October 7 2011
Wu-rrying About School Lunches
The identity of the woman behind the popular blog Fed Up with Lunch has been revealed. Launched in 2010, the hitherto-anonymous blog detailed Chicago public-elementary-school teacher Sarah Wu's impressive efforts to eat a school lunch every day for a year.
Ms. Wu would post daily photos of the meals alongside amusing descriptions. In an interview with USA Today, Wu discussed her soon-to-be-released book based on the blog and explained that "with the blog, I really wanted a public record of these meals that I couldn't believe were being served to kids."
I'm very happy for Ms. Wu. After enduring school food for a year (think chicken nuggets, luke-warm pizza, and canned green beans), the woman deserves a pat on the back and a book deal. Yet I can't help but wonder why Ms. Wu "couldn't believe these meals were being served to kids."
Let's all just take a step back here and try to remember where this food is being served - at school - a government-run institution staffed by nice ladies with little to no professional chef's training, let alone actual culinary degrees.
Still, I'm glad Ms. Wu engaged in this ambitious project and started this blog. It's informative and parents really should take a look at what their kids are eating and perhaps react the way Ms. Wu did: with a collective "ewwww!" But I remain a bit baffled by all the shock and awe at Ms. Wu's blog. Shouldn't it be pretty obvious that the meals served to elementary-school children wouldn't be appealing to a 34-year-old woman? I'm certainly not interested in eating my four-year-old son's favorite meal of plain noodles, buttered bread, and applesauce.
But I'm also disappointed with Ms. Wu's predictable solution to the so-called "problem" of unhealthy (or at the very least, undesirable) school lunches. Discussing these school meals, Wu made the dramatic statement that what is being served to kids in schools amounts to a "nationwide nutrition crisis."
Nutrition crisis? Oh please. Surely Ms. Wu - one of our nation's educators - knows about the real nutrition crisis occurring in places like India, China, and all over Africa. Of course these terms are thrown around quite freely these days and not just by Ms. Wu.
Ms. Wu then went on to say children "need the best food we can give them. The "we" to whom she refers is, of course, "we the people," the taxpayers, the citizens of this country. To Ms. Wu, and her fans in the White House, it is the collective responsibility of the American citizen, not the individual responsibility of parents, to feed children.
In fairness, Ms. Wu does have a section of her blog dedicated to home-packed lunches, though they look a bit fussy and time-consuming in my "you'll eat what I give you!" opinion (think: bento box rather than brown bag). But lunch for your kid doesn't have to be ambitious or even pretty; it simply has to contain what you consider healthy food for your kids that they will actually eat.
Ms. Wu has a unique opportunity to encourage parents to take a greater role in their children's nutrition. One hopes she won't simply use her bully pulpit to call for more taxpayer dollars for an already grossly bloated and mismanaged school-lunch program.
Apparently, Ms. Wu got the idea for her blog when she didn't have time to pack her own lunch and bought a school lunch instead. So horrified by the contents of this lunch (a hot dog, tater tots, a Jell-O cup, and chocolate milk), she felt compelled to act.
Hopefully, parents who visit Ms. Wu's blog will be similarly put off by the meals she describes and compelled to their own act of packing their kid a lunch.