Why Even the Childless Should Care About School Lunch

Posted by Grist

Regular readers will have noticed a certain emphasis on school lunch in the Grist food section lately. Veteran journalist Ed Bruske has been doing superb on-the-ground reporting on the topic; I've been obsessing about the anonymous teacher blogger Mrs. Q, and writing disappointed critiques of the school-lunch legislation now in the Senate.

A couple of days ago, Lisa Hymas's great post on green-inclined people who choose to be childless—Lisa has dubbed them GINKs—got me to thinking. Are a lot of people tuning out our coverage—and the school-lunch issue generally—based on the fact that they don't have kids? (For the record, I don't either.) For that matter, are people who are fortunate enough to have their kids in private school, or to send them with a decent lunch everyday, employing the same not-my-problem logic?

If so, I fully understand. The world is full of trouble; one has to choose one's battles—and causes—carefully, to avoid being overwhelmed. But I want to make the case that everyone concerned about the future of the food system—with its vast influence over public health and climate stability—should care deeply about school lunches.

School lunches are our society's most concrete, tangible way of transmitting foodways to rising generations. Sure, we pass on foodways in home kitchens and in our built infrastructure of restaurants/eateries, and well as through advertising; but those are in the private sphere. The public-school cafeteria is where we create a public vision of what the food system should be like. In short, it's the public contribution to the formation of kids' eating habits. And the eating habits we develop as kids largely determine the food choices we make as adults. If that weren't true, the food industry wouldn't be dropping $1.6 billion every year marketing to kids.

Like what you see here? Read the full post at Grist.

Photo by GOOD community member Laura, a winner of GOOD's design a healthy student lunch contest.