Ed Bruske

A reporter for the Washington Post in a previous life, I now tend my "urban farm" about a mile from the White House in the District of Columbia and teach kids something I call "food appreciation." I believe in self-reliance, growing food close to home and political freedom for the residents of the District of Columbia. I am currently working to introduce local produce into the D.C. school system. I write a daily food blog called The Slow Cook.

Tater tot cops

Chefs and parents plot a lunch revolution at one D.C. public school

A group of chefs and parents plan to turn Tyler Elementary’s kitchen-cum-makeshift-office into a place to cook actual food.(Ed Bruske photos) A group of prominent Washington, D.C.-area restaurant chefs has volunteered to introduce a novel concept in school-food service to one Capitol Hill elementary school: collaborating with parents to take over kitchen operations on a nonprofit basis, replacing the prepackaged, reheated factory meals that Tyler Elementary kids currently eat with food cooked from scratch, served on real plates with real cutlery. Led by Cathal Armstrong, chef and owner of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Va., the group would undo the historically knotty issue of school …

Rebate and switch

Are kickbacks from Kellogg and others driving school-food purchasing?

D.C. Public Schools in the last two years have taken in more than $1 million in corporate rebates — referred to by some as “kickbacks” — paid by giant food manufacturers as an inducement to place their brands on kids’ cafeteria trays at school. Documents I obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that Chartwells, the company hired by D.C. Schools to provide food services at 122 schools across the city, through February of this year had declared $1,076,738 in rebates it received since its contract began in the fall of 2008. That represents 5 percent of the $18.7 …

Scratch batch

Culinary boot camp whips ‘lunch ladies’ into cooking shape

School cafeteria workers, a.k.a “lunch ladies,” rank somewhere below custodial staff in the school pecking order, yet they’re expected to perform miracles in the kitchen, turning pennies into full-blown meals. As part of my Cafeteria Confidential reporting, I recently went to Colorado to observe a “culinary boot camp” in which food-service directors and workers from around the state spent four days learning how to cook food from scratch, rather than with frozen convenience foods, and better use their meager finances to do so. The oldest among the 35 students was 78 and still going strong. Some were traumatized by the act …

Unreality TV

‘Top Chef’ flunks school-food math

First Lady Michelle Obama and assistant chef Sam Kass in the White House garden. (White House photo)Bravo’s new season of “Top Chef,” set in D.C. and billed as “from the White House to your house,” debuts tomorrow with a big wet kiss for Michelle Obama and her campaign to end childhood obesity. Even the White House assistant chef, Sam Kass, who has become more and more of a TV presence, gets into the act as a judge for episode No. 2 of the contest on June 23. That’s when the 17 contestants — all competing for the “Top Chef” designation, plus prize …

Sporky pigs

Hey, White House — how about ‘Eat Lunch with Your Kid Day’?

If Michelle Obama and Sam Kass were to eat this recent DC school meal, it would cause a sensation.(Ed Bruske) The one thing never mentioned at all these White House events around childhood obesity is the food kids are actually eating at school every day. Let’s see, we’ve had loads of kids to the White House to help in the vegetable garden. We’ve had pow-wows with food manufacturers and food service providers to talk about making food healthier. We’ve even invited a gaggle of chefs in their white jackets to spend a day on the White House lawn talking about how …

Iced tea party

DC rejects soda tax but funds better school food

The Washington, D.C. city council yesterday agreed to fully fund a recently approved “Healthy Schools” initiative — providing more money for school food, as well as funding local produce in school meals and establishing grants to expand school gardens and increase physical education — but not with a controversial “soda tax” as had been proposed. Rather, the city will begin imposing a more traditional sales tax of 6 percent on all soft drinks sold in the District. What, you might be asking, is the difference between these two approaches to taxing sodas? The beverage industry mounted an all-out assault on the …

Bean there, done that

Lessons from Berkeley schools: The truth about kids and vegetables

Typical breakfast in a DC public school(Ed Bruske photos)The conclusion of Cafeteria Confidential: Berkeley, in which Ed Bruske reports on his recent week-long, firsthand look at how Berkeley, Calif., schools part ways from the typical school diet of frozen, industrially processed convenience foods. Cross-posted from The Slow Cook. Might as well say it straight up: Kids don’t like vegetables. At least most kids don’t like most vegetables most of the time. That’s the ultimate lesson I draw after spending weeks in school kitchens from Washington, D.C., to Berkeley, Calif. And that certainly challenges the idea of produce as a magic …

Veggie duty

Forget broccoli — Berkeley students aren’t keen on beans either

Part 5 of Cafeteria Confidential: Berkeley, in which Ed Bruske reports on his recent week-long, firsthand look at how Berkeley, Calif., schools part ways from the typical school diet of frozen, industrially processed convenience foods. Cross-posted from The Slow Cook. And check out the rest of the Cafeteria Confidential series. After spending hours sorting chicken pieces during my first day on the job in the Berkeley school system’s central kitchen, I got a break. “How would you like to serve the kids at lunch?” asked Joan Gallagher, the sous chef in charge of kitchen production. “It’s the most exciting part …

Cereal killer

Healthy breakfasts buy lunch in Berkeley schools

Part 4 of Cafeteria Confidential: Berkeley, in which Ed Bruske reports on his recent week-long, firsthand look at how Berkeley, Calif., schools part ways from the typical school diet of frozen, industrially processed convenience foods. Cross-posted from The Slow Cook. And check out the rest of the Cafeteria Confidential series. Breakfasts for Berkeley schoolkids are simple, healthy — and cheap.(Ed Bruske photos)Around 8:30 each morning, students at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, Calif., cross an asphalt playground behind the main school building and begin drifting into a cafeteria and kitchen complex known as the Dining Commons …

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