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Re: School Lunch and Community Garden

  • Subject: Re: [cg] School Lunch and Community Garden
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 16:16:49 EDT


Lets see if I got it right: 
You, the nice horticulture teacher want to improve the quality and quantity 
of the school lunch served at your state run  special education school with 
food that you raise in your school's garden.  The people who run the 
cafeteria only let students sell chocolate bars in the cafeteria, but all 
else has to come out of their kitchen.

As a former PTA parent ( my kid graduated high school, free at last from the 
PTA!) and a hotel restaurant union shop steward with jobs to protect, I see 
that the way to get from point A to point B here will mean that you will have 
to make a detour through J and W in order to get where you want to go.  I am 
not kidding - this is a political and bureaucratic situation. 

As departments, you have administration in your school, the teachers, medical 
( the nurse), custodial staff and dietary. I don't know if your custodians 
and dietary employees have a union, but they sure as heck have bureaucratic 
rules that they have to follow to keep their jobs.  It may be that the folks 
in the dietary do not answer to the administration in the school but to a 
central office that manages food service for the City of Baltimore, the State 
of Maryland, or whomever.  Your dietary employees job ( I don't know if you 
have your own dietitian at your school or a district dietitian who handles 
several sites) is to properly receive, safely store, serve and dispose of  
foodstuffs certified to be safe and wholesome by the powers that be to the 
consumer base in the school.  They have been told, undoubtedly  by 
supervisers, that no un-authorized foodstuffs are to be served in the 

Do your homework - find out who is the ultimate arbiter of what gets served 
in your school cafeteria ( probably outside of your school) and talk to your 
direct supervisor and to more experienced teachers in the system.  Run it by 
somebody in administration who you think may be receptive, but do not go over 
the head of your direct supervisor - that is counterproductive.  Listen to 
what they have to say - this takes time, but it helps to create a degree of 
consensus for your project.  Maybe, like most good ideas, somebody thought 
about this before - if it failed, you can find out why.

Then write a respectful letter to the food service supervisor, copying all of 
the people that you have consulted along the way, explaining how you would 
work with him with your school grown produce.  If you have a parents 
association, it may be a good thing to get them involved now that you know 
who your supporters are for your project. 

If the supervisor caves, then you have the job of implementing the project, 
making sure that the produce that you serve to the school is up to the 
certified level required by the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland.  
If the supervisors finds a way not to do it - a standard bureacratic outcome, 
then keep the letter and go to plan B.

Plan B. Call up the local food bank and say that your Special Education 
school for Adolescents has a garden and lots of fresh vegetables that you had 
originally thought would  be used in your school but because of bureacratic 
rules will not be served in the cafeteria.  You would like to donate these to 
the Food Bank and thus give the kids a sense of empowerment - they can do 
something to help.  After this has been running for a while, have a photo op 
day with the principal, teachers, the students, the food bank and whatever 
local politician wants to horn in on a feel good photo op.  Invite a 
journalist , TV cameras, etc. for a feel-good story.  Then mention, ever so 
subtly, that you had originally wanted to serve the food in the cafeteria and 
thus lower the taxpayers expense on school lunch, but had run into a 
bureaucratic hurdle - and you KNOW that these rules are there for good 
reasons, even though you don't know why, so you have found giving the food to 
the Food Bank ever so much more rewarding as an experience for the students - 

Somehow, I think that you may find that serving food from your garden at the 
school's cafeteria will be easier after that.  But also remember to make 
contributions, on a regular basis to the Food Bank.

Best wishes,
Adam Honigman
 <A HREF="http://www.clintoncommunitygarden.org/";>Clinton Community Garden</A>


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