Sea Cliff Nutrition Committee. The Apple People

Sea Cliff Nutrition Committee. The Apple People

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Change Comes to Lunch In Sea Cliff!

For the past two months, we've been posting each Wednesday on the "additive of the week" and detailing the problems with highly processed and canned USDA commodity foods in our kids' school lunch - too much added, salt, pervasive added sugars - including high fructose corn syrup, MSG, nitrates, hydrogenated vegetable oil, genetically modified corn and soy, etc. Today, almost a year after we began working for change, we're announcing the end of the worst of these in our school's lunch with more details to come on how our district is accomplishing this change.

The following post was written by Julia van Loon, a food service consultant and reform advocate our district has hired to move our school's lunch toward fresh, minimally processed, wholesome foods. - Sara

Finally! This country has put school food on its agenda as one of the most important issues to address. It’s about time. Great, talented and capable players, committed to broadcasting the importance of this issue, are working in the field, writing blogs, going on twitter and climbing the Hill to speak out and beyond. My colleagues tell me to blog, tweet and speak out. I should start blogging and tweeting. I’m putting that on my list.

Speaking out? Not a problem. I speak out and practice what I believe as a school food reform advocate every day of the year. With thirty years in the field of hospitality and the passion to say ‘yes” to the school communities that invite me to join their efforts for school food reform, I always feel privileged to step up and help commander the front line. This is where I can perform my best work.

But, who are the enemies? We, as a collective group of advocates and believers, have found it easy to point our fingers toward the direction of the FDA and the USDA, always knowing that we will be pointing toward a vast network of bureaucracy and conflict, perhaps too omnipotent for making immediate change - but not so powerful that they can not be negotiated for making great changes - in due time. That’s not to say that we should bring our hands down. We should not. But, when realizing that we are one of the only countries that put student nutrition in the hands of the country’s department of agriculture, we must nod in agreement that we must take matters in our own hands, at a community level, for immediate results. Knowing that what drives the economics of our culture is so broad, so “in the moment,” it would be our duty to partner blame with immediate action. We haven’t the time to do one without the other.

Bring on the freedom fighters - the parents, the school administrators, the nutritionists, the culinary experts who have come together to create a loud and unarguably, impossible voice to ignore.

As I prepare strategic planning for helping to bring School Food Reform to another New York School District, I am both excited and honored. I am still in awe of any group of community members who place the importance of reforming school meals as high as I do and believe it should be on the list of ‘to do’s in education. The choir, to whom we meet and discuss the changes, grows bigger and bigger every year and they have the tools for furthering the education of the believers and non-believers on the immediate benefits to all children’s health by changing school food from what is has been to how it could be - real food, good food, one tray at a time.

For now, it is the parents of the North Shore School District who have been diligent and unrelenting in their demands for their foodservice program to begin joining the school food reform movement which is underway in so many schools around the country. Fortunately, the district’s administration presents a culture that is both supportive and pro-active wherever student wellness is concerned.

In the next months I will spend time in the kitchens to help reform and reverse the time-worn practices of school foodservice programs: Thaw and reheat practices will be replaced with scratch cooking techniques and fresh salad bars; The best of the government’s commodities will be incorporated into menus featuring whole foods to both compliment and minimize processed ingredients; A la Carte items, once the mainstay of additional revenue for school foodservice programs, will feature items that are both healthful and wholesome in nature and will supplement program revenue but never at the expense of any student’s health.

I feel very fortunate that there is a voice to share our development with the Sea Cliff Nutrition Committee’s great blog, and I look forward to documenting how school food reform can take hold in any school district, one tray at a time.

Julia van Loon


  1. Can't wait to see the menu in Sept!

  2. This is awesome news !!!! Great news

  3. Thanks so much for participating! I like how you mention that the lunch program is managed by the USDA -- the only part of your child's education /academic day that is not under the Dept of Ed. I wish you the best of luck! I'll be watching!