The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Mystery of Missing Local Peaches Solved

August 27th, 2010 · 5 Comments · Posted in kids

At my daughters school they served canned instead

At my daughter's school they served canned instead

On Tuesday I contacted D.C. schools wondering why the “local peach” that was supposed to be on my daughter’s breakfast tray looked so much like canned peaches instead. I also inquired where parents needed to look to find the ingredients for school menu items, as required by the new “Healthy Schools Act” that went into effect here in the District of Columbia at the beginning of the school year.

I visit my daughter’s cafeteria almost every day to photograph what the schools are serving and blog about it at Better D.C. School Food, the house organ of our parents group dedicated to improving school food. Sometimes I can’t tell whether I’m a thorn in the side of school food service officials, or if they actually appreciate having an extra set of eyes recording what kids are being served on their cafeteria trays.

Yesterday I received a kind of robo e-mail from the Office of the Chief Operating Officer (Anthony Tata, second to schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee) clearing up the mystery of the canned-versus-local peaches, plus much more that I thought might interest parents. Here is the complete text of that e-mail:

“Good Afternoon, Mr. Bruske:

“Thank you for your email about your student’s peaches, and for bringing your concerns to our attention. Jeff Mills [food services director] followed-up on your concern and visited the school to discover that Stoddert [Elementary School] was indeed off-menu. We double-checked with all our schools, and Stoddert was the one school to serve canned peaches that day, which is unacceptable. A formal complaint has been lodged with Chartwells, and we are re-doubling our efforts to ensure that this does not happen again.

“Thank you for being a watchdog for your student’s school. Parents like you keep us, and our vendors, accountable. We want to make sure your blog readers know the process for lodging a menu complaint if they have concerns at any time about the food served at their schools: they should email, which is checked regularly throughout the week. Each email is taken seriously, and we always appreciate when parents and community members bring things to our attention.

“In regard to the nutritional information you asked about, we are still working to upload all the information and working with our vendors to ensure that it is correct. In a few months we will be revamping our entire menu website to be more interactive. We will be sure to let you know when we’re about to launch.

“Thanks, as always, for your inquiries”

I feel a little embarrassed making Jeff Mills go to all that trouble. It’s scary to think that a few missing peaches can ruin his whole day and draw him away from all the important work he’s doing trying to upgrade the food for the D.C. Public Schools’ 45,000 students.

Still, I can only report what I see. And if we’re truly concerned about the food kids are eating, the only thing that really matters is what actually ends up on their cafeteria trays.

 For more great stories about how we are taking back our local food system, read Fight Back Friday.

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  • Cara Mae

    I also want to thank you for being a watchdog for your student’s school. I’m not a parent, but I appreciate that children today and future generations in particular will benefit from the grassroots movement to improve the quality of school lunches.

  • ----

    Last year was my first year teaching. Our school, CAPCS, sourced our food through Revolution Foods last year, and I wasn’t wildly impressed. But this year we have gone with a cheaper provider (I don’t know who) and I see what the alternative is. We are only one week into school, but so far I have been unable to encourage any reluctant eaters as I usually would; Monday I personally skipped breakfast and lunch because skipping two meals was the healthier option. What do I tell the kids to do? WTF

  • Lis

    I just learned about your site from your recent article in Flavor magazine. The work you’re doing is so important, and the decks are so maddeningly stacked against us and DC’s kids. I look forward to reading more and learning how I can get involved. Thanks!


  • Pattie

    Ed; I’m increasingly convinced that the little things are the big things. And, by the way, I believe my children’s lives were changed by the most delicious peach of my life, served at Chez Panisse’s upstairs more-affordable cafe, when I was pregnant with my older one and staying off white sugar and making the switch to organics. Let’s hope many more children’s lives are changed by the fresh, local peaches they receive on their lunch trays.

    However, are they organic? You can’t get an organic peach in Georgia, unless, perhaps, it’s from a home tree. If they are not organic, they are one of the Dirty Dozen, and that opens up a whole other can of worms (so to speak). Have you read Epitaph for a Peach, by David Mas Masumoto? Worth a look:

  • Ed Bruske

    Pattie, I’d be shocked if they were organic. Perhaps integrated pest management. Everything in the rosacea family–apples, peaches–is notorious for requiring pest control. And, yes, I have read epitaph for a peach. Love David Masumoto