Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Salad bars & vegetables in our public schools

I never wrote that recap of the Harlan LSC meeting, but one of the issues that came up that night in October was the food the students are eating. They wanted on the menu more brain foods and in discussing bringing vegetables to the school cafeteria there was a concern that the students may not want to consume any vegetables. It does make sense why have it if it will barely be touched?

On the FB page, I posted a blog post from Whole Foods Market about their attempts to bring salad bars to the nation's public schools. I've been knowing about it for a while, but I never found the opportunity to post it until now. Even then the application deadline for grants in this salad bar program is approaching. Anyone from our neighborhoods schools are you reading this?

Either way we was alerted by April Branch to an article from last month's Chicago Tribune about CPS not allowing vegetables grown from their own facilities to be served in the schools.
But in a district that touts its use of some local produce in the lunchroom, the most local of all remains forbidden fruit.

Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recently toured a CPS school garden at the Academy for Global Citizenship on the Southwest Side. There, two second-grade girls showed her the eggplant, squash and tomatoes they grew, along with the chickens they kept for eggs.

"Ideally, all of those products would make it from the garden to the lunchroom," Merrigan said.

But rules created by CPS and its meals supplier, Chartwells-Thompson, prevent that from happening.

"In order to use food in the school food program, it would need to meet specific/certified growing practices," CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

These requirements would include eliminating all "pesticides and insecticide" applications and using only "commercially prepared organic compost and fertilizers," said Bob Bloomer, regional vice president of Chartwells-Thompson.

Commercial vendors, though, don't have to abide by these rules. They can sell the district produce treated with several pesticides and grown in nonorganic fertilizer.

But produce grown by the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences on its 25-acre farm wouldn't make the grade because, for example, it treats its corn with a single pesticide.
Wow! Thanks makes a lot of sense doesn't it? So it appears that a contractor is attempting to protect their contract to ensure that only their own foods are served in our public school cafeteria.

BTW, the company representative from Chartwell offered an editorial early this month about their policies also in the Tribune:
Several months ago, we initiated discussions with the city of Chicago Planning Department and community organizations in Austin, Englewood and Washington Park to explore how produce grown in school and community gardens can be incorporated into the CPS meal program. A student-grown food program would build on our existing commitment to purchase $2.3 million of locally grown produce from mid-size family-owned farms this school year.

However, introducing student-grown food into the meal program isn't as easy as it may appear. Our meals program for CPS follows district and government-mandated guidelines that are designed to safeguard students from contracting diseases or from getting sick as a result of food that has not been grown according to proper and safe growing guidelines.

Well sometimes well meaning regulations can cause more of a problem that they seek to solve. Although we all want the food to be safe to eat. What we do need to do is ensure that our students are eating healthy when they are at school and hopefully good eating will ensure that our students do well in school.

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