"Lunch Money": Great new book on how to save money while making healthier school lunches

Chef Kate Adamick’s new book, Lunch Money, is a fascinating read. Adamick works as a consultant on school food reform, advising schools across America how to serve cooked-from-scratch meals–and save money in the process. Oh, and she is both a corporate attorney and a trained chef.

Lunch Matters thus, unsurprisingly, packs a double punch: it takes on food in schools from the pragmatic perspective of a hands-on chef; but it also links this to an analysis of the food system. Adamick’s explanations of how the current approach to school meals is shaped both by political and economic factors (like subsidies), linked to her biting (and often funny) critique of our misguided culture of “kids’ food”, make this a comprehensive analysis.

I don’t want to spoil the book for you, so here are just a few quotes.

I was happy to read this one, based on her extensive personal experience of introducing ‘scratch-cooked’ meals in cafeterias:

“One of the biggest myths in the school food reform movement is the idea that if we cook healthy food, “kids won’t eat it.” … The happily reality is that most students are proud when their schools serve healthy, scratch-cooked meals.”

Her views on food education in schools echo the French approach:

“Of course it is true that some children will never eat anything new….but it’s important to remember that children are sent to school in order to learn. They don’t stop learning just because it’s lunchtime. What and how students are fed at school teaches them how to think about food, what to think of as food, and how to behave while consuming it–lessons they will take with them for a lifetime.”

And she raises a fascinating question:

“Why do responsible, and even overprotective, adults place children in harm’s way in the cafeteria when they go to great lengths to protect them from harm elsewhere on school grounds? Why do we feed our children over-processed, chemical imitations of real food that over time can lead to illness and premature death?”

Good question. The book has lots of answers, and lots of great ideas about how we could do things differently. The work charts, tables, and study guides in the book will be useful for teachers and school administrators. For parents and anyone interested in food system reform, Lunch Money a must-read.

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