Sunday, July 5, 2015

'Green' food at school could be good or bad

Can't let School Lunch Week pass without noting a couple of very relevant trend stories from this week's Daily News. What kids eat, or don't eat, in school lunches is a topic that's gotten hotter than ever, and it's closely tied in with the Earth to Philly beat - or is that "beet?"

'Green' food at school could be good or bad

Kristin Zuhone, 18, of New Jersey spoons some Curried Red Bean salad onto her plate of vegetables.
Kristin Zuhone, 18, of New Jersey spoons some Curried Red Bean salad onto her plate of vegetables. ALEJANDRO A . ALVAREZ / Daily News

Can't let School Lunch Week pass without noting a couple of very relevant trend stories from this week's Daily News. What kids eat, or don't eat, in school lunches is a topic that's gotten hotter than ever, and it's closely tied in with the Earth to Philly beat - or is that "beet?"

It's pretty universally accepted that school lunches need to be reformed, though exactly how is where the debate lies. Even the most basic propositions are up for grabs: Most people agree that boosting the presence of fresh fruits and vegetables and dialing down on the saturated-fat-heavy meat and dairy is a good idea, but unsurprisingly, the meat and dairy people beg to differ.

Various approaches to the problem from different quarters have yielded some creative solutions. A Philly-based team of producers has created a star-studded music & spoken-word CD, Healthy Food For Thought (disclosure: I contributed a poem that is read by Sara Hickman on one track), with all proceeds going to the New York Coalition For Healthy School Food, an organization that works diligently to help schools serve better, more healthful snacks and lunches. The NY team looks to fund efforts toward local and organic lunches, farm-to-school programs, school gardens and comprehensive nutrition policies. I would suggest this might be worth pursuing here in Philly, but doubtlessly someone somewhere will object to even these common-sense initiatives.

What everyone can agree is that all the food should be as fresh as possible, in sanitary conditions. As it turns out, most school cafeterias in Philly wind up not meeting that standard:

WOULD YOU EAT at a restaurant where rodent feces dot the area where your food is being cooked? How about a place where employees preparing your meal don't wash their hands or wear gloves? Better yet, a place where there's black mold in your ice? Not too appetizing, is it?

But if your child is in school in Philadelphia, chances are she or he is eating every day in a lunchroom with similarly unsavory conditions.

Thankfully, as schoolchildren reach college age they get to make more of their own choices about what to eat, and our Features story from yesterday reveals that more and more of them are choosing vegetarian and vegan options. It could be a matter of taste or ethics, but our reporting suggests it's more of a green angle - an awareness of the ever-more-emphatic scientific evidence of meat's role in global warming. It's a role, by the way, that such touchy-feely developments as "grass-fed beef" will not eradicate, as explains here.

If this trend holds, it's good news for the planet: It shows that as they grow up, kids of today are more in tune with the concept of sustainability - a good thing, since they're the ones who are going to be around to sustain, and be sustained!

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About this blog
Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

The experts at Philadelphia's Energy Coordinating Agency answer your energy questions in our regular feature Stay Warm, Stay Green. Send in your question or questions to

Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.

Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.

Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.

Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.

Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...

Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.

Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.

Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.

In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man

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