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Ed Bruske's Posts

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What a D.C. private school can teach us about public-school lunches

Meal time at the Washington Jesuit Academy. Photo: Ed Brukse This is the third of three articles detailing how food made from scratch using local ingredients is served to students at the Washington Jesuit Academy in Northeast Washington, D.C. The first is here; the second here:  Prior to hiring Fresh Start Catering a year ago to make meals from scratch, food at the Washington Jesuit Academy was very much like the stuff served at the public elementary school my daughter attends: re-heated convenience food. Administrators at the private, tuition-free middle school for "at risk" boys knew they needed to make a change. Too often …

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With a bit more cash and lots of ingenuity, school lunches could be much better

Chef Allison Sosna: doing it right for the kids. This is the second of three articles detailing how food made from scratch using local ingredients is served to students at the Washington Jesuit Academy in Northeast Washington, D.C. The first is here. Allison Sosna is a young chef who fell in love with local produce. She remembers where: it was in a Washington, D.C. restaurant called "Hook," working with celebrated sustainable seafood chef Barton Seaver. "We would get amazing produce every day from farmers in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania," Sosna recalls. "They would just walk through the back door into the kitchen and …

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In a D.C. school, the simple power of a good breakfast

This is the first of three articles on how food made from scratch using local ingredients is served to the students and staff at Washington Jesuit Academy, a free-tuition private school for at-risk kids. Duane Drake, head chef at Washington Jesuit Academy. Chef Duane Drake lines a dozen pie shells on sheet pans and begins filling them for breakfast quiche. First, he scatters freshly torn spinach leaves at the bottom of the shells. Then he begins cutting blocks of Muenster cheese into cubes. He works quickly. "This morning, I'm speedballing," he explains. Two of his assistants have been out sick. He's behind …

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Sorry, we can’t cook: D.C. schools say ‘no’ to more veggies

Cheer up, kid -- the chicken nuggets and tater tots are sticking around. In a move that could signal a serious fault line in the argument for more vegetables as a tonic for childhood obesity, drafters of "Healthy Schools" legislation pending before the D.C. Council have scuttled a push for additional produce in school meals after school officials said they cannot guarantee their kitchens can prepare vegetables that kids will actually eat and not throw in the trash. "More vegetables" has become a mantra of advocates for healthier school food, including First Lady Michelle Obama, whose White House vegetable garden created a …

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New study says school food may make kids fatter

A new study from the University of Michigan finds that kids who eat the food served in schools are more likely to be overweight or obese than peers who bring lunch from home, and also are more likely to suffer from high levels of "bad" cholesterol. The study, which examined the eating habits of some 1,300 Michigan sixth-graders over a three-year period, found that children who get their food at school eat more fat, drink more sugary sodas, and consume far fewer fruits and vegetables. The findings, presented last week at the American College of Cardiology annual scientific session, are said to be the first …

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Obama’s cholesterol beef isn’t with the burgers, but the buns

(Photo by Vanessa Pike-Russell,  Creative Commons)It must have surprised many that a president as young and vigorous as Barack Obama could be experiencing rising cholesterol, as reported last week. But even more surprising is the misinformation being doled out by the people around him about the likely causes. "Too many burgers," came the ready explanation. More likely, Mr. Obama's beef isn't with the meat he eats or even the fat in it, but with the cushy bun surrounding his burger and his apparent weakness for White House pies. In his most recent physical exam, Obama's cholesterol had spiked. His total cholesterol was up to …

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Can Michelle Obama make the math work for better school food?

Launching her anti-obesity campaign -- "Let's Move" -- last week, First Lady Michelle Obama vowed to add 1 million kids to the 31 million already being served daily by federal reimbursable meal programs while cutting back on the foods kids like most -- refined grains, potatoes, sugar, salt -- and adding things kids like least -- vegetables and whole grains. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama offered to split $1 billion per year over the next 10 years between schools and other meal programs, an amount school food advocates say isn't enough to add even an apple to kids' cafeteria trays. Sound like a winning strategy? Impressively, …

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What’s for breakfast at school today? 13 teaspoons of sugar

Yesterday I stopped by the cafeteria at my daughter's school here in the District of Columbia -- H.D. Cooke Elementary -- and this is what many of the kids were having for breakfast: A package of sugar-glazed cookies called Kellogg's Crunchmania Cinnamon buns; chocolate- or strawberry-flavored milk; grape juice. A 1.76-ounce packet of Crunchmania contains 13 grams of sugar, or 3 teaspoons. Chocolate milk packs 26 grams of sugar, somewhat more than 6 teaspoons. And the grape juice delivers 18 grams of sugar in a little four-ounce container, another four-plus teaspoons. Altogether, that's more than 13 teaspoons of nutritionally worthless sugar …

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Echoing Michelle Obama, a D.C. pol pushes ‘healthy schools’

D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) has introduced landmark "Healthy Schools" legislation that integrates nutrition standards, locally produced foods, school gardening, broader access to subsidized meals and increased physical exercise to address obesity and other children's health issues in the nation's capitol. I recently submitted questions to Cheh about her bill, resulting in this interview by e-mail. The questions were submitted before I reported a six-part account of the food being served in D.C. schools.  Q. What prompted you to write the “Healthy Schools” legislation now pending in the D.C. Council?  A. There is a lot going on right now to reform the District of …

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Washington Times puts screws to city’s food provider, Chartwells

By some sort of crazy coincidence, a reporter for the Washington Times was investigating Chartwells, the contracted food provider for D.C. Public Schools, at the same time that I was spending a week in a school kitchen discovering just how bad our school food is. Times reporter Jeffrey Anderson, meanwhile, reveals in a report today that Chartwells in the past has continued to use the same foods that have been linked to disease outbreaks in different cities where they hold school contracts. The Times questions whether the food Chartwells is serving in D.C. actually complies with federal standards. It also rakes the food …

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