[Sca-cooks] OT - Somewhat amusing in light of recent healthy food rants

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius.magister at verizon.net
Thu Oct 19 05:45:24 PDT 2006

 From yesterday's New York Times food section:

> October 18, 2006
> Glorious Food? English Schoolchildren Think Not
> ROTHERHAM, England — Five months after the celebrity chef Jamie  
> Oliver succeeded in cajoling, threatening and shaming the British  
> government into banning junk food from its school cafeterias, many  
> schools are learning that you can lead a child to a healthy lunch,  
> but you can’t make him eat.
> The fancy new menu at the Rawmarsh School here?
> “It’s rubbish,” said Andreas Petrou, an 11th grader. Instead, en  
> route to school recently, he was enjoying a north of England  
> specialty known as a chip butty: a French-fries-and-butter sandwich  
> doused in vinegar.
> “We didn’t get a choice,” he said of the school food. “They just  
> told us we were having it.”
> The government’s regulations, which took effect in September, have  
> banished from school cafeterias the cheap, instantly gratifying  
> meals that children love by default: the hamburgers, the French  
> fries, the breaded, deep-fried processed meat, the sugary drinks.
> Now schools have to provide at least two portions of fresh fruit  
> and vegetables a day for each child, serve fish at least once a  
> week, remove salt from lunchroom tables, limit fried foods to two  
> servings a week and cut out candy, soda and potato chips altogether.
> The rules apply to schools in England and Wales; Scotland has a  
> separate healthy lunch program.
> But weaning children who consider French fries a major food group  
> is not easy. There is no nicotine patch equivalent for chicken  
> nuggets.
> And many parents object to being lectured by Londoners like Mr.  
> Oliver, whose angry television show “Jamie’s School Dinners” first  
> alerted the nation to the horrors of school food like “Turkey  
> Twizzlers” — minuscule bits of meat processed with many nonmeat  
> products, molded into shapes and deep-fried.
> “No matter how healthy it is, if kids don’t like it they’re not  
> going to eat it,” said Julie Critchlow, a parent at Rawmarsh, a  
> high school set between a sprawling housing project and the south  
> Yorkshire hills. She mentioned the school’s new low-fat pizza and  
> tagliatelle and meatballs as being particularly unappetizing to her  
> children and said the cooks were so overworked that the baked  
> potatoes were being served half-cooked.
> The fact that Rawmarsh now bans children who do not go home for  
> lunch from leaving school has made things worse, she said, leading  
> to an overcrowded cafeteria and the elimination of the old fast- 
> food-down-theroad option.
> “They shouldn’t be allowed to tell the kids what to eat,” Mrs.  
> Critchlow said of the school authorities. “They’re treating them  
> like criminals.”
> Mrs. Critchlow has become a notorious figure in Britain. In  
> September she and another mother — alarmed, they said, because  
> their children were going hungry — began selling contraband  
> hamburgers, fries and sandwiches to as many as 50 students a day,  
> passing the food through the school gates.
> The mothers closed their business after they were vilified in the  
> national news media as “meat pie mums.” Mrs. Critchlow now feeds  
> her children lunch at home.
> Shaken by the bad publicity, the school says that the two women  
> represent a small minority and that most children are happy with  
> the healthier menus, which include two hot choices every day —  
> entrees like haddock provençal, beef curry and navarin of lamb — as  
> well as baked potatoes for the unadventurous.
> If the children really hate the food, Rawmarsh argues, they can  
> bring brown-bag lunches.
> “It doesn’t happen overnight; it takes an effort,” said Sonia  
> Sharp, a local government official, speaking of the campaign to win  
> the children over. “We have the responsibility for ensuring the  
> health of our children. We want to teach them how to make the right  
> choices for themselves.”
> The menu changes at Rawmarsh are being replicated across Britain,  
> which, much like the United States, is grappling with the issue of  
> how to regulate school food to improve children’s health. Although  
> Britons collectively are not yet as fat as Americans, they are the  
> fattest people in Europe. If current trends continue, the British  
> Medical Association says, by 2020 some 30 percent of boys and 40  
> percent of girls here will be clinically obese.
> There are no national figures yet on how many children have  
> rejected the new food. Kevin Morgan, a professor of European  
> regional development at the University of Cardiff who has studied  
> school meal reform, said anecdotal evidence showed that at least  
> for now, many students have switched to brown-bag lunches.
> “Parents are giving their children packed lunches, which are  
> invariably inferior from a nutritional point of view to the school  
> meals from which they were recoiling,” he said. He said that put  
> pressure on school cafeterias, which need to serve enough meals a  
> day to generate the revenue to remain financially viable.
> In addition, he said, many lunchroom cooks are struggling to make  
> the switch from deep-fried, microwaved dishes to food made from  
> scratch.
> Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party’s spokesman for higher  
> education, waded into the debate recently, saying first that he  
> applauded parents’ rights to “push pies through the railings,” but  
> then modifying his remarks when they caused a national outcry.
> “As long as we have the packed lunches and parents are going to be  
> irresponsible enough to want to put all the crisps and the junk in  
> the packed lunch,” he said, using the British term for potato  
> chips, “there is no way that schools can win.”
> Schools that have tried to win students over appear to have fared  
> better than those that impose bans, Professor Morgan said.
> The Royal Docks Community School, a high school in Newham, south  
> London, is one example. The school began gradually introducing menu  
> changes last year, consulting parents, students and the local  
> school district.
> Within six weeks, said the head teacher, Sean McGrath, the cooks  
> had reduced the use of cooking fat by 75 percent. The school also  
> barred younger students from going out during lunch, but did it  
> class by class, over a few months rather than all at once.
> The cafeteria now serves about 650 lunches a day, to just over half  
> of the school’s students. Last year, Mr. McGrath said, the figure  
> was closer to 250.
> But here in Rotherham, Andreas Petrou insists that no amount of  
> explaining will convince him that a French fry sandwich is not a  
> decent meal. If confronted with the school food, he said, he will  
> do what all his friends do: gather as much bread as he can, “put  
> half an inch of butter on each slice,” and call it lunch.

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