The comment process is a little intimidating, but the links provided above make it easier and provide full context for all the issues under consideration.
Parents of students who are vegans or vegetarians might be particularly interested in the second comment opportunity, since the USDA is weighing whether things like “lentil pasta” should count as a meat alternative on its own.
And as always, the public comment period is an excellent chance to let the government know what you think about MILK in school meals. The #1 comment we hear when we visit with parents, teachers, and students is that they’re sickened by how much milk is poured down the drain each day. What most people don’t realize is that the National Dairy Council works very hard to make sure that milk is served in these large quantities. Since the dairy industry is concerned only about the sale of milk to the government, they don’t care if it gets consumed or poured down the drain.
Further, dairy is now often mixed with sugar in products like yogurt and chocolate milk, and anybody who has seen the movie Fed Up knows what a disaster sugar is for our kids. This comment period is a good time to let the USDA know whether you think sugar should be limited in school meals.
Please join us at Tyler Elementary on Saturday, September 23 at noon for the next meeting of the DC School Food Project! Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org and spread the word far and wide! If you know of anybody — a parent, a teacher, a student, a food service worker, a health advocate, an anti-hunger warrior, a businessperson, or anybody else who might be interested, please invite them along.
At the meeting we will prioritize our agenda for moving forward, including:
hosting no-cost monthly wellness workshops to support community health education
advocating for the integration of FoodPrints recipes in the school meal rotation
supporting the community push to participate in the Good Food Purchasing Program
making good on the Healthy Schools Act mandate to create a central kitchen facility
preparing for the DC City Council hearing on November 16
We also have a number of specific jobs and positions within the organization to divvy up, including some social media work, outreach in the schools, liaising with Council, bridging to DCPS, and more.
We hope to see you on the 23rd! There’s much to be done.
“That’s nasty!” “My lunch looks like floor sweepings mixed into fructose.” #ThanksMichelleObama
Refrains like these about disgusting school food are as American as apple pie. And more often than not, kids who complain about the food they are served in school are right: it’s gross.
They deserve better.
That’s why I urge you to sign your kid up for the school meal program.
Wait, what? I’ve acknowledged that school food is gross, so why would I want your kids to eat it? Am I a sales representative for the District’s multi-billion-dollar school food service management company, SodexoMagic? No, definitely not. Am I a DCPS employee in the Office of Food and Nutrition Services who is very earnestly trying to make sure your kids’ meals are healthy and tasty? No.
I’m someone who knows that 76% of kids in our public school system have no option but to eat the meals our schools provide. And when the rest of us pack our kids lunch and opt out of the school meal system, we absolve ourselves of responsibility to make sure every kid in DC gets great food.
All summer, those Pinterest boards with photos of delicious lunches packed by loving moms have taunted you. Now that it’s August, you gather your strength and imagine that this year—this is the one!—you’re going to get organized and make a perfectly balanced bento box for your darling each morning. In fact, you’ll make it the night before because you’ve got resolve.
By November, Facebook posts about the “Good Enough Mom” start showing up, reminding you that packing lunches for your kids is a pain and you don’t have to be good at it. Throw some crap in there from Costco. Smear last night’s mashed potatoes into a container. Ketchup is a vegetable, right?
I’m here to tell you that you can stop the madness. Stop packing lunch! It costs money – money that Whole Foods will gladly take from you. It adds pressure to your life, as you berate yourself for not being good at it or for not kicking it up a notch and demanding that your kids do it themselves, you know, because life skills. Studies have shown that lunches packed from home are typically not healthier than lunches served at school, so that excuse is out the window too.
But the main reason to stop packing lunches is because communities have power.
You, as an individual person with individual kids, have power too. You can control exactly what goes into the lunches you pack, and that feels good. You’ve read magazines to educate yourself about the best foods to include, and you communicate love to your child by knowing what she likes and what you’re willing to do for her. Imagine, though, that you took that individual power in your individual family and used it instead to help every kid in DCPS feel that love and taste that delicious food.
That’s what all our kids deserve.
They need your advocacy. When they come home on Day One and say lunch was disgusting, call DCPS and SodexoMagic and tell them. (Or email us at email@example.com and we’ll tell them.) When DCPS and SodexoMagic do not improve meal quality to the level you think it should be, join together with other parents, teachers, and students to make collective demands. You have that right! You have that privilege. You have that responsibility.
We need you, parents. We need you to put the lunchbox down, walk slowly away from the kitchen counter, and demand that the taxes you have already paid for the lunches that are provided at your kids’ school be put to the best possible use.
And when your kids beg you to please, please, please pack them a lunch from home, tell them you’re giving them something better: a chance to contribute to their community. Involve them in the fight to insist that food at their school be fantastic, and show them what a small group of thoughtful, committed community members can accomplish together.
Let’s start the school year off right! How is the food at your kids’ school? What’s good? What problems are popping up?
We invite you to get involved with the DC School Food Project. We are a local group of parents, students, teachers, principals, nutritionists, policymakers, anti-hunger advocates, and community members who want our kids to have good food in our schools. The best way to make that happen is to work together.
Please contact us to get involved. We meet regularly and have lots to do, and we can use your help!
The Oakland, California Unified School District recently made news by adopting a Good Food Procurement Program (GFPP). What is this?
The Center for Good Food Purchasing explains that a GFPP is a tool that helps public institutions (like schools) contribute to and benefit from a healthy food system. This is important in cities like Washington, DC, which spend millions of dollars on food purchases each year.
The five core values of a GFPP are local economies, health, valued workforce, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability. The rights of workers, the sustainability of farming practices, and the value of whole, unprocessed foods for our kids are prioritized with a program like this. School districts that adopt a GFPP seek to promote health and well-being by offering generous portions of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and minimally processed foods, while reducing salt, added sugars, saturated fats, and red meat consumption, and eliminating artificial additives.
What does any of this have to do with DC? The city is currently considering the nomination of Antwan Wilson for the position of Chancellor of DC Public Schools. Mr. Wilson most recently served as Superintendent of what school district? Oakland Unified. We’d like to reach out to the DC City Council and to Mr. Wilson himself to let them know that the values of a Good Food Purchasing Program are values we support.
If you are interested in providing input into Mr. Wilson’s confirmation process, consider reaching out to the Committee on Education, which is holding roundtables on the issue. The next roundtable is December 8, 2016. If you wish to testify in person, you may sign-up online at http://bit.do/educationhearings. The witness list will close for each roundtable 24-hours prior to the start of the roundtable. You are encouraged, but not required, to submit 10 copies of your written testimony at the roundtable. If you are speaking on your own behalf, you should limit your testimony to three minutes; if you are representing an organization, you should limit your testimony to five minutes (unless there are multiple people representing the same organization).
If you are unable to testify at the hearing, written statements can be submitted by 5 pm on December 12, 2016, and will be made a part of the official record. Written statements can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to:
Committee on Education
Council of the District of Columbia, Suite 116
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
The Food Policy Council met for the first time last month and the Councilmembers identified “Sustainable Food Procurement” as one of their top priorities. Further, the Sustainable Food Procurement Working Group identified SCHOOL FOOD as its top priority.
This is all great news for those who care about school food in the District!
Each organization will provide a brief statement answering the following questions:
What do we wish more people knew about school food?
What are our top goals for the coming school year?
What can others in the room do to partner with us?
Following that, members of the public are able to ask questions. This is where we need you!! I hope you’ll be able to come out and participate. We need to ask DCPS what standards of performance they will hold Sodexo to, what regularly (monthly) oversight reports they will share, what specific ways they will involve students and parents in the process. Perhaps most importantly, we want to ask what they will do to increase participation and access, especially in wards where students are most in need.
“Questions may be submitted in advance to email@example.com (please include “School Food Questions” in the email title) or to @dcfoodpolicy on Twitter. They may also be written out on the index cards provided to the audience at the beginning of the meeting. Questions will be selected and read by Food Policy Council Members as time allows and the rest will be submitted to appropriate parties via email.”
The kids in DC deserve great school food, and they won’t get it unless we demand it! We’ll see you on the 7th.
Quick Version: Please RSVP to come to our next meeting on August 11 at 6:30pm at Tyler Elementary in SE.
We’ve got some good news to celebrate for the upcoming school year: DC Central Kitchen has been awarded the contract for schools in Ward 7! DCCK is an amazing organization with terrific food and this is a real win for the city.
If you’ve been on social media you may have also learned that the company Sodexo has been awarded the contract for the remaining 101 DC public schools. Although this isn’t a win for us, we were successful in our call for a Council hearing on the issue, and three DC City Councilmembers including Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, and Elissa Silverman voted against the contract. In their dissenting votes they articulated the concerns we have highlighted, so our messages are getting through.
The first is, let’s get together. We’ve secured space at Tyler Elementary (1001 G St SE, just off the Eastern Market Metro station)on Thursday, August 11 at 6:30pm. Please RSVP to let us know if you can come, and spread the word far and wide! If you know of anybody — a parent, a teacher, a student, a health advocate, an anti-hunger warrior, a businessperson, or anybody else who might be interested, please invite them along. And also please forward this to your school listservs and other networks. It would be great to increase participation from all wards.
At the meeting we will set our agenda for moving forward. A few things that members have already mentioned as priorities include:
locking down details with Council for oversight of Sodexo and DCPS with monthly hearings,
brainstorming new models for food services,
encouraging DCPS to re-establish a regular Friends and Family Advisory Committee,
agitating for a new Food Services Director,
working to establish a mentoring program for small food service companies in DC to be able to bid effectively on DCPS RFPs, and
making good on the Healthy Schools Act mandate to create a central distribution site and move food services in-house.
This is not an exhaustive list, but we can work on the details together on in August. We also have a number of specific jobs and positions to divvy up, including some social media work, outreach in the schools, liaising with Council, bridging to DCPS, and more.
We hope to see you on the 11th! There’s much to be done.
With best regards and many thanks for the support you’ve already shown,
Earlier today we sent the following e-mail to Councilmember Grosso, the Chair of the Committee on Education, and to all DC City Councilmembers. It does not outline a perfect solution, but it does move us past a truly horrible contract with Sodexo.
The e-mail recommends amending the contract in a way that would allow DCPS to offer one cluster to an amazing upstart company called Genuine Foods. The text of the e-mail appears below.
Dear Councilmember Grosso,
On behalf of The DC School Food Project, I’d like to thank you for the thorough, detailed hearing you conducted this week on the DCPS/SodexoMagic contract. You and the other Councilmembers asked the hard questions, and we in the community appreciate it.
My reading of the situation is that we are in quite a bind. Everybody acknowledges that this contract is problematic. Yet Council–understandably–feels constrained about what it can do at this stage.
Our preference is that the contract be disapproved.
Yet if that’s not possible, I think there is a palatable solution that might get us all closer to where we want to be. I noticed in the hearing that you indicated that you are open to allowing DCPS to make some modifications to the contract. Some of the language in the contract wasn’t clear or correct, and you asked Dr. Beers for a list of items that would have to be included before the vote on Tuesday, July 12.
If you’re open to modifications from DCPS, then I think the most important modification to require would be to bring in one more vendor to serve one cluster. It is my understanding that Genuine Foods remains on the list as a qualified bidder. I do not know (and have long been asking!) who any of the other bidders are. But I am aware that this vendor published their proposal and BAFOs online. Mr. Grosso, it’s a really amazing proposal, in my opinion.
Everything Council said it wanted at the hearing, Genuine Foods has: It has five community partners; it already has an agreement with the Teamsters to honor their labor requirements; it already has a written plan for student engagement. They are transparent — publishing even their prices online. And Mr. Grosso, their per-meal prices are significantly less than Sodexo’s, even though they include much more robust standards such as working with local food providers, prioritizing staff training, and increasing participation in schools with the most vulnerable students.
DCPS could award one high-need cluster to Genuine Foods, and see how they do. Right now, if Council approves the Sodexo contract and Sodexo violates the terms of its agreement, there is no vendor in place to step in who has been tested and worked within the system, other than DCCK (which has no desire to scale up) and Revolution Foods (which has not performed well in the District or elsewhere — see their many Notices to Cure, from as recently as 2014). Quite simply, we need more breadth. We need a deeper bench. We need at least one more contractor in the mix.
Everybody agrees that DC Central Kitchen is sort of the Gold Standard in the school food game. My reading of the situation is that Genuine Foods’ approach is a lot closer to DCCK than Sodexo is, by far.
If there are other qualified bidders who could take a cluster, they should be considered too. But this is the easy route. And I think it would be met with widespread approval.
Please let us know your thoughts. We would like to see this happen.