The US National School Lunch Program (NSLP) has been criticized over the years, with some suggesting that its structure has unsavory foundations.
San Francisco may not be anywhere you would associate it with “food artheid”.
Author Susan Levine explores the origins of the US National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in her book, “School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America’s Favorite Welfare Program,” and expresses concern about funding, nutritional content and the ability to provide lunch to those in need.1 According to Jennifer LeBarre, executive director of Student Nutrition Services in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), the discriminatory environment in which the law was falsified has led some, including LeBarre, to point out that it may not be the same for all children helps.
From afar, San Francisco could not be associated with a “food artheid,” a phrase LeBarre uses to describe the area and refers to places in the United States that have poor access to healthy food. Many families in San Fran live in areas with no easy access to grocery stores, according to the SFUSD executive director. “Many buy their groceries from convenience stores and some don’t even have access to a refrigerator or oven,” she said.
As such, a strange link between malnutrition and obesity has emerged. Families who do not have access to high-quality food or who cannot store fresh fruit have resorted to junk food and microwaveable meals, which often do not provide the nutrients necessary for a balanced diet.
Revolution Foods, a leading provider of healthy school and community meals, has partnered with SFUSD since 2013 to bring readily available and nutritious foods to children.
“Many schools in San Francisco do not have ‘kitchen infrastructure,’ so Revolution Foods essentially functions as our district’s kitchen,” said LeBarre.
Describing San Francisco as one of the world’s food meccas, she highlighted the obscurity that school districts could be so ill-equipped before she partially blamed a “woefully underfunded federal meal program.”
“The pandemic has only made food insecurity worse,” said Kirsten Saenz Tobey, chief impact officer and co-founder of Revolution Foods.
The duo told New Food that the schools they run are seen by the community as a reliable source of free, healthy food – with closings, that support was suddenly gone. As a result, SFUSD and Revolution Foods looked for ways to keep the supply chain intact throughout the pandemic. This included delivering healthy, freshly cooked meals not only to children enrolled in schools, but to everyone in the community affected by the virus.
In their combined effort, more than five million meals have been delivered to the San Francisco communities since March 2020.
LeBarre continued, “Within a month of the initial lockdown, we saw long lines for the food banks.
“We have so many families living from paycheck to paycheck and yet we have so much to eat in this country. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t feed every single child in school, free breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. The current system is out of date. “
“A child might not be eligible for a free meal for a week, but then a parent loses a job or their hours are cut and suddenly they have to fill out a series of forms to get their children meals,” Tobey said.
But there is a glimmer of hope, LeBarre suggested, pointing out “promising signs” of change coming from the Biden administration.
“The food security solution goes beyond just food distribution and supply chains,” Tobey continued. “It’s about creating a stable ecosystem where people don’t live on a razor blade and where the support systems are in place so that someone who loses their job or suffers something horrific like a pandemic doesn’t tailspin families. “
LeBarre agreed when she summarized the interview: “I hope we learn from this pandemic.”