For the Cause or Just Because?
Really. How many of these people who are all of a sudden surfacing with a concern for what children are eating truly care? Ever since First Lady Michelle Obama announced her Let's Move Initiative, people have been coming out the wood works to complain, people bash, and offer their two cents every chance they get. As an Executive Chef in the school sector, it has been a growing frustration of mine that has finally come to a head. I have come to the point where I need to get it out and offer my take on the ones who seem to have all of the opinions (or answers, let them tell it). The problem is most people have no idea what they are talking about and some just want to have something to say.
What frustrates me the most about the parents is that they come down so hard on the school districts for serving "crap" to their kids, but many of them don't even know what's being served. The introduction of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and reduction of the use of items with High Fructose Corn Syrup is missed due to their aggressive need to jump on the Complain Train. They constantly demand "change" and have no idea how difficult it is to change what is being served to thousands of kids everyday. They expect things to happen overnight and constantly pester the system to do this and do that because that's what their group of wealthy, stay-at-home-moms want them to do. They act as if it is the goal to serve bad food to kids and they hold meetings to conjure up ways to make their marks. As with everything else, it is the parents responsibility to teach their kids the right way to eat and what choices to make. If there is the choice of a Cheeseburger and a Vegetable Wrap and you don't want your kids eating Cheeseburgers, have that conversation at home. Don't demand that the schools remove the Cheeseburgers for everyone. Parent your child!
Chefs and So-Called Nutrition Gurus
Now here is what bothers me the most. With First Lady's Chefs Move to Schools Initiative, every chef in the world wants to stick their noses into what schools are doing. Honestly, I feel that most of them do so for recognition and self promotion. Most chefs see this as a platform to be seen and heard and most of them have no true commitment to the work that goes into serving thousands of kids the healthiest meals possible. The fact is, most of these chefs either own their own spot, work in a restaurant, cater, etc., but know nothing about the logistics and obstacles of the day-to-day operations of schools. In restaurants, it is very easy to serve fresh local vegetables, sustainable meats and seafood, etc.. You have the option of charging whatever you want for the products and meet your 30% food cost. It's much different in schools. People want you to provide all of this when you only have less that $1 to spend per plate - including labor! See, these chefs talk a good game about what the school chefs need to do and question why they don't change what's being served. But they themselves can say that and go back to their profitable kitchens and enjoy their six figure salaries. You can talk to me all you want about what new items you know about and what the difference is between this fruit and that one. But until you are willing to endure the daily bashing, number crunching, and constantly having to prove and defend yourself, keep your thoughts to yourself.
The Haves and the Have Nots
Finally, the thing that people forget most about First Lady's Initiative is that the goal is to provide families and communities with the education and tools that will allow them to adopt a healthy lifestyle. As with everything else, the areas that get the most attention and assistance are the more affluent areas. Most of the "Let's Movers" only want to be involved in the schools that their children attend. These are typically people who are well off and whose kids probably eat very well at home. If you are really concerned about the well being and nutritional education of all kids, go serve the schools on the Southside and Westside who's parents (usually single) work and help them. Since your kids eat well at home, have knowledge of what healthy food is, and know how to make good food choices, teach somebody else. That is, of course if you are willing to drive your Jag to the hood.
Simply put, if you are in it, be in it for the right reason. If not, and you are not really willing to truly contribute your time, talent or finances to make a real difference, put a lid on it!