In October 2009, Chicago Public School teacher Sarah Wu paid attention to what was being served in the cafeteria for lunch, and it made her lose her appetite.
Wu made the bold decision to set up an anonymous blog where she would track the school lunches served at her school—sugar, dyes and all—and commit to eating lunch with her students. As Mrs. Q, she photographed, ate and discussed the school’s meal offerings, tray by tray. Her blog, www.fedupwithlunch.com went viral and this anonymous teacher began to field interview requests from national media outlets and speaking engagements. Clearly, she was onto something.
She didn’t mean to start a movement; she just wanted to make a public record of the lunches that were served to the children in her school. “I thought I would eat and blog the lunches for a year and move on with my life,” said Wu. But what happened is that she became part of a much larger group of people advocating on behalf of American children for improved nutrition programs in schools—a group of people that also includes First Lady Michelle Obama and celebrity chef and food activist Jamie Oliver.
So what did Wu learn after a year of eating cafeteria food with her school’s students? First, that the processed food she ate for lunch left her feeling sluggish and thirsty. Second, she learned that lunch periods are not long enough. With an average 20-minute lunch period, children are expect to line up, eat and clean up. “Even if students had a healthy meal, there is no way they can eat it within that time frame,” she said.
So what can parents do? Check with your school to ask if there is a Nutrition program director who can address concerns. (Editor's Note: our August issue featured a column that addressed many of the metro area’s public school nutrition programs; find it here).
Want to read more? Visit www.fedupwithlunch.com to read “Mrs. Q’s” blog and learn more about Sarah Wu. Fed Up With Lunch the book was published October 4, 2011 by Chronicle Books. The hardcover version is available for $23 at your favorite local or online bookseller.