Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ann Cooper's Message to Dr. Janey Thornton

Ann Cooper, the chef behind the famous school food reform in Berkeley, CA, has written at Grist.com about the new USDA appointee for Food and Nutrition Service Department, Dr. Janey Thornton. She's not too optimistic about Dr. Thornton's track record as a nutrition services director in Kentucky, but has some recommended revisions the National School Lunch Program:
  • Make meals, both breakfast and lunch universal, a system where every child is fed every day.
  • Replace the current system of tracking menus by nutrients, to one where the guidelines are based on healthy, delicious balanced meals. These meals should consist in large part of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grains, and should include plant based protein.
  • Replace the definition of nutritious food, on which the current system is based, to one that defines and is based on real FOOD. (See full definition below.)
  • Raise the federal reimbursement rate to $4.00 - $5.00, based on the cost of living of the geographical area, and dedicate a minimum of $1.75 to be spent on food. Additionally, dedicate at least $1.00 be spent on fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and whole grains with a priority placed on procuring regionally produced food.
  • Dedicate resources to building or rebuilding kitchens in school districts to accommodate scratch cooking.
  • Dedicate resources to set-up a training program to teach school food service workers to cook from scratch.
  • Set-up a National Culinary Cooks Corp which allows culinary students to work off student loans by working in K-12 schools.
  • Institute hands-on experiential learning in the form of cooking and gardening classes that become a mandatory part of the educational system.
  • Dedicate resources to a National marketing campaign to help change children’s relationship to food, so that healthy/delicious school food becomes cool food.
  • Underscore the importance of eating healthy food by instituting questions on the SAT tests that highlight sustainable food and agriculture.
Chef Ann Cooper also outlines some general principles that she hopes Dr. Thornton will consider:
Healthful Food is wholesome.
• Includes whole and minimally processed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, meats, fish, and poultry.
• Contains naturally occurring nutrients (e.g., vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients).
• Is produced without added hormones or antibiotics.
• Is processed without artificial colors or flavors or unnecessary preservatives.

Healthful Food is produced, processed, and transported in a way that prevents the exploitation of farmers, workers, and natural resources, and the cruel treatment of animals. The process of healthful food production:
• Upholds the safety and quality of life of all who work to feed us.
• Treats all animals humanely.
• Protects the finite resources of soil, water, air, and biological diversity.
• Supports local and regional farm and food economies.
• Replaces fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.

Healthful Food should be available, accessible, and affordable to everyone.
• Is distributed equitably among all communities.
• Is available and emphasized in children’s environments such as childcare, school and after-school settings.
• Is promoted within institutions and workplaces, in cafeterias, vending machines and at meetings and events
• Is reflective of the natural diversity found in traditions and cultures.