Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Rebirth of Cooking School Lunches from Scratch

Sure, stories about Big Food's malfeasance are as common as tomatoes in home gardens (Cargill's ground turkey recall is just one example), but positive developments in the food world are also abundant.

While the move to healthier food in schools is now a no-brainer (see "School Meal Programs Shaping Up Nationwide" from today's Food Safety News), a nascent component of this is the rebirth of real cooking in school cafeteria kitchens.

Today's New York Times features a great article, "School Districts Rediscover Value of Fresh Cooking," on this development. If we are lucky, what's happening in Greeley, a small city in Colorado, will become the norm in school districts nationwide.

"Greeley’s schools will be cooking from scratch about 75 percent of the time on the opening day, with a goal of reaching 100 percent by this time next year, when ovens and dough mixers for whole wheat pizza crust will be up and running. But already, the number of ingredients in an average meal — not to mention the ones that sound like they came from chemistry class — is plummeting."

Consider the bean burrito: last year, in arriving from the factory wrapped in cellophane, each one had more than 35 ingredients, including things like potassium citrate and zinc oxide. This year: 12, including real cheddar cheese. Italian salad dressing went from 19 ingredients to 9, with sodium reduced by almost three-fourths and sugar — the fourth ingredient in the factory blend — eliminated entirely."
There probably will be some resistance from the kids, but isn't teaching and learning the point of school?

Elida Martinez, a 32-year veteran of Greeley's kitchens, sums it up perfectly:
"'We're going to teach children how to eat again.'"

I'll leave well enough alone, but wouldn't it be great if we taught our kids about the dangers of Cargill's commercial feedlots as well?

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