Friday, September 30, 2011

Lunch Wars!

I was invited to review Lunch Wars: How to Start a School Food Revolution and Win the Battle for Our Children's Healthby Amy Kalafa as part of the BlogHer Book Club.

And thanks to Ms. Kalafa's informative and eye-opening book, I now feel completely overwhelmed and waaaaay behind.

Sure, my son is only in preschool and hasn't even begun to eat any of the 3,000 school meals that the average child eats between kindergarten and 12th grade. But Kalafa paints a picture of a school food system that is so broken and so in need of parental involvement that I finished the book feeling exhausted and, yes, quite behind.

After all, since my son doesn't yet eat any meals at school, who is the lunch lady in his life? That's right: I am. Me. I'm the lunch lady. And what have I  been feeding him? Mostly healthy stuff but also some of the same crap that Kalafa rails against schools for serving. Some healthy lunch lady I am . . .

But that's me. I often feel like I'm standing at the bottom of an enormous mountain when I read about what I should be doing to maximize my kids' health and wellness.

Aside from freaking me out a bit, I found Lunch Wars to be an excellent book. It was full of interesting -- and scary -- facts. As in, "Holy crap, my kid is going to be served pet-food grade 'spent-hen meat'?" (from page 19). Um, that's gross. And not cool.

Also on the not cool list:

  • "American's spend $200 billion per year in diet-related health-care costs; twice as much per person than any other developed nation.
  • One quarter of children ages five to 10 have elevated blood cholesterol or high blood pressure -- early warning signs for heart disease.
  • Twelve percent of American children currently have type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes."
Kalafa shares tons of facts like these to bolster her case that we should be concerned about the foods served in schools. After all, we pay for part of the food (as tax payers) and then, she posits, we pay for the health problems down the road. 

Her arguments are valid but I did find the overall tone of the book a bit, perhaps, overly emotional. I don't know -- reading the book, I felt myself getting all riled up and I felt that that was the point. She wanted me to get riled up. And, OK, fair enough. The system is probably a rotten one and feeding our kids crap is a problem. So riling up moms is a good way to get things done. I just don't like feeling that I'm killing my kid if he eats some Keebler cookie or if I don't join the revolution.

Fortunately, Kalafa provides a lot of instruction on how to step into the revolution to whatever degree you are comfortable with. I appreciated her guidelines on how to get involved on a small level at your local school to taking it to Big Food and trying to make Big Changes. Her lists of things you can do, questions to ask, places to go, and people to see are all helpful and would make fighting for good food for our kids easier for anyone who wants to go for it.

So, check it out. If you liked Michael Pollan's books (like In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) I think you'll like Lunch Wars.

And while you're at it, you can check out the discussion about Lunch Wars on BlogHer.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

~ Felice

Review disclosure: This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.


Casey said...

This is great! It's on my list, now.

It's good to know about this sort of stuff, but you always kid of wish you didn't. Or at least I do. I just read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and wrote a review that will be posted on 10/27. Some of the same topics are discussed.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. I know for sure that's something I am very concerned about and I might be taking my son food at lunch time even in the day care.

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