Those are the words of Ryan Lonnett, a parent and an advocate with the group Real Food For Kids. His words are referring to the ingredient disodium inosinate and other unknown ingredients found in his children’s school cafeteria foods. Lonnett’s fight for real food in schools may actually be making an impact and soon, real, pronounceable, food may be served across the country.
Thiamine mononitrate, disodium inosinate, and pyridoxine hydrochloride are some of the other ingredients often found in processed school lunch foods. In Fairfax County, Viginia schools many parents want to see these ingredients wiped from the menu.
If Real Food For Kids (RFFK) succeeds in their campaign the kids will no longer be served grilled cheese from a bag, a jumbo turkey frank, or a cheese quesadilla loaded with preservative chemicals. In addition to eliminating these items, RFFK wants to see the county purchase new kitchen equipment and begin preparing some foods from scratch.
These are lofty goals. However, in the meantime their efforts have resulted in the public schools eliminating the “26-ingredient burger.” Yes, a burger that actually has 26 ingredients will now be replaced with a frozen patty made of one ingredient, 100% beef.
One minor victory is a good first step in this fight. The school system feels that new kitchens and hiring chefs is not a possibility due to costs. While it seems difficult, Fairfax County may need to evaluate what the Boulder Valley School District in Colorado is doing.
“What I believe is that we’re going back,” says Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services for the Boulder Valley School District in Colorado. “If we want to be healthy and want our kids to be healthy, we’ve got to find our kitchens again.”
Cooper had been able to bring homemade, from scratch cooking back to their schools. Many cities are seeing this become a possibility though services like the US Department of Agriculture’s Chefs Move to Schools program. The program encourages students to learn more about food and cooking. More than 3,300 schools and 3,400 chefs have joined the program, according to the USDA.
Another helping hand in this battle is the Culinary Trust. They are a partner of the Chefs Move to Schools program and they are offering grants to support the efforts.
The excuses are running low for serving non-food, non-pronounceable items in our schools. Finding our kitchens once more seems like a no brainer.