What’s in your kid’s school lunch?

Submitted by Susan Miller on Sat, 02/21/2009 - 00:06.

This opinion No Lunch Left Behind by Alice Waters, president of The Chez Panisse Foundation and Katrina Heron, a director of the foundation and a co-producer of civileats.com is one of the most passionate arguments I have read for sustainable agriculture in our country and in every country.

Food: It’s what we feed our children – that’s what our world will live on tomorrow.

This should be priority number one for any sustainable agriculture movement in our region.

It doesn't have to be this:

From the article: "Some Americans are demanding better. Parent advocacy groups like Better School Food have rejected the National School Lunch Program and have turned instead to local farmers for fresh alternatives. Amid steep budgetary challenges, these community-supported coalitions are demonstrating that schools can be the masters of their own menus. Schools here in Berkeley, for example, continue to use U.S.D.A. commodities, but cook food from scratch and have added organic fruits and vegetables from area farms. They have cut costs by adopting more efficient accounting software and smart-bulk policies (like choosing milk dispensers over individual cartons), and by working with farmers to identify crops that they can grow in volume and sell for reasonable prices."

I urge you to click though and read this passionate plea to feed our children fresh local food, for teaching them about food and their environment. I urge you to ask yourself, how could we let them eat the way our schools and our United States Department of Agriculture have asked them to? Do you think that Obama's kids are subjected to this? Don't let the USDA feed the next generation brain food made of empty calories and no understanding. Let's have gardens on every schoolyard, science curriculum that incorporates agriculture and the botany, biology, and chemistry therein. And while they're learning to grow food, let them eat well. Don't let kids go hungry.

( categories: )

Veggies: Not As Good For You?

Apparently produce in the U.S. not only tastes worse than it did in your grandparents' days, it also contains fewer nutrients — at least according to Donald R. Davis, a former research associate with the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas, Austin. Davis claims the average vegetable found in today's supermarket is anywhere from 5% to 40% lower in minerals (including magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc) than those harvested just 50 years ago.

Eating Your Veggies: Not As Good For You? M.J. Stephey, Time

Sad thing is . . .

CMSD's lunches don't look nearly as good as the food in that picture. They often have shrink wrapped, microwaved sandwiches that are full of preservatives and sugar. I was tracking the Free Breakfasts children ate at Mound Elementary School when I was teaching there in the morning. A typical meal was a plastic-wrapped sandwich of French Toast-type bread with a sausage patty on it, strawberry milk (with high fructose corn syrup). Lunch wasn't much better. Many of those kids relied on school meals for 2/3 or 2/2 meals they would eat that day.

the root of the problem

The root of the problem is that vegetables take their nourishment - the same nourishment that we consume from the soil. If we degrade the soil, we eat that. When I attended PASA it was all about soil improvement. Growing plants that fix nitrogen, add carbon - no to pesticides, herbicides and petrochemical fertilizers. But those were sustainable farmers and most of what is in groceries and certainly school lunches comes to us from Big Ag. Company's like Monsanto, Cargill and ADM have spent years and earned billions destroying our soils.

Corporate farms utilized fertilizers devoid of most of the essential minerals needed by plant foods and crop rotation began to disappear. As a result, soils became more and more depleted, while at the same time they became more contaminated with herbicides and insecticides.

Many pesticides contain mercury and fluoride. With each year's application, soil contents of these contaminants increased. Crops grown in these soils were not only devoid of major nutrients, but also contained high levels of fluoride and other toxic metals.

There's a global financial crisis and it didn't become like this in the past year. This degradation has been going great guns for some time now. Likewise the food crisis has been building since the era of cheap fossil fuel and we've signed on (knowingly or unknowingly) to eat that fossil fuel.It's a Ponzi Scheme and at this point there are no more investors to pay out - the soil has been robbed of it's vital role in our nutrition. When we say take back the land it is serious. Banks and petrochemical corporations are gonna need to pay back eventually. We're gonna have to take back the land and nurture it one parcel at a time, the soil will have to be replenished and allowed to produce nourishment again. It's a big job. I hope we're beginning soon.

What are we doing with all that kitchen waste? Don't relegate those microbes to the prison of a landfill when they could be put to work on some city lot or rural farmland. We're gonna need a lotta lotta compost and organic matter and we may have it, but we're "throwing it away" - imprisoning it in landfills. (so much that we really ought to be harvesting methane from existing landfills)

Dear NPI (who is reimagining Cleveland) - Can you take some of your millions and make a composting plan for organic matter in our region? You can have the land in a bank, but it will be useless unless you find a way to increase its value. We need to remediate and cap and compost. Maybe schools and cafeterias in government buildings and restaurants and individuals can rearrange their thinking about the importance of what we're wasting - what could be a microbial boon to our soils.

It seems to me that we have forgotten about cycles - the water cycle and the biocycle. Let's get back in "the loop".

Dont forget one of the biggest compost generators in the city-

Dont forget one of the biggest compost generators in the city- the West Side Market. I was told a year ago by OCNW that a plan was in place to make use of the compost materials there. Anyone heard anything?

I can't imagine it should be so hard. 

reimagining cleveland dressed in cover crops

Green Manure - no it's not some oddly colored poo. It's cover cropping.

From reimagining Cleveland: "Vacant land management should focus first on restoring soil structure through the planting of groundcovers and native low-mow grasses. As these plant materials become established, landscape strategies can mimic patterns of natural succession. Ground covers and low-mow grasses are a low-maintenance approach to managing short-term vacancy. Long-term vacancy can be used to recreate healthy soil ecosystems that will support trees."

Here's the problem though. Cleveland rakes it in by ticketing land owners for not mowing grass. I guess they think this is good. It sure is a good source of revenue. Here's how one Cleveland landowner describes the process. "The "inspector" drives by and writes a ticket for "high grass" on a strip of land next to the building that we have vacated. He shoves it in the door of the building rather than mailing it to us at our new location. It blows away. We don't know we need to get there and mow the grass (it's what? one inch too high for city standards?) Then he returns and writes another ticket - same deal, in the door of the abandoned building and we don't get the ticket. By the time we find out we have thousands of dollars in fines and there is no end in sight. Do we hire an attorney to fight this practice? No, we pay the mowing fines. On another property where we are building a house we arrive to find a mowing ticket stuck in the door. The entire lot is a construction site - there is no grass growing there - not one blade. The whole lot is covered with construction materials and equipment and clearly is a construction site. But there's the "you can't fight city hall" ticket stuffed in the door jamb." It would be interesting to know how much the city earns from this practice. Maybe this summer we could go follow one of these inspectors around with a camera and see just how it works.

If we are going to reimagine Cleveland as a sustainable place where we can grow our own food, which will require soil improvements, compost and green manure, NPI and CUDC have some splainin' to do to city fathers and city fathers are gonna have to get jiggy with cutting back on the cutting tickets. reimagine Cleveland as a place with lots abloom, with clover and vetch, rye and fescue. It won't look like what the city wants currently.  But it will improve soils and mowing ticket crews can monitor something else. Is Frank Jackson ready for sweeping change coming from the ground up?

If NPI can plant fruit trees and grapevines in the in the SII neighborhood of Detroit Shoreway, maybe it can also plant some cover crops to stem erosion on vacant lots. There didn't seem to be any plan included in that activity that considered the entropic nature of those plantings - like who will cultivate those trees, prune them, harvest their fruit, care for them. Cover crops might be more carefree unless we want to gain the true benefits they can offer. But the city might have to rearrange its mowing and ticketing policy. Maybe the city can hold off on ticketing and let a few meadows bloom in town. It would certainly help the bees now that we've decided to allow them to make honey for us in town.

Here's what Ray Pianka has to say about high grass and weeds:

High Grass and Weeds.  Yard maintenance in Cleveland is crucial in the springtime, when grass and weeds can quickly grow out of control, leading to infestation by rodents and other vermin, and a poor appearance in the neighborhood.  The CCO states that high grass and noxious weeds are nuisances because they “provide harborage and breeding grounds for pests or are otherwise conducive to the creation of human health problems.”  CCO § 209.01(a).  As a result, they must be removed from any property on which they are found.  “High grass” is grass over 8 inches in height.  CCO § 209.01(a)(1).  Noxious weeds include Russian, Canadian, or common thistle; wild lettuce; wild mustard; wild parsley; ragweed; milk weed; iron weed; and wild plants capable of causing skin reactions or producing or aggravating hay fever, asthma, allergic reactions, or similar conditions.  CCO § 209.01(a)(2).

If someone in your neighborhood refuses to cut their lawn, weed and grass cutting may be performed by the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Properties, with the costs billed to the owner.  CCO § 209.05.  If there are rodents or vermin, the Commissioner of Environmental Health may arrange for extermination; the City can then recover any costs from the owner in a civil lawsuit.  CCO § 211.03.  Infractions of these Health Code provisions may be reported to the Cleveland Department of Public Health:  664-2300."

 "wild plants capable of causing skin reactions or producing or aggravating hay fever, asthma, allergic reactions, or similar conditions"

So we can cut (ineffective), cut and burn (unacceptable for air quality reasons) or chemically kill them (often not effective and dangerous). Or we can cover crop and cultivate. But we may need to change our ideas as to what's beautiful and what's a nuisance.

Yeah and let's face it, Cleveland is a city, and cities have rats and pigeons. Would composting and cover cropping increase the numbers of vermin here? Or would the not widely traveled rats stay put in the country even if we offered food and shelter?

send a message to Secretary Vilsack

This was in my inbox:

Help Send a Message to the USDA – 100,000 Americans for a Sustainable America

Next week we’re delivering your signatures and comments to Secretary Vilsack at his offices in Washington DC.

Please forward this message to 5 of your friends to help us reach our goal of over 100,000 Americans for a sustainable USDA. To date over 84,659 Americans have signed the letter calling for sustainable change at the USDA.

Original signers to the letter include Michael Pollan, Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Marion Nestle, Francis Moore Lappé, Bill McKibben, Alice Waters, Dan Barber and Rick Bayless among many others.

So far we know that we’ve had success in changing the debate in how agriculture is being discussed in the 21st century. Since his confirmation, Secretary Vilsack has made a number of forward-thinking statements that prove he understands the urgent need for change in our nation’s food policies.

Let's make sure the administration understands how much support the idea of sustainable practices in U.S. food and farm policy. We’re asking that you forward this message to 5 friends  to have them sign the petition and help put us over the top. (You can forward the message from the site.)

Thanks again for all your help, we look forward to creating a sustainable food system for the 21st century.

David Murphy
Paul Willis
Lisa Stokke
Aaron Woolf

Food Democracy Now!

Composting in the city

 Recently, Cleveland City Council passed legislation to allow some small farm operations within the city.  But, no one wants to wade through legislation.  I have never bothered to consult the city ordinances on composting,  and , if such language exists, it is easier, as they say, to ask for forgiveness then to ask for permission. 

Where in all of this is the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District?? With all the vacant land that we will accumulate in NEO due to demolitions, surely composting stations should fit into this green scheme?

The work house site at Harvard used to have a large composting facility and you could order mulch and composted soil from the location and from the Cleveland Greenhouse where shredded trees from the Department of Urban Forestry became mulch.  What is the status of these operations?

Dbra, thanks for reminding everyone of the food waste from the Westside Market.  Does it, by any chance, get delivered to the nearby Kentucky gardens? 

This should also serve as a reminder to Councilman Cummins to institute the same legislative protection that applies to Kentucky Garden to Benjamin Franklin's gardens in Ward 15.  The CMSD still has designs on Benjamin Franklin and plan to demolish this historic school at some point along their criminally bungled facilities plan.

Urban Composting is Sanctioned by Some

Lmcshane, I know the Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition is urban composting friendly. One of their working groups is Food Waste Recovery which "facilitates policies that increase the amount of food waste and municipal waste that is composted and made available to support urban or rural farming efforts."

The Food Policy Coalition has done a pilot project at the West Side Market regarding food composting. They are slated to begin the project soon-- saving thousands of pounds of fruit and vegetable scraps destined for the landfill. 

So, there are some in the city who see composting as an essential part of urban agriculture and even as a viable business plan. It also saves the city money because they don't have to pay for heavy food waste in their landfill fees.

The Food Policy Coalition's members include the OSU Extension, New Agrarian Center, City of Cleveland Division of Waste Collection, Councilman Cimperman, Department of Health among others. Their website is: http://www.cccfoodpolicy.org/

West Side Market Compost

So this is really happening? Is it going to be resident friendly, so neighbors can avail themselves of compost for say work exchange? I went to the CCFPC website the other day, looking for news, but there's not much there. Their ideas look great, if they are happening.

What I am concerned about is how things will ultimately turn out. As an example, it can reasonably be said that much touted new chicken and bee legislation sets urban farmers/growers back (atleast if you are having a hard time paying bills, like most people I know):

Meagan Kresge of Gather Round Farm on Lorain Road in Ohio City thinks the ordinance will add a financial and administrative burden to citizens and businesses like hers who are already keeping chickens and roosters (the new ordinance would prohibit the latter except on one-acre lots).

“Roosters protect the flock from predators. In (the Near West Side) there are probably more roosters than anywhere in the city. Our councilman (Joe) Santiago told me he gets more complaints about barking dogs than roosters.”

Cleveland Planning Director and commission member Bob Brown observed that this law will make tending those thousands of chickens in the city finally legal.

It’s the process of applying and paying fees to the Building Department for an occupancy certificate for the animals and a building permit for the coops and/or hives as well as a license with the Health Department that beekeeper Karen Wushner and urban agriculture advocate Josh Klein, don’t care for.

“In researching how other cities handle livestock, I found the more densely populated the city, the less restrictive they are toward chickens,” Klein says, citing New York and Chicago’s policy that chickens can be raised as ‘pets’ as long as they’re only providing eggs (not for slaughter). “Creating a law that’s restrictive when many (Clevelanders) are keeping chickens as pets will be a hardship, hard to enforce, and it won’t make our food system more secure. If chickens are innocuous, why not make it easier for Cleveland residents?”


So what is it? Are our ambassadors not playing tough enough or are our city administrators just that cold and really dont get it? This dysfunction is killing me and it really isn't good for Cleveland.

Am I correct that composting in your backyard is now regulated as well?

solid waste district

The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District promotes backyard composting and vermicomposting, so I would assume that it is still OK to unregulatedly collect and compost in one's own yard.

Cleveland is still lagging behind on recycling - no pick up, but 32 drop off sites for metals, glass, paper and plastics - no mention of composting or leaf pick up. Do they do this leaf pick up (that is somehting we could eliminate).

As far as food waste, individuals should be able to do their own, but this could also be a cost savings program for the city, if they got the pick up in place.

Can city's reduce their overall tipping fees through recycling and composting?  Toronto is managing to do that. In Toronto, they will pick up your compost (including animal waste which, if Ohioans do pick it up, they have little choice but to put it, plastic wrapped into their garbage - landfills must be brimming with this organic waste).

The Metroparks Zoo offers, ZooPoo. Why not the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter? I posted the question over at GCBL in 2006, but no one was crass enough to talk %#@t over there. Very civilized... probably doesn't smell either. I wrote to Jan Rybka at Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District and said they could do a project to make pet waste compost with their neighbor, the County Animal Shelter. "Let me know if we could get a grant to do that" she replied. Here's a community that did - Fairbanks, Alaska. No %#@t! They surely have a lot of dogs there with all the sled racing.

Can we move these discussions and ACTIONS ahead now that we're reimagining a more sustainable Cleveland? Please...

green communication gap

It seems to me that there is a communication gap between the city and those that have the ideas and knowledge for a green cleveland. Being green shouldn't impose additional cost or effort.

I know the ideas are out there (re-imagining Cleveland & the pattern Book for vacant land in Cleveland, and the food congress http://www.cccfoodpolicy.org/food_waste_recovery.html). But why is it getting harder and more expensive to do the right green thing in Cleveland?  Why is it easier to start a small business than it is to start a community garden in Cleveland?

I can't help thinking if we had the clout and connections of developers we would be getting breaks from our rising NEORSD bill for rerouting rainwater into rainbarrels and gardens, encouragement for farming efforts (as opposed to ridiculously onerous compliance regulations), and a monetary thank you for advise and sharing experience. 

This really isnt high math. I think its more about people's fear of dirt and complete ignorance when it comes to anything "unsterile". http://www.nhlink.net/enviro/scp/recycle.html

Why on earth did the mayor decide to close the city composting facility over around East 165th and St.Clair? I used to buy a pickup bed full of beautiful leaf compost for 20 bucks.

Top Down Green Washing By Our "Visionaries"

When I read in the PD David Beach referred to as a "visionary", in saying his #1 idea for spending $500 million in NEO taxpayer money is building the Lake Erie Wind farm, I had to laugh... but we should cry. These type of people are leading environmentalism, er sustainablitlty here in NEO, and you see whart we have. The PD nails the problem... "GreenCityBlueLake Institute of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History that promotes ecologically friendly development."

I'm in the process of analyzing how smart communities have approached becoming "Green Cities on Blue Lakes"  for the past two decades and it is not by "promotes ecologically friendly development"... we are a joke... nothing progressive and visionary going on here.

You see the problem reflected in our outcomes like with bees and chickens and SIIs and urban agriculture - "envisioning a sustainable Cleveland" from the top, by outsiders and elites, without citizen input... please. The wrong people have planned all this, the wrong ways, creating the wrong plans, time after time, big and small, and citizens suffer.

Take charge - reject these plans and plan better. REALNEO is the open forum on all this in this region... 

Look around the world, as well... learn what is better by going on the internet and visiting the sustainability programs of better communities around the world... join outside networls and reach out to outside experts for better answers, and direct help.

The lack of leadership vision here is a result of poor top down command and control planning here... new queen of the team comes from BP, selling ARCO gas out west... yes, we have a gasoline saleswoman in charge of OUR taxpayer supported "Great Lakes Institute for Energy Innovation"

Don't let these people plan anything about your community

Disrupt IT

blue city on a green lake

 the only thing "green" about Cleveland seems to be cash (what little of it, but if you got it, the city is your oyster).

Its just frustrating - particularly the chicken/bee legislation (and I thought there was something written about controlling specs for composting too). I know several people meant well and worked hard, but it just doesn't advance the cause, in my opinion. I think we need FEWER compromises. And again - if it were a development issue - they would be falling over themselves to provide us "incentives". Truth is - it IS a development issue - but not one they understand.

honey bees

I have spent a few weeks trying to determine if I had a honey bee vs yellow jacket swarm in an area of a porch that is going to be repaired. I so wanted them to be honey bees but finally got a close up view of yellow jackets. This means that the one honey bee that I saw in my flowers a couple of months ago remains the only honey bee for me this year. 

This is probably a dumb

This is probably a dumb question dwebb, but how can you tell the difference between honey bees and yellow jackets?  I had quite a few bees in my yard this summer but I have no idea what kind of bees they were. 

not dumb

Not a dumb question at all but an important one. I spent lots of time looking a pictures of honeybees. One of the problems is that the insect I have act like honeybees. They are up high, so I spent a lot of time with offers of fruit and honey, and attempts to track them. I had someone come look at them, and she also thinks that they are not honeybees, but they also don't fit the typical yellow jacket. I got to see one up close finally this afternoon. No fuzzy at all, which honeybees have, and no pollen collection legs/pouch. If they were honeybees, they would have been moved to a safe hive.  Yellow jackets will die off over the winter so the repair will just have to wait until nature takes it course, and we will tear out those boards and then we will know more. I also have steeple jackets flying around. Google honey bees and yellow jackets and you will discover a new world. Both have important places in nature, but I would have gone to great measures to preserve the honey bee. Of course, ignore the ads from pest control companies.

Thanks Dwebb.  I don't like

Thanks Dwebb.  I don't like to kill things and I don't care much for chemicals so the bees will not be killed off by me.  lol.  I will google the bees and learn more about them.  When my house was getting painted we found a wasp's nest high on the back peak of the house.  The volunteers wern't able to get up that high to paint that area so the nest remains. 

This summer and last summer too I spotted a preying mantis in my yard.  I like to watch them.  I have garter snakes too.  And I had a butterfly or two this year too.  I thought they left my yard forever since I haven't seen any for the past few years.  And we have birds since my husband feeds them everyday.  This year I registered my yard with the National Wildlife Federation and got my plaque.  My children and grandchildren and even my husband kinda snicker about it, but I am proud to give wildlife a place to live in the city.  I learned this year that the male butterflys like a wet sand pit to congregate.  I hope to find ways to attract more butterflys to my yard next year. 

Good luck with your honey bees. 


W14R, I have a lot of perennials that the butterflies love so if you want some next March/April, let me know. I always need to thin out stuff. Someone gave me a butterfly bush 12 years ago. I love to watch both the butterflies and hummingbirds go to the bush.

Thank you dwebb.  I would

Thank you dwebb.  I would like that very much. 

spring, W14R

You noticed that I pushed spring to March/April? I just realized that I did that as I am not a winter person. We all know spring really comes late May here. ( I know that I have SAD that Norm referred to earlier. Cleveland Greenhouse always helps in January but would be nice to have a west side location because the nature of SAD leads to hibernation.) Anyway, the prediction is for an El Ninio weather pattern this winter. When that last happened, spring started in February, and that was strange. In anticipation, I trimmed my basil but did not pull it just in case we do have a mild winter. If the basil makes it (loves warmth) then spring truly has arrived. We will transplant when the ground thaws. Over the winter you can remember what parts of your yard get sun or shade, as I have both types of plants.

I know what you mean about

I know what you mean about hibernation.  I am a winter hibernator too.  Every year I tell myself that this year I will make friends with winter, but I haven't done that since childhood when I liked to play in the snow.  Maybe this year I will force myself to get out more in the winter and enjoy it again.

I will make note of the sun and shade.  That will give me something to take my mind off of the cold and snow this winter.  An early Spring would be nice. 

Types of bees Varroa

Types of bees

Varroa destructor 

I'd like to have hive but it freaks people out,  I watched this wasp the other day pretend it was stuck in a spiders web.  

It was not stuck it was pretending, I almost knocked it loose, but when the spider came in it was stung and then the wasp broke lose and flew off with it.   I was reading about them, they have been known to catch spiders and bring them to the hive as quards!  The spider web as a form of addtional defense. 

Mud daubers they are called, it was a blue metalic...I never have seen one before.  

thanks for identifying and photographing

Thanks for identifying and photographing the insect I saw last spring on a log in a forest out in Geauga county. I, too, was struck by its beauty. Did you see this in Cleveland or in Austin? A little research lets me know that this bug has been collected in central and southern Ohio, but none have been logged NEO. If you did find it here, perhaps you might want to let the Online guide to Eastern North American Sphecidae know about it. Gorgeous photo, Jim.


 just beautiful. 

You ever watch a mud dauber

You ever watch a mud dauber build a nest.  They carry mud and make these long tube looking things lined up kind of neat like. 

mud daubers

 they are amazing. When I see some of these insects with their stream lined efficient bodies, I see where the design for fighter planes came from. We were not kind to mud daubers in the hills and would destroy their nests as soon as they were built if they were close to the house or barn.

mystery meat? yes. it is all a mystery

I remember school lunch. I ate one once. But the mystery meat made me sick, just looking at it. It was a gray pattie drowned in some slimy gravy next to a scoop of rehydrated potato flakes and some vapid looking canned peas - shadows of real peas. After that, I watched others eat that stuff. Not for me. We referred to it even back in the 60s and 70s as mystery meat. We didn't know the real truth of that moniker.

Then, while watching Food, Inc., I learned that the meat in that pattie could have come from 11 or more different animal processors, some from animals from US growers, but more from growers abroad much of which is not inspected when it comes into the US.

Now this: Fast-food standards for meat top those for school lunches

Good to know that the mainstream media is catching on...

mystery meat

Thanks for sharing this Susan. Glad that some are hearing this and responding to it. The school food industry must go many more steps before we can call school lunches safe, let alone likable by kids.