By, Sammy Cailoa
Native Foods Cafe
As a schoolkid, I was blessed to have a mother who packed me a nutritious brown bag lunch every day, saving me from the horror of my public school’s cafeteria fare. I never ate it and I can hardly conjure what it looked like, but I do have vague memories of rubbery nuggets and soggy cardboard pizza. If you’re looking for a visual reminder of your own school lunch tray, look no further than Fed Up!- a new web campaign which documents school lunches served all over the country.
Since the start of the school year, Fed Up! has been urging students to photograph their school lunches and send in the pics, which are now assembled in a cringe-worthy cyber-collage of cafeteria nightmares. The 7,025 submissions show a wide spectrum of school lunch offerings, from fried mystery entrees like the fishstick tacos below to falafel bowls and fresh salads. Kids who submitted photos were asked to choose “Eat it”, or “Toss it,” and the photos are categorized as such. You’ll be shocked by what kid are willing to eat when their options are limited.
Fish stick tacos from the Biotechnology School in New Jersey. Native Foods Cafe uses this photo courtesy of fedup.dosomething.org.
Fed Up! Is a subset of national nonprofit Do Something, a group of 2 million youth made famous for other successful campaigns like Bully Text and “Teens for Jeans”. Their campaigns are always new-media based and always gain traction among teens and young adults. So why shouldn’t school food be added to the list of causes?
The project site doesn’t just have photos- there’s also a downloadable “Starter Kit” that teaches youth how to advocate for themselves in the school setting, whether it’s asking the cafeteria workers to bake rather than fry something or complaining to administration about a lack of fresh fruit. The campaign stopped taking submissions at the end of last week, and analysts are currently compiling the results to send to Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign for child health.
The biggest theme that comes through in the Fed Up! campaign is the disparity between offerings in low-income versus high-income geographic areas, as well as the difference in selection in public and private schools. Take for example, the two examples from Nevada high schools below. Despite being in the same state, Green Valley High School has an assortment of fried who-knows-what, while the Southeast Career Techincal Academy has a chicken burger with fat free milk, roasted potatoes and a salad. Something is off here.
Lunch at Green Valley HS in Nevada. Native Foods Cafe uses this photo courtesy of fedup.dosomething.org.
Point being, if your child isn’t already photographing his or her school lunch food, it might be worth asking them to, because you may not be happy with what you see. You can go onto the campaign site and search schools by state to see if there’s already a visual provided for your community, or you can go a step further and visit yourself. Just know that your child, and all children, have a right to healthful lunch food. And if that’s not what they’re getting, it’s time to take a stand. Thanks Fed Up! for the inspiration!