Kate Adamick is a firm believer in the old saying, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” A food systems consultant and co-founder of Cook for America, she has put the adage to work in hundreds of school districts nationwide through her Lunch Teachers culinary boot camps. In these weeklong workshops, Adamick teaches food service staff how to most efficiently manage their limited budgets -- to the penny -- toward providing students with freshly prepared, whole foods-based meals.
Adamick’s new book, Lunch Money: Serving Healthy School Food in a Sick Economy, captures those strategies in print, from capitalizing on commodity food products to generating additional revenue from a breakfast-in-the-classroom program. It's likely to make a valuable read for school food service directors working to revamp menus in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new school rules and determining how best to utilize an additional subsidy of 6 cents per meal. But Adamick's clear reiteration of the importance of a better school lunch now also makes the book worthwhile for school food reformers, teachers, parents, and anyone who cares about what kids eat at school.
I spoke with Adamick recently about her new book, the new federal school lunch rules, chocolate milk, and the role of "lunch ladies" in all this. Below is an excerpt of our conversation.
Q. You’ve worked as a corporate attorney, a chef in a four-star French restaurant, and you’ve owned a large wholesale and retail bakery. Why did school lunch become important to you?
A. Obviously, I change careers more often than some people change their clothes. About 10 years ago, I had just sold my bakery business when a friend asked me, "What are you going to do when you grow up this time?" When she asked, I had just finished reading one of the early reports about the rising rates of childhood obesity in America. I decided then and there that I wanted to do something about it. School food turned out to be -- at least for me -- the clearest route for effecting positive change in the lives of as many children as possible.