Tonight I ate a cookie.
It wasn’t a normal cookie though. It was one of those healthy cookies. The kind with less fat, less sodium, less of all the bad things yet it still tasted great. It was also the kind of cookie they have started serving in Memphis City School.
Tonight I went to Community Foundation of Greater Memphis to watch the documentary Cafeteria Man. The film is about improving school lunches which falls into one of the Community Foundation’s main initiatives of healthy eating, active living.
The film follows the work of Chef Tony Geraci in Baltimore schools as he worked to change the way school lunches and other meals were served. The film was fascinating and it was awesome to see the changes he made in Baltimore during his time.
Based on the video he focused on great things:
- buying food local from farms in the state/area
- bringing food from farm to table instead of prepacked trays
- providing fresh whole foods to kids at each meal
- embracing urban agriculture and farming even at the schools
- teaching kids to grow food themselves
- teaching kids to cook food that they’ve grown
- the end goal of producing a healthy student ready to learn
The above photo is actually Memphis kids in a Memphis garden. Chef Tony Geraci is now the new director of Nutrition Services for Memphis City Schools. He is working here to create the same kind of changes to improve the quality of school food.
After the movie Tony Geraci was there to answer some questions and talk more about what he is doing in Memphis since the movie was focused on Baltimore.
Cool things happening with school food and nutrition in Memphis:
- Breakfast in classrooms is now at 71 schools. Last year it was at zero. This rocks because as he mentioned it’s hard for kids to learn if they are hungry or jacked up on sugar so this kind of program is a type of readiness for learning.
- Geraci runs the program like a business. He makes sure they save money from the budget and he listed several projects currently running that do this. For example he is putting 200k into a few dozen acres to grow food and that will create 1.2 million in produce utilizing a prison-farming program.
- Grahamwood Elementary school created a hoop greenhouse garden that is producing food actually being eaten at their school and a couple others. It’s one of the first of several gardens planned. Hoop farms can provide food and also be a great teaching tool.
- New point of sale system that allows parents access so they can see what their kids are getting each day. It will also allow blocks (no cookies for example) or reminders to get at least 3 salads a week (and a message pops up if that isn’t happening so the kid has to get one).
- Trucks of food ready to cook and already prepared (cut, washed, etc.) go out from the central kitchen to the schools. Food is actually cooked at the school instead of just reheating trays a prepackaged food.
- People are parents in Memphis have been really supportive so far.
My favorite quote of the night: “If you eliminate the crap, they can’t order the crap. “
I really found the movie and the talk afterward fascinating. It’s a popular and sometimes controversial topic these days but things really do need to change. I remember the school lunches I used to eat and … they were bad. Really bad. I’m pretty sure I never ate a salad until college and vegetables were rare because they always looked so disgusting. It’s awesome to see that the choices are getting better and giving kids now a better chance at being and staying healthy and ready to learn.
What were your school lunches like as a kid? What improvements would you like in schools today? Meatless days? Fresh foods? More/less choices?