We love food--who doesn't? We also love living in New York City, where the diverse neighborhoods that make up the Big Apple provide a wide range of food to excite our palates both day and night.
Meanwhile, at public schools across the city, students are served entrees that are barely recognizable as food. We first became aware of this food crisis in schools after reading a September 2009 article in The New York Times, suggesting that frozen pre-roasted commodity chicken parts, jarred chopped garlic and a generic curry powder are staple ingredients in a school cafeteria.
It was clear that school food was a problem, and was not going away any time soon.
After watching the eye-opening "Food, Inc." documentary and reading Michael Pollan’s "The Omnivore’s Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food," we branched out to Alice Waters, Ann Cooper, Marion Nestle and other important experts in food politics. We scoured the Web for related articles and blog posts, reached out to people involved with the problems of school food and child nutrition both inside and outside of New York. Feedback from farmers and local advocates of healthy eating helped supplement our research.
Meeting with nutritionists, volunteers and parents involved in improving the quality of school food was easy--people wanted to spread the word in order to help their efforts gain traction. Obtaining access to film in schools, however, was more difficult. Several phone calls and consent forms later, we found two different schools--P.S. 130 in Brooklyn and Future Leaders Institute Charter School in Harlem--willing to let us document a typical elementary school's lunch time.
Talking to students and observing their newfound appreciation for the healthy food offered was the most rewarding part of this project. We have learned that if kids get the right exposure to wholesome food, with the nutrition education to back it up, they can build on their wellness from there. By teaching children what is good for them, they can become more empowered to make healthier decisions in the future.
We look forward to seeing how the wellness programs in schools continue to grow.
Our thanks to advisers Rebecca Leung and Addie Rimmer for their guidance and shared passion for good food.
A special thanks to the digital media fellows, especially Alan Haburchak for his patience and help in building the site. Also graphic designer Scott Johnson for helping us "add the sauce!"
Thanks to Liz Kennedy for her keen eye during our final editing stages, and to our families for their support.
Meredith Kennedy is a multimedia journalist based in New York City.
Originally from Pleasantville, N.Y., Meredith graduated from Hamilton College in May 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. She is currently finishing her Master of Science degree in journalism at Columbia University with a concentration in Digital Media.
Even though Meredith has been a foodie at heart for most of her life, it wasn't until she joined the women's cross-country team in college that she began to think about food as fuel. With long-distance running came a hearty appetite. It became clear that Ramen noodles, a daily staple for college students on a budget, just wasn't going to cut it. Fortunately, she was able to take advantage of the school's salad bar, which often included food from local sources in central New York.
Now that she's on her own, Meredith is trying her best to navigate the city's vast food environment. Although there are plenty of tempting takeout restaurants (even more appealing when they deliver to her fifth floor apartment), Meredith takes pride in cooking her own meals and savoring the fruits (and vegetables) of her labor. She makes frequent visits to nearby Whole Foods Markets and the weekly farmers market outside of Columbia University on Thursdays. When Meredith is not in class or running in Central Park, she enjoys experimenting with new recipes with her roommate and blogging about them at http://runamereathon.wordpress.com.
For more information about Meredith, please visit http://meredithmkennedy.com.
Ishita Singh is a multimedia journalist interested in all things food, sports, traveling the world and finishing crossword puzzles.
Though she hails from Gaithersburg, Md., Ishita has been in New York City for the past four years. She spent three years at New York University, graduating with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Spanish and Journalism in May 2009. Currently, she is a Master of Science student with a concentration in Digital Media at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.
Ishita has been a foodie all her life. Her earliest memories in the kitchen are with her grandfather, borrowing cookbooks from the library to taste her way around the world.
She still cooks every now and then, though she's limited by her grad school schedule and her tiny kitchen. Her culinary experiences usually result in disaster, but every now and then, she stumbles upon success. She blogs about the good and the bad adventures at http://abiteoutoflife.wordpress.com.
For more information about Ishita, please visit http://www.ishitasingh.com.