What I’m Thinking About on The Lunch Tray’s 9th Birthday

In late May or early June, I like to celebrate The Lunch Tray‘s May 26th “blog-iversary” by looking through my blog archive and taking stock of the prior year.

But because I was writing Kid Food for most of 2018-2019, my blogging output was quite paltry: only 24 posts. By way of comparison, in the 2011-2012 blogging year I apparently wrote 336 posts—which can only mean I was often posting more than once a day, since I never post on weekends.  ?!?!   (I honestly have no idea what was going on there, people—and don’t expect me to ever do it again!)

But though I didn’t post often this past year, we did discuss some important topics here—most notably, the Trump administration’s controversial roll-backs of certain school meal nutritional standards. That troubling development was followed by news of two federal lawsuits challenging the roll-backs, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (very quiet) release of its own study indicating that these nutritional compromises were totally unnecessary. (I was gratified when my analysis of that study was picked up by a number of news outlets, including Civil Eats, the Associated Press, and New Food Economy.)

This is a good time to mention that tomorrow Democratic lawmakers are expected to challenge Brandon Lipps, the administrator of the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, over these school nutrition rollbacks, as well as the agency’s recent proposal to tighten work requirements on Americans who rely on food stamps. This questioning will take place in a hearing held by the House Education and Labor Committee’s civil rights subcommittee at 10:15 am EST, and I’ll share any news about it here on the blog.

Another topic we talked about this year was lunch shaming, an issue that’s been consistently in the news ever since the New York Times’s 2017 coverage of a New Mexico state law—the first of its kind—seeking to ban shaming practices. Since then, we’ve seen other states pass similar laws, but we’ve also seen a resulting increase in school meal debt in many school districts. It’s a growing problem that unfortunately can’t be fixed by the many heartwarming but ad hoc fundraising efforts that crop up after each new media report about lunch shaming.

All of this may explain why at least one federal legislator and one presidential candidate, along with a Washington Post editorialist and the School Nutrition Association’s own spokesperson, have all recently floated the idea of universal school meals: that is, offering all students a free meal, regardless of their family’s income level. This goal isn’t anywhere close to being a reality, of course, but it’s quite notable to me that it’s even being discussed in public in a serious way—something I don’t recall ever seeing in the past.

This latter topic is one I’ll explore in greater detail in my upcoming interview with Jeff Lew, aka “School Lunch Debt Dad.” He’s just one of many people I plan to feature this coming year in my new Changemakers series, in which I’ll highlight the extraordinary efforts of ordinary people trying to improve our children’s food environment. The series will kick off tomorrow with my conversation with Andrea Strong, a mom and journalist who’s advocating for better school food in New York City—and if you’d like to nominate someone in your own community for the series, feel free to get in touch via my contact form.

As I now embark on my tenth year of blogging, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to YOU, my lovely TLT readership. 💕  Without your consistent sharing and support of my work, I’d never have been able to sustain TLT for this long. And I can’t wait to finally meet many of you in person when I go on my Kid Food book tour this fall!  More details on that in a future post.


Follow TLT on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to Lunch Tray posts, and download my FREE 50-page guide, “How to Get Junk Food Out of Your Child’s Classroom.” You can also now pre-order my new book Kid Food: The Challenge of Feeding Children in a Highly Processed World —coming out this fall!

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