Colin’s Food Revolution | Part 3: The School Meeting

Colin with his Food Revolution Planning Binder

The final installment of this series (for now) is about Colin’s Food Revolution meeting at school. Over the past few months, Colin has been working with someone else who feels as strongly about the food options offered to students: Mrs. P, the school nurse.

There’s reading, writing, and arithmetic, but I think this learning experience is perhaps more important than any of them.  Mrs. P has taken it upon herself to mentor Colin through this process. She and Colin talked about what they could do, what they should do and how to go about it. Together, and with the aide of Jamie Oliver’s planning guide, they came up with goals and a plan to achieve them. Mrs. P coordinated a meeting with the district’s school lunch general manager and one of his colleagues.

I helped Colin set an agenda and accumulate data. He went though the lunch menus for the past three months. He tallied the number of times pizza was offered as well as other highly processed foods like chicken nuggets, chicken patties and mozzarella sticks, and then everything else. The “other” category, although not made from fresh ingredients, at least included items that appeared to be an attempt at more healthy options.

Here’s a summary of that data:

School lunch options offered over three months

If you watched the first show of the Food Revolution television series, you saw kids in school eating pizza for breakfast. I was shocked.  I was even more surprised to see it on the menu of my children’s schools. My kids eat breakfast at home and bring lunch to school, so I hadn’t paid any attention to the school menu. Not until Colin showed me.

The above chart depicts only lunch options, but you can see that pizza is offered for almost one of every two lunches served.  Two-thirds of all lunches are highly processed foods.

At the time of the meeting I was running errands, but was completely distracted knowing Colin, at the ripe old age of ten, was making the first presentation of his life of this importance. Both Colin and Mrs. P told me how it went.  Here are the highlights:

  • Colin thanked everyone for meeting with him, explained who he was and why healthy food options at school were important to him.
  • The food service representatives explained what progress they have made to improve the quality of the food at school.
  • They discussed the current menu and compared it to Jamie Oliver’s two week menu plan. Colin explained the merits of serving meals prepared from fresh ingredients and the impact it has on children and their ability to learn.
  • They talked about forming a student council to meet monthly to address food issues.
  • They debated to some extent what constitutes a healthy meal. Colin was asked about what he eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner. All parties agreed there was room for improvement in the school’s menu.
  • They discussed surveying the student population to see what things people would like to see on the menu and to assess interest in healthier options.
  • Colin was tasked to come up with the number one thing he would like to see removed from the menu, and the first meal he would like to add to replace it.

My perception is that it was a productive start to planting “a seed of change” and the food service people were open to further discussion. But it was also clear that Colin was dealing with a for-profit company. Their conversation gravitated to the bottom line. They talked about expenses and what menu items sell the most. Healthier foods are more costly. Kids buy pizza and lots of it.

Colin remains undeterred. He will continue to meet, plan and execute with Mrs. P. He is determined to see the above chart move to a pie of complete yellow, where yellow represents meals made from fresh foods.  He has me, Mrs. P and Jamie Oliver behind him. He has much work ahead of him.

Colin, there isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t do something that makes me proud. This day was certainly no exception.

Colin’s Food Revolution | Part 1: Flash Mob

Colin’s Food Revolution | Part 2: Pass It On

Colin’s Food Revolution | Part 2: Pass It On

Colin tells his guests why Jamie's Food Revolution is important to him

When Colin originally decided to have a Food Revolution theme to his birthday party, the plan was little more than to serve all healthy, made from scratch foods.  Soon after, the Flash Mob idea started to take shape.  Then I got Jamie’s Food Revolution cookbook.  It’s more than just a collection of recipes.  Jamie gives his readers a challenge.  Here’s an excerpt from the book:

This pass it on movement is essentially a modern-day version of the way people used to pass recipes down through generations when they weren’t all at work. That dynamic is the best learning ground ever.  As simple as it seems, pass it on could well be the most radical food movement in recent years, and you could be part of it.  I wouldn’t be asking for your help unless I thought it was absolutely necessary.

In his book Jamie asks the reader to do two things: (1) learn a recipe from each chapter, and (2) personally teach these recipes to others.

So I asked Colin if he was up to learning at least one recipe to teach everyone at his party. He took Jamie’s book to bed with him for his nightly reading.  He was more than up to it.

He chose a recipe: Jamie’s sizzling beef with scallions and black bean sauce. I bought the ingredients and we did a trial run.

Colin does a trial run of preparing Jamie's Sizzling Beef with Scallions and Black Bean Sauce recipe

Delicious!

So the menu for Colin’s party was planned: sizzling beef stir fry, a huge salad bar, and for dessert, fresh fruit.

After suprising and entertaining Colin’s guests with a rendition of Jamie’s Flash Mob, Colin invited them into the kitchen to watch him prepare the stir fry.

He passed it on.

He showed them step by step what to do and shared copies of the recipe with everyone.

Dinner was a wonderful success.  In addition to the two servings that Colin made in front of his guests, we had two trays of sizzling beef and a glorious, colorful salad bar (pictures below).

It was Colin’s tenth birthday, so although flanked by lots of fresh fruit, we did include a cake in the celebration.

Colin's Food Revolution birthday cake made by Mom

We’re committed to keeping the pledge.  Lila helped me make Jamie’s meatballs and sauce (pictured below). Colin has remained in the kitchen with me, enthusiastically helping prepare whatever is on the menu, but particularly partial to chopping salads. We will continue to pick at least one recipe from each chapter to learn.  There are so many good ones, the only hard part is deciding which to make. Caleb’s part thus far has been limited to eating what the rest of us make.

If you’ve watched Colin’s video then you have become part of the Food Revolution.  You’ve seen a ten year old do it.  Why not print the recipe yourself and make it one night this week?  I bet you will love it.  Then pass it on to someone you know.  Give them the recipe and show them how to make it.  Or at least pass on Colin’s demo.  Keep it going. Cooking fresh meals from scratch really can be easy.  Help up spread the word.

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Visit Jamie’s website for more about his Ministry of Food Campaign, read about how you can pass it on, watch Jamie prepare his sizzling beef stir fry recipe, and print your own copy here.

Up next, Colin meets with school personnel to discuss the current state of the menu.

Colin’s Food Revolution | Part 1: Flash Mob

Colin’s Food Revolution | Part 3: The School Meeting