March 2011 home page

  Crow Food
Piper Underwood | Rimini Road


Photo illustration Art Olson


This week I sat at an elementary school picnic table as a crow perched on a nearby fence greedily awaiting his allotment. A gust blew wrappers from the table. Little people called out for me to open their packages of foodstuffs. The hot lunch kids approached the table precariously balancing their flimsy cardboard box lunches. I opened more packages, and it reminded me of what a pediatrician friend once told me – you don’t have to unwrap food.

Surprisingly, not much has changed since my own days in school. Of course, brown bags have been replaced with insulated lunch boxes and it’s rare to see the once coveted Ding Dong, but the overall offering is much the same; the ubiquitous peanut butter and jelly reigns supreme in the sack lunch, while various forms of chicken nuggets win in the hot lunch category.

A group of parents, headed by Lee Yen of Del Mar Heights, aim to change this. At a recent school board meeting, they presented a proposal calling for a nutritional upgrade in the Del Mar district school lunch program. They noted that school lunch sales have fallen in recent years – only about 17% of students participate in the hot lunch program – implying that it might be the quality of the food.

A district-wide survey is being conducted to investigate if indeed parents want a more nutritious hot lunch program. The parents committed to nutrition reform are hoping to use the data from the survey to design a competitive bid packet for potential vendors. The organizers are encouraging parents to fill out the survey even if their child is not currently eating a hot lunch.

Some obstacles include the price of a more nutritious lunch. A typical Tuesday menu might offer a mini corn dog, choice of chocolate or regular milk, a fruit cup and a bag of animal crackers. Presently a hot lunch costs $4.25.

The group will not know the cost of an improved lunch program until they put it out to bid, but preliminary evidence suggests that many parents are willing to pay a little more. Of course, any additional costs will also have to cover the children who are currently receiving subsidized meals.

Organizers are hoping to implement a new lunch program for the 2011/2012 school year.

The question remains – will our children actually eat this food? Perhaps the crow will tell us.



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