a "life sciences" company converted to the virtues of sustainable development. They now race to genetically engineer (and patent) the world’s food supply, which profoundly threatens our health, environment, and economy. Combining secret documents with first-hand accounts by victims, scientists, and politicians, this powerful film exposes why Monsanto has become the world’s poster child for malignant corporate influence in government and technology. USA, 2008, 108 min.; Dir. Marie-Monique Robin
For more about the film:

About Guest Speaker Steve Storch
When Water Mill biodynamic agriculture expert Steve Storch was growing up in Coney Island, the depletion of farm soils was the last thing on his mind. But when he married into the Halsey farming clan and moved to the East End to study marine biology 24 years ago, all that changed. Mr. Storch now runs Natural Science Organics, which he calls “part of the farm organism” at Larry Halsey’s Green Thumb organic farm on Halsey Lane. He’s a relatively strict adherent to the spiritual-based agricultural practices first proposed by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in 1924, in which every part of that “farm organism” is treated as an interconnected link to the rest of the farm. In that world view, human health, soil health and vegetable health are all dependent on factors that have as much to do with spirituality as science.

Cinema Arts Centre
423 Park Avenue
Huntington, NY 11743
$9 Cinema Members / $12 Public / includes reception.
For advance tickets and more information:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nutrition Education - "The Best Field Trip Ever"

I was thrilled this past Spring when my first grader came home from school excited to tell me all about her trip to a backyard garden. I knew it must have been a hit when she explained that her friend was upset because she didn't get to try.....a radish! I asked their teacher, the beloved and recently retired Mrs. Jordan, if she would write about the trip for us. Special thanks to her for this guest post - I think it is exactly the kind of nutrition education we need to help our kids eat and live well. - Sara

The Best Field Trip Ever!

By Eileen Jordan

Several years ago, when Miranda Kianka was in my first grade class, her dad Peter invited the class to visit his vegetable garden. We had just put our tiny vegetable plants in the garden in the courtyard outside our classroom so we were so excited to see a true "grown-up" garden. Every year Peter has graciously renewed his invitation to my class so on a sunny day in mid June we walked a few blocks to Peter's fabulous organic vegetable garden.

What amazed me was the awe on the faces of the children as they entered the Kianka backyard and viewed the lush plants. They listened intently as Peter described the process of soil preparation and plant nurturing and were totally captivated as he led them through rows of pole beans, radishes, red potatoes, and eggplants. But the highlight came when they reached the peas! These luscious vegetables were ready to be harvested so Peter snipped the pods and distributed them to each child. The shouts of approval and requests for more were so delightful you would think he was snipping lollipops off the vine! Of course, these were the pioneer "kinder-gardeners" one year later so they had a vested interest in fresh vegetables. I'm thinking that if children could tend a small patch of land and nurture their own vegetables they would develop a life long love of healthy eating. The genuine interest and joy was so apparent during this visit. Here we were, a short distance from the school and the children were declaring this the "best field trip ever"!

It was time to go but one more treat awaited us as we exited the driveway passing the abundant honeysuckle bushes. Peter taught us how to expertly extract the honey from the flower. With tiny beads of sweet honey on our tongues and pockets stuffed with honeysuckle blossoms we waved good-bye.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Weekend Reading, Watching and Fun


The lobbyists were hard at work this past week fighting over the Child Nutrition Act. Click here to read the press release by the frozen fruit lobby gloating over their ability to define "fresh" fruits to mean frozen - one example of many, I'm sure.

Jill Richardson of La Vida Locavore has a great description of the House committee hearings on the markup of the child nutrition act last week. For highly entertaining reading, click here.


Want to know more about high fructose corn syrup and the effects of sugary foods in general? Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods in this video.


There's local fun this weekend - our neighbors will be putting on King Lear in Spooky Park Saturday evening at 7pm. Bring a blanket.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Additive of the Week - Salt

Added salt is found in a huge number of foods served for lunch at our school including:


Anything with Tomato/Marinara/Spaghetti Sauce,
Anything with Mozzarella Cheese,
(The previous two ingredients are in meatball heros, italian dunkers, mozzarella sticks, pizza, pasta dishes, etc.),
Chicken Nuggets,
Club Rolls (with things like Meatball Heros),
Black Beans,
Hot dogs,
Veggie Burgers,
Beef Meatballs (Heros),
Slider Buns

Alternate Entrees:

Peanut Butter,
Cream Cheese,


Green Beans,
Chick peas,
Whole Wheat bread

I considered listing the foods that do not have added salt instead. The list would be much shorter.

On average, the lunches we serve have a combined 1197 mg of sodium in each according to our last audit. Yes, that's too much for a single meal for a child but it does happen to meet the USDA standards.

The national Institute of Medicine prepared important recommendations for the school lunch program recommending not more than 636mg of sodium in a lunch for elementary school children. You can read their report School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest:
Salt, at the levels present in the diets of most people around the world, is probably the single most harmful substance in the food supply. Salt is used liberally in many processed foods and restaurant meals, with some meals containing far more than a day's worth of sodium. . . .

A diet high in sodium increases blood pressure in most people, thereby increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. In 2004, the director of the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and two colleagues estimated that cutting the amount of sodium in packaged and restaurant foods by half would save 150,000 lives a year. Everyone should avoid salty processed foods and restaurant meals, use salt sparingly in cooking and at the table, and enjoy other seasonings.

This article from the NY Times illustrates the marketing hoops manufacturers are jumping through to maintain high levels of salt in processed foods - and to suggest you add salt to more things - even coffee. Read it here.

If you have a subscription to the WSJ, you can read this alarming article about the rising rates of high blood pressure in children. One of the the top recommendations is of course to eat less salt -- sort of the opposite of funneling large amounts of it to children through the school lunch program.

Finally, the Institute of Medicine has a new report on how the nation could reduce its salt intake.

Regardless of the requirement of the new Child Nutrition Act (if it gets voted on), we need to include limits on salt on our school's nutrition standards.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Action Alert - We Need a Vote on the Child Nutrition Act

At the end of last week, the House Committee on Education passed their version of the Child Nutrition Act which as you may know by now governs the school lunch program. While not the greatest thing since sliced bread, the bill contains a lot of good stuff - better access to school meals, junk food out of school vending machines, a modest increase in funding for school nutrition programs, some support for connections between school programs and local farms and so on. Funding for the bill is still very much an issue.

You can read a clear, concise synopsis of the bill the House Committee on Education passed here.

The Senate's version came out of committee back in March. The current legislation expires at the end of September. If these bills are not put up for votes before then, we'll likely end up exactly where we were this time last year - with a one year extension of the incredibly weak law the program currently operates under and the loss of the good things in this legislation. The major obstacles are two-fold. First is the August recess and the second is the big headline kinds of legislation that Congress is also working on.

The Child Nutrition Act needs attention now. Please take a few minutes to call or write Congress. To make it easy, here are three websites which make sending an email on this legislation as painless as possible. Just pick your own personal favorite.

1. The Center for Science in the Public Interest makes it easy to send a letter to your representative in the House ( in our case, Peter King) urging him or her to fund this bill and vote on it before school is back in session. If you have five minutes to send this important letter, click here.

2. Slow Food's Time for Lunch campaign has also set up an easy way for you to email both Rep. King and our senators. Click here for a letter that asks for more funding for childhood nutrition.

3. Feeding America (a large hunger charity and network of food banks) has a letter asking that they fund the bill and bring it to a vote in the House - click here.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Weekend Watching and RECYCLING!


STOP Program comes to Sea Cliff Saturday! Your big chance to safely dispose of hazardous household waste and electronics once a year right here in Sea Cliff!

Department of Public Works: Altamont Avenue Garage, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Dispose of hazardous household waste safely. Accepted items include: insecticides, pesticides, transmission & brake fluid, drain & oven cleaners, tires, aerosol cans, stain removers & solvents, propane tanks for grills, antifreeze & motor oil, paint (enamel, lead-based & latex), photo chemicals, batteries (AAA,AA,C,D) fluorescent bulbs, computer equipment, TVs, cell phones & pagers, VCRs & stereos, table-top fax machines.

If you miss it today, start saving up now for next year!

Reading AND Watching

The House Cmmittee on Education marked up the Child Nutrition Act bill this week -- read the details and watch the proceedings here.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Additive of the Week - High Fructose Corn Syrup

Our Additive of the Week - High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) - is found in these items served for lunch at our school:


Whole wheat bread slice - a side and in the sandwiches
served daily
Slider buns

Gravy (served with the turkey)

High Fructose Corn Syrup is an inexpensive sweetener made in factories from corn (all most all of which is now genetically modified in this country) which some studies have linked to a rise in obesity here in the U.S. It is found extensively in processed foods and sweet beverages. Regardless of whether or not it is worse than other sugars (and it likely is - see below), our children's lunches don't need this much added sugar.

Regarding sugar in general, there is no restriction within the USDA guidelines for the school lunch program regarding total added sugar. Some schools do have Wellness Policies that stipulate foods served at lunch cannot contain HFCS. Ours doesn't say much and certainly doesn't ban or limit salt or sugar in any way. (For more on our Wellness Policy, see the nutrition page on our website at

Many, many foods we serve including the already-sweet fruits have other added sugars, too.

There's new research on the role HFCS in particular may play in promoting the growth of certain fat cells in children. Read more in the Business Week article here.

Princeton researchers also recently found that even holding total caloric intake the same, rats with access to HFCS gained more weight than rats eating table sugar. Read more here.

Finally, the Washington Post ran an article last year reporting that testing done on commercial samples of HFCS showed mercury existed in half the samples. Kids aren't supposed to eat mercury. Check it out for yourself by clicking here.

To read more about the amount of sugar in school lunch and why it isn't currently regulated, read Ed Bruske's post (of BetterDCSchoolFood).

Let's tell our school to be on the safe side and decide we don't need to feed high fructose corn syrup to our kids, and we need to have some limit on all added sugar. Last year, for example, we seerved chicken nuggets, a slice of bread, applesauce and carrots for lunch one day - a very typical meal. This lunch contained 25g of sugar. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should only consume 32g in an entire day - clearly small children should consume much less in one meal. We need to have meaningful limits in our school's wellness policy on added sugar.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Action Alert - Call Today!

The Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization is on the move again! The House Committee on Education is marking up this bill TODAY at 2pm. We need the committee to act quickly and move the bill to the floor of the full House for a vote. If they don't, the danger is that this bill will not get passed this year and no changes will be made to the school lunch program.

Here are more details from the NY Coalition for Healthy School Food:

"Your Members need to hear from you!

THE MESSAGE IS SIMPLE. Tell your Representative to act quickly in marking up the bill and moving it to the House floor for a full vote. Now is the time to increase funding for food assistance programs and to enhance the nutrition quality of these programs for our nation's children - including school meal programs.

Ask that they include the following as they mark up the bill:

Additional funding.
Currently the bill only includes 6 cents more per meal. NYS Senator Kirsten Gillibrand asks for 70 cents more per day and First Lady Michelle Obama asked for 18.5 cents. We can't expect our Food Service Directors to make a healthy and delicious 5 component meal with only 96 cents (90 cents currently spent on the food itself plus the 6 cents they are suggesting be added).

Call the numbers below, and ask to speak to the Legislative Aide listed. If they do not answer, leave a voice mail with your name, phone number, and the message to vote yes on H.R. 5504 and pass the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill out of committee.

Carolyn McCarthy (4th NY)

Staff: Kim Zarish-Becknell, 202-225-5516

Tim Bishop (1st NY)

Staff - Joanna Serra 202-225-3826

Yvette D. Clarke (11th NY)

Staff: Bridgette Dehart 202-225-6231 (the House member most active)

Paul D. Tonko (21st NY)

Staff: Becky Cornell 202-225-5076"


You can also use this link to send an email through the Healthy Schools Campaign:


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Popsicle Ideas from Butterbeans Kitchen

I enlisted my favorite popsicle maker for a few ideas...


From Brooklyn with Love

My family lives in Brooklyn, but we make every excuse we can to soak up the cozy village feel that you all enjoy as a connected and active community in Sea Cliff. Luisa Guigliano is a very dear friend of mine and as such I have had a chance to hear about the work of the nutrition committee at Sea Cliff Elementary school. Your work inspires me!

As a Holistic Health and Nutrition Counselor, and a Mother, school food is a topic near and dear to my heart. The need for good, real food in schools inspired me to co-found Butter Beans, Inc – a food service company that serves school lunch and snacks to schools in NYC. Learn more about the work we do at

Luisa asked me to share summer treat ideas with you, so today I’d like to share a couple of my favorite smoothie popsicle recipes. You’ll need a blender, and popsicle makers. Both recipes make approx. 10 pops each. If you have leftovers, add a couple of ice cubes and enjoy as a smoothie.

Banana and Avocado Date Cream

1 banana
½ avocado
2 cups coconut milk (or your favorite cow’s milk, hemp, rice, almond, oat hazelnut milk, etc.)
1 date (or date roll)
Put the ingredients in a blender until smooth, and fill up your popsicle makers. This buttery and filling tropical delight will satisfy and nourish hungry, busy, playing little ones who do not want to waste a single instant of gorgeous Sea Cliff breeze.
Almond Strawberry Gogi Pops

2 cups almond milk
2 cup fresh strawberries (frozen also work well)
2 tablespoons (heaping is great) almond butter
1 handful of gogi berries (you can use cranberries or raisins or other berry if you don’t have gogi berries)
*Add a square or two of your favorite chocolate to this one for added richness.
Blend this one up as well until smooth.

It’s great to both satisfy your kids want of something cold and sweet and refreshing as well as your want to give them something nutritious.

If you are low on ingredients for smoothie pops- peel a banana, cut it in half, stick a fork in each half and freeze them. Frozen grapes, if you haven’t tried them, are most delightful.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Weekend Reading, Watching and Fun


The Food Research and Action Center has published a new report - Hunger Doesn't Take a Vacation - about the number of children going hungry over the summer when the school lunch program is on vacation. Read more at

The New York Times has reported that the FDA might be close to approving a genetically engineered salmon for human consumption. You may wish to read more at -

Reading + Listening

NPR this week has a series on Chemicals and Food that's very informative - see more at


As we continue to try to get Congress to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act, watch his video - Kids Ask Congress for Healthy School Foods

Then, look at this past Monday's post on how to email the Senate and ask for a vote.


Ok, this has nothing to do with food, nutrition, school lunch, or vegetables -- but it is local. The angry villagers of Sea Cliff who met on Village Green on July 4th to air their grievances against the King might like to know that this Sunday in Huntington, they'll have a chance to burn King George in effigy - along with experiencing an encampment of the Huntington Militia, firing cannon, militia drilling and (other?) activities for children - all free and open to the public. Noon to 5pm on the Green at the Arsenal in Huntington. More details at


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Additive of the Week - Sodium Nitrate

Sodium nitrate is found in the ham served in sandwiches about once a week in our school.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends avoiding nitrites and nitrates completely and states that "Several studies have linked consumption of cured meat and nitrite by children, pregnant women, and adults with various types of cancer. "

Our ham is from Tyson, is marketed to child nutrition programs and appears to be a USDA commodity food. The use of nitrate apparently means they don't have to keep it refrigerated.

I wanted to check to make sure I wasn't missing any foods in our school lunch program that contain sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite (sodium nitrate breaks down into sodium nitrite). Hot dogs normally do, but we've been using Applegate Farms and they, thankfully, do not. So, I googled "sodium nitrate is commonly found in". My answer? Fertilizer. And pyrotechnics (yes, fireworks and other explosives.) This is icky at best. Bacon is a common source as well.

Can we all agree that this ham should not return to our school in the fall? Let us know.

For more information, visit or the CDC's website at


Monday, July 5, 2010

Changing School Food in Brooklyn

My dear friend Adriana Valez, food writer, activist, mother and fellow school food reformist wrote a few words for our blog about changing school food in Brooklyn.  Adriana writes for a variety of blogs and magazines and can be found daily at her charming blog--  

Check in regularly for a host of exciting guest posts this summer season.  

I don't know about you but we have been living on the bounties of our CSA share from Golden Earthworm out East.  The vegetable crisper has never been so full.  Nor has the juicer worked so hard.  How else are you going to use four pounds of carrots when its 105 degrees?

Best to you and your family,


Of all the food issues people in the Brooklyn Food Coalition have chosen to organize around school food and wellness has seen the most coordinated effort. Most of the work BFC does is neighborhood-based. The mission to change school food has galvanized so much focus and energy, however, that we broke from our neighborhood-based organizing structure in order to form a group of people from all neighborhoods working together on this one important issue.

The group formed the same time that the Brooklyn Food Coalition itself formed, July 2009, and dovetailed into collaborating locally with Slow Food USA in their Time Out for Lunch Labor Day potlucks. (Some BFC members, though not all, are also Slow Food members). These potlucks were held all over the country to raise awareness about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (legislation currently in the house that could affect everything from how well school lunch is funded to how nutritional standards are updated); but in Brooklyn the potlucks also served to help jumpstart BFC members’ commitment to organizing locally.

From that successful event we embarked on another successful collaboration, this time with the NYC Alliance for CNR, a group of nonprofits and other organizations focused on advocating for changes to the 2010 Child Nutrition Reauthorization. The House Education and Labor committee held a hearing on the bill on July 1, and while the bill shows significant improvement it looks like at best we might see an increase in funding at about 6 cents per meal--not much cash to make the kind of revolutionary change school food needs to make.

But this is exactly why local organizing is so important. First, we need to start building momentum so we can get even more support for a robustly-funded CNR five years from now. Beyond the national picture, though, there are so many things parents, students, and educators can do locally to improve school wellness. You can form your own school wellness councils and partnership meetings to draft a school wellness policy. You can start school gardens. You can work together with other local schools for wider-spread changes.

I think it’s this third organizing--collaborating between schools--that is going to bring us closer to the tipping point with school food. For the past few years many schools have been working on these issues in isolation. In New York City parents must decipher a very complex bureaucracy with complex regulations in order to figure out what kinds of changes are possible and how to go about asking for those changes. The information and programs are out there, but they’re incredibly difficult to find on your own.

This summer and into the fall BFC will be creating an online resource for school food organizing. You can see the beginnings on our website, where we list tools, resources, programs, and political action opportunities. How we organize this information may change, and some of the information is specific to New York City; but anyone is welcome to keep checking in on our School Food group page as we continue to build our library.

Once school starts in the fall we will also collaborate with other organizations on a school food organizing training fair, where parents, educators, and students will be able to learn how to advocate for their schools--and just as importantly, where they will be able to network with other like-minded people who are also working to change school food. There’s a lot of “official” information we can share, but nothing replaces the stories and personal experiences of people actually on the ground working toward change.

As the fall continues we hope to speak to our leaders with a united voice and start advocating for more local sourcing of school food, among other changes.

The work of changing school food can be tiring, discouraging, frustrating. But it’s important for you to know that you are not alone. The more we share and work together the stronger we’ll become. We will change school food--together.

For more inspiration check out Chef Ann Cooper’s uber school food website The Lunchbox. It’s still under construction, but when it’s complete it will be a tremendous national resource.

A must-read for all school food reformers is Janet Poppendieck’s Free for All: Fixing School Food in America. This is a history of school food, an explanation of its challenges, and a discussion of what it will take to fix it. It’s an amazing resource.

Action Alert

It's time to ask our Senators to move the Child Nutrition Act Bill to the floor for a vote. Follow this link for a quick and easy email form:

This past week, the House held committee hearings on their Child Nutrition Act bill. Here are a couple of ideas that came out of those hearings:

Apparently, Congressman Kucinich has a bill HR4310 that will stop companies from writing off on their taxes dollars spent advertising junk food to kids -- and then use the money to improve school lunch. Sounds like crazy genius to me. Call Congress.

Our neighbor Congresswoman McCarty also mentioned her bill HR3625 The Food Marketing in Schools Assessment Act while much less radical also seems like a perfectly good idea. It would mainly study how food is currently marketed in schools.

Have you called Congress Today?


Friday, July 2, 2010

Weekend Reading, Watching -- and Fun


The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University released a new study showing that children select and prefer the taste of food with branded characters on the packaging -- even if the food inside is identical. Marketers know this and deliberately market unhealthy foods to children with this kind of manipulative advertising. Read the report at:

Then, if you didn't get a chance to tell McDonald's to stop using characters to market junk food to children, scroll back to Monday's post and follow the link.

If you have a subscription the WSJ, you can also read this article describing the Vidalia Onion Growers Association's highly successful use of the character Shrek to sell more onions. Now that's using their powers for good -

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (yes, I love them) has a new report potentially linking petroleum-based artificial food dyes Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 with cancer. Read the report at and then check your refrigerator.


If you missed yesterday's house committee hearings on the reauthoriztion of the child nutrition act, you can catch them on YouTube - search on the bill number - HR5504.

And Fun....

The Planting Fields has a program this afternoon at 2:30 called "What's in the Woods" which teaches children ages 6-11 how animals live in the woods. Cost is $35. Call 516.922.8682 for details. They are also hosting art classes for ages 8-13 every Friday in July.

The New York Botanical Gardens continues their Edible Garden over the July 4th weekend with cooking demonstrations and a berry theme. See Lots of hands-on activities for kids including their 'flowers to fruits' exhibit and 'farm to table' activities.

Finally, from Healthy Schools Campaign - a 4th of July recipe:

Festive Fourth of July Watermelon Stars

Popsicle sticks
Star-shaped cookie cutter

Cut fresh watermelon into one-inch slices. Use the cookie cutter to cut star-shaped pieces of watermelon. Add a Popsicle stick to each of the watermelon stars. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet, cover with a sheet of foil, and freeze for one hour. Enjoy!


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Live Webcast - Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization - Broadcasting Now

The House Committee on Education and Labor is holding a full committee hearing today on reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act which governs and funds the school lunch program.

Watch now at:

For more information on the hearing, go to:

To read more about the key players in the House on this reauthorization, see: