November 19th, 2009

School lunch is on the table

cover00In September, John Merrow blogged about a few of the education-related books engaging him at the moment. In this month’s BookForum, Kate Christensen reviews a book by Janet Poppendieck that may turn up on a lot of our reading lists in 2010.

Free For All, Poppendieck’s exposé of the American school lunch, claims that public schools need to prioritize providing nutritional, free breakfasts and lunches to all its students. The issue of school lunch is wedded, she argues, to issues of race and class: after all, the accepted measure of poverty at a given American school is the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. In many schools, the free lunch fed to poor kids is not only unhealthy, it’s also ridden with social stigma. From Christensen’s review:

The three-tiered system of free, reduced-price, and full-price lunches ostensibly provides for needy kids but in fact intimidates and confuses parents with endless forms to fill out and fosters a sense of shame in eligible kids, who opt to go hungry rather than expose their poverty to their peers. The program therefore often fails to reach the very kids it was designed for.

Christensen compares Poppendieck’s book to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and one hopes that the popularity of Pollan’s ideas will carry over into the realm of education. We all deserve to eat well, but with the considerable challenges they face, schoolchildren may deserve the finest dining.

Midday Malaise [bookforum.com, Dec/Jan 2010]
A Reading List [Taking Note, LMtv, 9/22/09]

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