A National Day of Action to get REAL FOOD back in schools

time for lunch JerushaKempererOn Tuesday August 25th, Pediatric Safety had the opportunity to interview Jerusha Klemperer, Program Manager for Networks and Partnerships for Slow Food USA, an organization currently responsible for organizing “eat-ins” around the country as part of a National Day of Action. Since “health care reform” and “getting healthier food in schools” are issues that are often top of mind for parents and caregivers these days, we wanted to spend some time with her and understand what her organization was, and why a “day of action” was needed.


PedSafe: There are a lot of definitions of Slow Food on your site. What exactly is Slow Food and what does it mean for families?

Jerusha: First, think of Slow Food as in the opposite of fast food. Slow Food tries to connect people w/understanding where their food comes from…as well as support the people who grow their food on a small scale and try to produce good/clean/fair food in a sustainable way.

Now as far as good / clean / fair food: The word good can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For Slow Food, the idea of good means enjoying delicious food created with care from healthy plants and animals. When we talk about clean food, we are talking about nutritious food that is as good for the planet as it is for our bodies. Food that is fair should be accessible to all, regardless of income, and produced by people who are treated with dignity and justly compensated for their labor.

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PedSafe:We know on Labor Day Sept 7th – there’s a big event you’re coordinating – Time for Lunch National Day of Action to get REAL FOOD in schools. There’s a lot of information on your website about the Time for Lunch campaign – and about what you stand for …in short, can you tell us what “Time for Lunch” is really about?

Jerusha: There are some fundamental reasons we list on our site for why there’s a need for something like Time for Lunch:

Today, one in four children is overweight or obese, and one in three will develop diabetes in his or her lifetime. In the face of this crisis, our schools are financially struggling to feed children anything but the overly processed fast food that endangers their health. For many children, school lunch is their only guaranteed meal of the day. Right now, those children are forced to choose between going hungry and being unhealthy. The need for real school food has never been greater.

The National School Lunch Program provides a meal to more than 30 million children every school day. By giving schools the resources to serve real food, we can grant 30 million children the freedom to be healthy. By teaching children to eat well, we can make a down payment on health care reform. This fall, the Child Nutrition Act, which is the bill that governs the National School Lunch Program, is up for reauthorization in Congress. By passing a Child Nutrition Act that works for children, our nation can take the first step towards a future where no child is denied his or her right to be healthy and where every child enjoys real food.

If I had to pick the top 3 things we stand for – what Time for Lunch hopes to accomplish – they would be:

  1. INVEST IN CHILDREN’S HEALTH – Give schools just $1 more per day for each child’s lunch. Today, under the National School Lunch Program, schools are given $2.57 for a free lunch, $2.17 for a reduced-price lunch and 24cents for a paid lunch; after all overhead costs are paid, schools are left with approximately $1 to spend on food per child.
  2. PROTECT AGAINST FOODS THAT PUT CHILDREN AT RISK – Hold all food on a school campus to equal standards – including vending machine and school fast food. If the school chooses to be healthy, vending machines with junk foods will not help the obesity problems
  3. TEACH CHILDREN HEALTHY HABITS THAT WILL LAST THROUGH LIFE – Fund programs that “introduce” healthier foods to kids in “creative” ways to inspire healthier eating habits. It’s not a boring old carrot – its one you planted and grew and picked…and now you can’t wait to try it. Click here to watch a video of Michelle Obama explaining why it’s important that every child grow up enjoying fresh, healthy, unprocessed food.

PedSafe: How do you deal with the fact that – as President Obama recently commented – kids typically like the taste of food that is bad for them.

Jerusha: A colleague of mine said something interesting…we don’t ask kids what they want to learn in English…we teach them what they need to learn. In school we hold them to a higher standard and nourish their minds. Why not in the cafeteria? Most of the time the only apple they’ve had is an industrial apple and it doesn’t taste very good – give them a fresh delicious apple that they’ve seen grown & most of the time it blows their mind & they like them. It’s our job to educate them – if we don’t we’re letting them down.

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PedSafe: Tell me more about these Eat-Ins you are organizing on this National Day of Action…what are they and who is participating?

Jerusha: An Eat-In (part potluck, part sit-in) takes place in public and gathers people to support a cause – like getting real food into schools. On Labor Day, people in communities all over the country will sit down to share a meal with their neighbors and kids. Right now we have 269 eat-ins all over the country in all 50 states. Slow-Food has 220 chapters all over the country, and right now ½ of the eat-ins are being organized by the chapters, ½ are organized by people just concerned about kids: parents, farmers, school nutrition counselors, churches, etc.

PedSafe: And the goals for that day?

Jerusha: Because this is a grass roots effort our goals were to reach a lot of people and communicate our issues; so far we’re happy to say we’ve surpassed our goals

PedSafe: Overall what kind of message are you sending? Healthier eating? Or do you promote a way of life?

Jerusha: In a broad general way – it’s really simple: “ We’d like to get real food into schools…” ; we’re not telling people what to eat; we’re just connecting people to food and trying to avoid overly-processed food.

PedSafe: What exactly are you hoping to accomplish with the National Day of Action campaign?

Jerusha: This is a real grass-roots campaign. Our hope is our legislators will see that 200,000+ came out because they believe what we believe – the 3 points I mentioned earlier…and that when it comes time to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act, this will have made a difference in getting an additional $1 authorized for school lunches.

PedSafe: At this point, how can someone get involved in the National Day of Action? You list a lot of ways on your site… What would you recommend for families?time_for_lunch-eat_in-20080901

Jerusha: My suggestion:

  1. If they don’t have plans for labor day – find an eat-in near by – go attend a public potluck with their kids in their neighborhood
  2. If not one nearby – get together w/friends & neighbors & have your own…take a picture and send it in to timeforlunch@slowfoodusa.org
  3. Sign the petition on the website. (just past 10,000 signatures – we’re hoping for 20k by September 7th)

PedSafe: Pediatric Safety is a community of parents and caregivers (doctors, nurses, emergency responders, teachers, etc.), that come together to protect the health and safety of kids. What do you want to say specifically to them?

Jerusha: We all need to think about food and health as connected. Eating real food is the best kind of preventative there is.


Additional Resources

About the Author

Stefanie Zucker is President and co-founder of Pediatric Medical and Managing Director and co-founder of Axios Partners, a strategy consulting firm. After a number of years spent researching the safety issues associated with transporting children on ambulances she became a child health safety advocate and formed Pediatric Safety with a goal of creating a world-wide movement of parents and caregivers inspired to protect the health and safety of kids. Stefanie is a member of the PedSafe Team


2 Responses to “A National Day of Action to get REAL FOOD back in schools”

  1. I used to be the only one in school who LOVED school food. The grilled cheese doubled as hockey pucks but they were my favorite!

  2. I’m pediatr from Russia. Super post!

    key words – “Today, one in four children is overweight or obese, and one in three will develop diabetes in his or her lifetime”

    It’s time to save our children! It’s time to save nation!

    Where exit? Products of Herbalife – one shake a day – the best nutrition all over the World!

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