On the heels of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s announcement this week to tackle flavored milk in the Los Angeles school system, another group is taking on the school lunch system, but this time in what appears to be a much more practical methodology.
Ag Link Food Link’s mission is to advance fresh foods in California schools. The group provides consulting services to school food-service agencies. Instead of trying to force foods into the school lunch system, they say they plan to use a "pull" versus "push" method. Part of the plan is to work with local farmers and pull fruits and vegetables into the menu that already meet school specifications.
Business manager for Ag Link Food Link, Jana Nairn, has a history that is rooted in farming. And, now that she’s working on the school side, she plans to tie the two together.
Currently, the organization is working with three school districts in California’s Central Valley.
Dairy is not a focus of the group right now. But Nairn says when it comes to flavored milk and sugar, the group feels Oliver is way off. There are so many other things wrong with the school food system than the current debate on flavored milk, she says. Sodium, they feel, is the bigger issue.
To start, Ag Link Food Link will be focusing its efforts on entrees. Despite the fact that dairy is not the focus, at some point, Nairn says she hopes to get real cheese into the menus. Getting rid of fake cheese is a passion of hers.
Although it’s been quite some time since I’ve enjoyed or rather consumed a school lunch, I still remember the menu – pizza, chicken nuggets, sloppy joes, French fries and hamburgers. It seems that fried foods were a heavy focus. and fruits and vegetables were a rarity. Actually, anything that didn’t require a can opener to be eaten was scarce.
I hope Ag Link Food Link succeeds in their mission. It would be nice to have someone with common sense tackling the school lunch system.