Everything (Seriously, Everything) You Need to Know to Start Fixing School Food: PEACHSF

by Bettina Elias Siegel on March 28, 2011

A few months after I started The Lunch Tray, I read an article about a woman named Dana Woldow, a parent of children in the San Francisco public schools who, along with other dedicated parents, had successfully reformed the school food in her area.  The accomplishments described were impressive — all junk food gone from the a la carte line and vending machines, sodas banned, improved federal meals —  and I immediately tracked down Dana and arranged a phone call to see if these sorts of changes could be made in my own Houston district.

On that call, Dana was remarkably generous with her hard-earned knowledge, but she was also a realist.  Rather than passing herself off as some sort of miracle worker, or trying to sell me on a simple five-step plan she’d come up with, she made it clear to me that improving school food cannot happen without lots of hard work and, most importantly, without funding; in her case, San Francisco’s board of education is willing to kick in significant money each year to cover the costs of the improved school food.

Since that first call, I’ve turned to Dana often to get her well-informed take on school food reform issues (most recently after reading about the Chicago school food “miracle” reported in the Chicago Tribune).  Her answers, and her occasional guest posts on The Lunch Tray (such as the widely-circulated “How to Know if Your School Can Do What Another School Does“), have been invaluable to me — as I hope they’ve been to TLT readers as well.

This is all a long way of explaining why I am SO excited that Dana and her fellow California school food reformers have now put all of their knowledge, advice and resources into a single, free website called PEACHSF.org.  The acronym stands for “Parents Educators & Advocates Connection for Healthy School Food,” and the site is designed “to provide a roadmap for parents and others wanting to get started making changes in their own communities, as well as steering them away from common myths and misunderstandings that can waste their time and energy.”

PEACHSF’s straightforward philosophy appears on its “What We Believe Page,” and includes these common sense propositions:

  • “We believe in being honest about what it takes to fix school food. We don’t believe in magical thinking, or that it just takes the will to fix the problem – it also takes a whole lot of money and enormous effort.”
  • “We believe that the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program are almost criminally underfunded by the federal government.”
  • “We believe that more money is needed for school meal programs, because healthier food like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean unprocessed meat costs more than corn dogs, fried potatoes and fruit turnovers.”

Amen to all that.

The site includes detailed but reader-friendly advice categorized as “First Steps,” “Building Support ” and “Taking Action,” with articles like “How to Make Friends with Your Nutrition Services Director” (which premiered here on The Lunch Tray a few weeks back), “Banning Sodas in Your School: A Short Organizing Guide” and “Where Do We Start? How to Tackle School Meals 101.” PEACHSF also has an online form for asking your own questions of Dana and her team of experts, as well as a page for sharing success stories..

As a blogger who tackles school food reform questions, among other topics, I feel a real sense of relief that this website now exists.  Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel by gathering and synthesizing resources from all over the place when school food reform issues come up, I’m going to be able to simply say, “Visit PEACHSF.org for more information.”

What ever will I do with all my free time?

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny Johnson March 28, 2011 at 8:20 am

Thanks, looking forward to visiting the site.

Feeling discouraged about the school funding issue this morning after reading various depressing articles in the Chron. Wondering how, in this era of teacher cuts and class sizes, we will ever get things on the right track again—both with food and all the rest of it.

Thoughts?

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Bettina Elias Siegel March 28, 2011 at 9:02 am

Well, the good news (sort of) is that the meal program is federally funded and therefore escapes the budget horror going on in TX right now. The bad news, though, is that now is clearly not the time to go to the school board and ask for any additional money to improve the status quo. That said, I’m not sure we ever had the political will here to do that, as Dana was able to marshal in a place like San Francisco. Grr.

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Maggie March 29, 2011 at 7:10 am

The PEACHSF site looks great. I appreciate the fact that the folks involved acknowledge the challenges without a lot of drama and hype, which sometimes seems common.

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