school lunches

Amber Peters

A  third-grader from Howell is making a big difference.

Eight-year-old Cayden Taipalus was upset when he saw a child refused a hot  lunch at his elementary school cafeteria because his lunch account was in arrears.

Instead, the child was served a sandwich with fruit and milk, the alternative provided free by Howell school policy when a student's overdue lunch balance reaches $5.

Amber Peters is Cayden's mother. She said he came home asking how he could help.

Beau Wade / wikimedia commons

A 2007 School Nutrition Dietary Assessment concluded that most schools in America exceed USDA guidelines for the quantities of saturated fat, total fat and sodium in our school lunches.

And the surplus beef and poultry that the USDA offers as free commodity items to our schools are held to a lower standard than fast-food chains like McDonald's. In the past ten years, the USDA paid $145 million for pet-food grade "spent hen meat" that went into the school meals program.

The average dollar amount spent per school lunch nationwide is just $1. Twenty-five cents of that is spent on milk.

What can school lunches tell us about the politics of welfare, food science and agriculture companies? And what can they tell us about inequality in Michigan and throughout America?

Susan Levine, a professor in the Department of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and author of the book, "School Lunch Politics: The surprising History of America's Favorite Welfare Program,” joined us today.

And Jean DuRussel Weston, the Director of Patient Education and program manager for Project Healthy Schools at the University of Michigan, also joined in on the conversation.

Listen to the interview above.

Detroit Public Schools

Some Detroit Public Schools are open part-time over the two-week holiday break.

The district’s Holiday Learning Fest program tries to keep kids engaged in fun academic activities. But it also aims to keep them well-fed.

On Thursday, volunteers handed out food baskets to parents as they picked up their kids. Gleaners and the United Way donated the fresh food baskets.