Q&A: Jennifer E. Gaddis on school food, feminism and worker rights

In Jennifer E. Gaddis’s new book, The Labor of Lunch: Why We Need real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools, school lunch is the framework for serious thinking about politics and people power. Gaddis makes the case that to reform school food, we need better working conditions and pay for cafeteria workers in addition to more nutritious ingredients. I asked Gaddis, an assistant professor of civil society and community studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to discuss the pillars of her research and how school food policy should move forward.(No paywall)

Bill would ban chlorpyrifos residues in school meals

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, announced a bill on Wednesday to effectively ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos from school food.

Perdue completes overhaul of school food rules

In 2017, on just his sixth day in office, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made chocolate milk safe for schools again, along with white flour and salt, in the name of “regulatory flexibility” for school food programs. On Thursday, the USDA said it will make those changes permanent.

How Oakland became a leader in cutting school food waste

Among the 40 percent of all food thrown out is this statistic: America’s school lunch programs waste $5 million in food every day. FERN’s latest story, published with Grist, focuses on Nancy Deming of the Oakland Unified School District, a leader in the movement to cut school food waste and redirect the food to students and people in need. Here’s the main take-aways:

Slower growth in school breakfast participation

About half as many children take part in the school breakfast program as the more than 30 million who eat a hot meal through the school lunch program, according to USDA's most recent data. The government and the anti-hunger group Food Research and Action Center say that participation in school breakfast grew at a slower rate during the 2016-17 school year than it did in previous years.

Food company coaches schools on ‘whole-grain waiver strategy’

A food service management company that operates in 600 U.S. school districts is offering them, in the words of its vice president for nutrition, “instructions” on how to get a waiver from the USDA requirement to serve whole-grain-rich bread, pasta, and baked goods to their students, said The Lunch Tray.

Local and diverse can displace flavorless and generic in school food

The cafeteria menus in many public schools "suggest a universal idea of what constitutes American food," with tacos as an ethnic crossover, says Civil Eats. "Now, change is under way. Cafeterias have begun to incorporate ingredients like wild rice and buffalo and serve items ranging from poi to fajitas."

Fifteen New York City schools to adopt Meatless Monday

Beginning next spring, 15 schools in Brooklyn — a sliver of the 1,800 public schools in New York City — will participate in the Meatless Monday campaign by serving vegetarian breakfasts and lunches, city officials announced. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the mayor's residence, Gracie Mansion, also would go meatless for its Monday meals.

Three more districts join big-city alliance that stresses healthy school food

School districts serving Philadelphia, Baltimore and Las Vegas joined the Urban School Food Alliance, which now serves 3.6 million students in 10 of the largest U.S. districts with a combined $735 million a year in purchases of food and supplies. The alliance launched a procurement initiative in 2014 for antibiotic-free chicken, and said this year that its members would not relax school lunch standards despite a USDA offer of flexibility on salt and whole grains.

For Texas high school students, a low-cal latte before first period

Timber Creek High School in Keller, Texas, opened a coffee bar that sells lattes, mochas and iced blended coffee drinks along with muffins and fruit cups to students, joining several other schools in the Forth Worth area that offer the caffeinated perk, reports the Star-Telegram. "We have a generation that drinks coffee," said a food-service manager for the Keller schools who oversees the coffee shop.