I got an email yesterday from a new kindergarten mom. She's researching lunch containers, considering her options, seeking advice. Meanwhile, parents wonder what they'll find in the school cafeteria. Will it be the same old fare? Or are things changing?
Kim Severson's article "Stars Aligning On School Lunches" in last Wednesday's NYT contained this hopeful paragraph:
One woman at the forefront of school food reform is Dr. Susan Rubin, founder of Better School Food in Mount Kisco, New York. I spent several days with Susan last spring, when she sponsored my attendance at the Farm to Cafeteria conference in Portland, Oregon. (You might recall my post about the conference; if not, please click over.)
While we were together, I interviewed Susan. So today, as kids out here unpack their pencil cases and parents fret pick-ups and homework, I thought the time was right to share our conversation:
CSR: You used to be a dentist, right? And now you're a full-time school food advocate. Connect the dots.
Dr. Susan Rubin: Thirteen years ago when my kids started public school they were bringing home candy wrappers from the cafeteria. I got involved in my local PTA nutrition committee and hit a lot of obstacles. I went back to school [to study nutrition] and learned that sugar does a lot more than just rot your teeth and that we had even bigger problems with our food.
CSR: Who belongs to Better School Food?
SR: Health professionals, educators, concerned parents, and even college kids. They're my new demographic. They're trying to clean up the food in their cafeterias, too.
CSR: It seems pretty obvious that we should all want better school food. So whom are we fighting against?
SR: Agribusiness, the junk food industry, Monsanto. How we do food in school is how we do food in our culture and it's messed up. Food is a really sensitive, touchy subject for our culture. Confusion is everywhere.
CSR: Identify the movement's biggest challenges.
SR: Every mom who is trying to make a change in her community finds different challenges, but the one thing we have in common is that this is still considered fringe. We've been labeled tree-hugging-granola-crunching-earth-mamas. These moms are feeling so isolated because this is not yet mainstream.
CSR: If people are interested in exploring potential change in their own school districts, where can they start?
SR: Become a member of Better School Food. We have tons of free downloadable material. You also can get involved with our Facebook page (here). I give people direct advice, too. If someone contacts me on Facebook, I respond. I'm approachable. Facebook is a great tool for communities because you don't have to feel like you're the only crunchy mom in your town.
CSR: Final thoughts?
SR: None of these things really start from the top down. They all start from the bottom up. Parents can be pivotal.