Making Over Your School's Lunch

Improve the quality of your child's lunch: persuade his school to start a garden. We tell you how.

Concerned about what your child is eating at school? Consider joining up with fellow moms and dads to start a school garden and healthy lunches program in your district. Marcy Greenhut, a member of Berkeley's nutrition committee, suggests that you begin by picking up a school lunch from the cafeteria and bringing it to that night's P.T.A. meeting. When parents see what kids are being served -- often foods like hot dogs, canned fruit in heavy syrup, and chips -- it may motivate them to try to change the system through the steps below.

  • CREATE AN OFFICIAL FOOD POLICY to determine what foods should be served. This is no small matter; it took Berkeley 24 months to arrive at theirs. "Nothing is more emotionally charged than food," says Zenobia Barlow, executive director of Berkeley's Center for Ecoliteracy, one of the project's sponsors. Invite school administrators, food service representatives, and a local nutritionist to help set up a healthy meal plan.
  • THINK BIG. "You have to work with the superintendent, the food services director, and the board of education," says Barlow. "It's a whole district challenge."
  • INVOLVE THE COMMUNITY. If you aren't eligible for federal funding -- as the Berkeley school district is -- ask parents to donate time and money, perhaps through fundraising drives. "Gardens aren't that expensive to create," says Barlow. "They just take care."
  • HIRE A GARDEN ADVISOR or parents who are experts in gardening to help with the planting. You need people who will know what to plant and at what time of the year to do so.
  • ADD A COOKING CURRICULUM. Ask parents to find and fund local chefs to help teach cooking. "A lot of incredibly sophisticated chefs are available for $10 to $15 an hour," says Barlow. "And they do it out of love."

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Updated by Gabor Ekecs
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