Thursday, September 29, 2011

BlogHer Book Club: Lunch Wars

Apparently this is the week of books. It's coincidence that I've had two days of BlogHer Book Club books come up, but it's kind of neat, too. There is a new format to the BlogHer Book Club to some degree, where it isn't always reviews on the site but rather reviews on our own blogs and then much larger - and very interesting discussions - on the BlogHer site. I'm really interested to see the discussions on our current book Lunch Wars by Amy Kalafa.

Personally, I was really excited to read the book. I care a lot about food and what I and the wee ones are ingesting. (I've given up on my husband when he isn't at home!) We do a lot of organics, and I cook from scratch as much as possible. On top of that, we avoid a lot of foods - anything "fake" including sweeteners and dyes and corn syrup in all its form, among others. Not surprisingly, that means that I pack a lunch for the wee one every day. They get a "main course" that is frequently leftover from dinner the night before or a sandwich, a fresh fruit and a fresh or frozen vegetable.

I was really looking forward to what Amy had to say about school lunches and how to improve them. I'm not sure what I was expecting exactly, maybe more of an expose on the lunch program and how much its failing. Instead, she focuses on what we as parents can do. While there is some data on how wrong most school lunch programs are (and no, we don't ever buy them). There is information on how overly processed they are and how they aren't serving the needs of our children. I love some of the quotes from the USDA about how obesity is now the problem the school lunch program is facing and not malnourishment, which is what it was when the program was first developed. The history that Amy weaves into the book to truly get a realistic understanding of the politics behind it and the history of the program provide a great base to do something.

The book is essentially a how to manual. How to go about changing the school lunches in your schools to make them healthier for our children, while ensuring they're something that they will still eat and enjoy. There is some great discussion around the challenges facing the school lunch program - did you know the average program has less than $1 to spend on the students' lunch after taking into account other costs? No wonder so much of it is prepackaged over processed crap that meets the letter of the law with regards to requirements but definitely not the spirit.

Amy has a step by step guide with real life stories and plenty of encouragement to make a difference in your community from how to build the coalition to how to approach the leaders in your communities and more. It was impressive to see so much useful information in one place, but I know I don't personally have any more energy to go change the lunch program in our district - partly when we don't participate in it anyway (it's $4.25 per lunch for my son!) and partly because I'm volunteering so much elsewhere and partly because I'm focused on getting Mister Man to his therapies (including during school time) and to their after school activities. I just don't have the bandwidth to take anything more on, but I would absolutely love to see this take root in my community.

This book gives me hope that it can be done. I am planning to write a note in the front of my book: I read this book and I wholeheartedly support the need for change in our school lunch programs. I am passing this book along to another community member to share this knowledge with them. Below that I will sign my name and ask everyone who reads the book to do the same. It's the small part I can do to further the movement, and I have so much hope after reading this book.

That said, I know a lot of parents want to keep the flavored milks in schools (Do they know what's in it? Do they know what the alternatives are?) and are ok with eating the prepackaged processed foods for a variety of reasons. In many ways, I am in the minority. Where do you stand in the Lunch Wars?

Weigh in here, and join in the discussions on Lunch Wars with BlogHer Book Club.

Win a Hallmark card pack as part of their Get Carded campaign
Win a Purse Perfector purse organizer - trust me, you won't know what you did without it

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of "Lunch Wars" for review purposes. I am also compensated as part of this campaign, but as always, all opinions expressed are my own - just check out some of my not so positive book reviews for proof of that!


carmen September 30, 2011 at 9:12 AM  

Trust me when I say, this was a good book. I too do not have one more shred of "me" to devote to yet another cause, no matter how worthy - and I think this is worthy. I can't control what other kids eat and if their own parents don't care, I can't care for them. I can, however, work on my own family and that's what I've chosen to do.

septembermom September 30, 2011 at 4:06 PM  

I am very interested in reading this book. We can do so much as parents to re-educate ourselves and teach our kids about proper food choices. I probably have a long way to go, but I'm willing to jump on the bandwagon to see what I can learn. I think it's great that you will pass along the book around the community.

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