Early in Free for All: Fixing School Food in America (University of California Press, 2010) former Texas Agriculture Secretary Susan Coombs declares that, “it will take 2 million angry moms to change school food.” Based on what we now know of the dreary state of our children’s cafeteria fare, there must be at least that many mamas, as well as a good number of papas who are ready to storm the barricades. Fortunately for them and America’s 55 million students who gulp down something resembling a meal every school day, they’ve been joined by Hunter College sociologist Janet Poppendieck who gives us the best reasons yet for unconditional school food reform.
[My Dandelion Cafe is one of the drop-off spots for breastfeeding mom's.]
Amanda Pacheco didn’t intend to start a movement.
But in September, when one of her friends died suddenly, leaving behind a 6-week-old baby, Pacheco rallied dozens of breast-feeding moms to donate breast milk to her friend’s daughter, baby Sara.
Before long, Pacheco had more donations of breast milk than little baby Sara could use. Orlando moms donated dozens of packets of frozen breast milk. Four local businesses volunteered to serve as drop-off locations and provided freezers to store the milk. One woman drove from North Carolina, delivering a cooler packed with eight gallons of frozen breast milk.
Shoot, I couldn’t help myself. Maya keeps gulping it down like moonshine and I was wondering what the fuss (no pun intended) was all about. It’s light like ricemilk, but much sweeter, and at the most-perfect-temperature-you-never-knew-you-cared-about-before-because-you-never-had-it-this-exact-right-temperature.
One of my friends raised an eyebrow when I reported this and they thought it best not to mention dipping into Maya’s milk supply to the general public. Interesting view from someone who thinks nothing of drinking pasteurized (dead), fortified (messed with) milk from a (factory farmed, miserable, too big for us humans, hormone & antibiotic injected, mechanically milked) cow. And one that is a complete stranger at that.
Why wouldn’t I want a sip of hand squeezed, raw, organic, barely been exposed to oxygen, custom crafted just for my family, sweet delicious breast milk? Makes you rethink the whole drinking cow milk thing when I put it that way, eh? Also makes you w0nder why in the heck anyone ever thought it was a good idea to formula feed masses of babies? Breastfeeding mom’s are empowered & connected to their little ones, and breastfed babies are proven to be healthier, smarter and usually a heck of a lot less fussy, which of course makes everyone happier. Oh, and it’s FREE. Hmmm, maybe the profit motive is why they came up with formula – lots of companies reap the financial rewards of disempowered, sick & unhappy folks. And there’s no better time than right from the get-go.
Woman, this mercury retrograde is hitting hard this time around. My car is broken, my fridge is broken, my backdoor is coming off the hinges. I’m really seriously trying to focus on the positive here, but days like this it is sorta difficult. The economic blip we are in is definitely making for a grim situation at the cafe and my business partner and I are debating about our current commitment level to organics. It seems that the numbers just don’ t add up in this changing economy and with no access to cash to help keep us afloat, there is a very real threat we may not survive the summer. I can’t imagine not keeping with our organic standards, to me, using non-organic food would be like adding meat to our vegetarian menu. I just don’t know if I could do that. But the math isn’t working and I’m at a loss as to what to do. We’ve certainly dealt with our financial stressors over the past four years, but it seemed manageable as sales were holding steady. I know that if we can make it through this turbulent year, the grass is definitely greener for socially aware businesses like ours, as we are at the heart of the relocalization movement, but how do I attract enough capital to keep us afloat without being able to demonstrate an immediate ROI? I’m wondering if there are any socially conscious investors out there who would get what we are trying to do & what the cafe symbolizes to the community at large. Perhaps I should consider this option. Any ideas?
In the meanwhile, trying to focus on the positive, I finally got approved for medicaid. While I certainly don’t take pride in having to rely on a social service, I do feel like I contribute to society in a positive way, so I am gratefully leaning on public health insurance to pay for my prenatal and homebirth experience. We are so fortunate to live in a state the allows this birthing option for economically-challenged individuals like myself. It makes sense as it is less expensive than a hospital birth, but in some states midwifery model of care is actually illegal (click the Big Push for more info). I don’t qualify for food stamps, but I was disturbed to discover that recipients are forbidden to purchase organics and even though “the Food Stamp Program helps people with low-income, buy healthy food.” Read more about this issue here. Okay, that last part wasn’t so positive. Sigh. Maybe it’s just one of those days.
Really, truly. Wednesday nights I usually go the market but this evening, after a week of rain, I was pooped and had to take a nap. So I woke up hungry and needed to eat NOW, if you know what I mean. So, one quick glance at my ingredients yielded me another stellar cast iron meal. I sauteed some balsamic-splashed local-mushrooms & red onion with half a local-honey glazed apple (grilled open faced & diced after) which I tossed lightly with spinach enough to warm, but not cook. With my spare hand I made some homemade coleslaw with red cabbage, carrot, celery, veganaise, more local-honey and a little rice wine vinegar. Oh, and a handful of sunflower seeds for added protein. Tossed all together with a smidge of Point Reyes Blue Cheese purchased a Harmoni Market up the street. Oh it was sooo good – so many pretty colors and textures and surprises in every bite!
I took a picture and will have to post soon.
As I was enjoying this delicious meal, I was thinking about the joys of sharing all this food with my little one. I think I mentioned in an earlier post the meditation of mindful eating. In the past, I’ve been known for eating while working. These days, I aim to slow down and savor each bite, knowing it is nourishing not just me, but bebe-to-be. It’s like practicing for feeding time since it’s probably not going to create good meal time habits to be typing an email out while feeding a toddler. I’m slowing breaking out of my old habits now so that I will not be resentful later when my whole life changes overnight.
Speaking of overnight, my belly is just stretching away. I’m monitoring it’s progress by checking out my belly button, which is getting all quinty-eyed on me, and I’m begining to wonder when it will turn inside out. I’ll keep you updated on this very important topic!
Well, I keep writing about food, so I must be HUNGRY!! I just finished an awesome late night snack – polenta topped with a local egg & diced tomato with slivers of raw organic cheddar and some salsa verde to round it out. All organic, of course. Cooked in my new cast iron skillet, which is making all the difference. Using cast iron is looked on favorably for ladies “with child” since you get the benefits of increased iron, important for vegetarians especially, cooked right into your food. Between my skillet and my steamer pan, I have returned to the kitchen with gusto. I’m even staying ontop of dishes, which will come as a shock to former roommates of mine!
Pregnancy has led me back to my passion for cooking, a habit I had lost touch with in recent years as the stress and time devoted to getting Dandelion opened took precedence. A shame, as having dinner parties with friends was my most favoritist activity in the whole world & one of the reasons I decided to open a community-focused cafe. No matter, I’m bringing my inner chef back out into the limelight!
While I don’t think I need to worry about this for at least another…hey, when do babies start eating real food? Well, whatever, this article is a good run-down on all the organic brands of baby food. Apparently the best tasting and least expensive (by major leaps and bounds) was the homemade variety. Shock.
So, I’m fairly well informed about nutrition, as I do own an organic cafe geared towards healthy eating and all, so it’s been interesting looking at the information on nutrition during pregnancy. I’ve come to realize that a lot of the information about nutrition and relaxation and what to avoid toxicity wise, etc is basically what everyone should be incorporating (or avoiding) into their lifestyle in general. I guess for most women, taking an interest in their wellness in a very conscious way might occur for the first time when they find themselves carrying a child for the first time, thus the emphasis and pregnancy diet (which is of utmost importance for baby’s sake, but should also be a priority for your sake even when you are NOT pregnant!).
I haven’t changed too much about the way I eat, other than correcting some existing bad habits such as eating more in in general (I often worked through meals and forgot to eat) and being more mindful during meal preparation and enjoyment. I have made efforts to include more greens and monitor my protein intake much more closely, but for the most part, I eat intuitively knowing I already have a firm foundation in what is healthy and nutritious for me and little one.
Alas, not everyone has this foundation, so I thought I might share my food philosophy with you, which mostly revolves around degrees of connection to people, place & nature’s cycles & intentions.
When we think about food we must ponder these questions: Who is the grower? Where was it grown? When was this grown and picked? Is this in season? What interference has this had from man in the form of chemicals, genetic manipulation, flavor “enhancers” like sugar and additives,or preparation methods that decrease the life force of the food? Were the life forms (people, animals, eco-sytem) involved in the production, manufacture and distribution treated fairly, respectfully and compassionately?
The most nutritious and delightful meal I could eat would involve a potluck dinner with friends that included food just picked out of each of our organic gardens. The garden selections would vary in color and variety, uniquely suited for the climate in my area, and harvested at the pinnacle of ripeness. These foods would be minimally prepared with love as over-seasoning or cooking would detract from the flavor bursting from nature. I would relish in the company, delight in the diversity of food my friends passionately grew for this special occasion, and the discussion would revolve around ooh’s and ahh’s as we each sampled the others harvest. It might include some farmers market or natural food store purchases like artisan organic tempeh, local raw goat cheese, fair trade organic rice and domestic organic olive oil and wine to round it out.
In some parts of the country, and in many parts of the world this is not just possible, it is a way of life. In Central Florida, where I live, we’ve got a little bit of work to do to make this an everyday reality, but we can still strive for this in our meal planning as we begin the important work of planting gardens in our backyards.
For a lot of people, including my idealistic self, making choices on a sliding scale that reaches upward is what we can ask. The closest I can get to the above scenario right now is the meal I eat weekly at the ROOTS booth at the Audubon Park Community Market which uses produce from the backyard farms of the small scale growers that bring their product to the market to sell. All meals are organic, vegan and loving made by people I know, and I am surrounded by my friends, local music is playing in the background and artisans are passionately bartering and selling their goods with the community. Or the vegan potlucks I attend which may not be homegrown or entirely organic, but are prepared with love and reflect the personalities of my diverse range of friends.
A shopping basket at your local health food store might contain bulk rice, as much produce labeled local as you can enjoy in the next few days (make sure there is a variety of colors represented for maximum nutrition diversity), organic pasta & sauce, domestic red potatoes, a loaf of bread from the local bakery, a clove of garlic and a bar of organic fair trade chocolate, for the sweetness it brings to your life and those in the small women’s co-operative who grew & manufactured it.
Paying attention to proximity (to nature, to yourself, to time, to people, and most importantly to your own body & it’s reaction’s) can help guide your nutritional needs. Of course, books can help too, if you can find the good ones. Here are some of my favorite resources, some philosophical, to guide you on your way.
- The Worlds Healthiest Foods
- What to Eat by Marion Nestle
- Books by Michael Pollan
- The Story of B by Daniel Quinn
- Local Food Revolution by Yes! Magazine
- The World Peace Diet by Dr William Tuttle
- Local Harvest Farmer Guide
, esp his Pregnancy Page
Please feel free to add your comments and recommendations.