Free for All: Fixing School Food in America
$27.50, £19.95 Hardcover
368 pages, 6 x 9 inches
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How did our children end up eating nachos, pizza, and tater tots for lunch? Taking us on an eye-opening journey into the nation's school kitchens, this superbly researched book is the first to provide a comprehensive assessment of school food in the United States. Janet Poppendieck explores the deep politics of food provision from multiple perspectives--history, policy, nutrition, environmental sustainability, taste, and more. Drawing from extensive interviews with officials, workers, students, and activists, she discusses the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs and turns a critical eye on the "competitive foods" sold in cafeterias. How did we get into the absurd situation in which nutritionally regulated meals compete with fast food items and snack foods loaded with sugar, salt, and fat? What is the nutritional profile of the federal meals? How well are they reaching students who need them? Opening a window onto our culture as a whole, Poppendieck reveals the forces--the financial troubles of schools, the commercialization of childhood, the reliance on market models--that are determining how lunch is served. She concludes with a sweeping vision for change: fresh, healthy food for all children as a regular part of their school day.
"In her extraordinarily well-thought-out, beautifully written, sympathetic, and compelling book, Jan Poppendieck makes clear that Free for All has two meanings: how pressures to reduce the cost of school meals put our children's health at risk, and how best to solve this problem—universal school meals. Anyone who reads this book will find the present school lunch situation beyond unacceptable. Free for All is a call for action on behalf of America's school kids, one that we all need to join. I will be using this book in all my classes."
—Marion Nestle, author of Pet Food Politics
"President Obama has promised to end childhood hunger in America by the year 2015. He and his team should read Jan Poppendieck's new book Free for All. Her simple premise is that hunger is the enemy of education. She makes a persuasive case for the federal government to provide nutritious free school lunch and breakfast to every school child in America as a major step to end childhood hunger, reduce obesity and a whole range of nutrition related diseases and to improve the education of our children at the same time. Now, for the first time in my 35 years of fighting hunger we have a president who has pledged to actually do it starting with children and a book that provides the roadmap for an important part of the journey. Anyone who cares about our children should read this book."
—Bill Ayres, Co-Founder and Executive Director WHY (World Hunger Year)
"Free For All is an essential resource for anyone interested in school food reform. Janet Poppendieck has taken on a topic of extraordinary complexity and produced a comprehensive and engaging analysis of how the current system came to be, why it is so resistant to change, and what we can do to improve it. Throughout she rejects the scapegoating, moralism, and quick fixes that characterize so much of the current debate over school food. Instead, she offers insightful structural analysis, engaging interviews with front-line food service personnel, and colorful accounts of visits to lunch rooms across the nation. Free For All looks beyond local success stories, calling for a national program redesign that challenges us all to rethink the role of school food policy within the larger food system. What Upton Sinclair's The Jungle was to food safety regulation at the beginning of the last century, Poppendieck's Free for All may well be for school food reform at the start of the new century."
—Timothy D. Lytton, Angela and Albert Farone Distinguished Professor of Law, Albany Law School
"Janet Poppendieck's Free for All is a timely and extremely thoughtful call for a sane, just, and healthy school food agenda for America's children. Complex yet clear, vivid and engrossing, Free for All should be required reading for relevant courses in sociology, education, social work, and public health. It is truly food for thought for students, community activists, and policy makers."
—Ruth Sidel, PhD, Author of Unsung Heroines: Single Mothers and the American Dream
Introduction: In Search of School Food
1. School Food 101
2. Food Fights: A Brief History
3. Penny Wise, Pound Foolish: What's Driving the Menu?
4. How Nutritious Are School Meals?
5. The Missing Millions: Problems of Participation
6. Hunger in the Classroom: Problems of Access
7. Free, Reduced Price, Paid: Unintended Consequences
8. Local Heroes: Fixing School Food at the Community Level
Conclusion: School Food at the Crossroads
About Janet Poppendieck
Janet Poppendieck is Professor of Sociology at Hunter College, City University of New York. She is the author of Free for All:
Fixing School Food in America; (University of California Press, 2010); Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement (Penguin, 1999); and Breadlines Knee Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance in the Great Depression (Rutgers University Press, 1985).