My thing with school lunch is , it 's a social justice issue .
I 'm the Director of Nutrition Services for the Berkeley Unified School District . I have 90 employees and 17 locations , 9,600 kids .
I 'm doing 7,100 meals a day and I 've been doing it for two years , trying to change how we feed kids in America .
And that 's what I want to talk to you a little bit about today .
These are some of my kids with a salad bar .
I put salad bars in all of our schools when I got there .
Everyone says it could n't be done .
Little kids could n't eat off the salad bar , big kids would spit in it -- neither happened .
When I took over this , I tried to really figure out , like , what my vision would be .
How do we really change children 's relationship to food ?
And I 'll tell you why we need to change it , but we absolutely have to change it .
And what I came to understand is , we needed to teach children the symbiotic relationship between a healthy planet , healthy food and healthy kids .
And that if we do n't do that , the antithesis , although we 've heard otherwise , is we 're really going to become extinct , because we 're feeding our children to death .
That 's my premise .
We 're seeing sick kids get sicker and sicker .
And the reason this is happening , by and large , is because of our food system and the way the government commodifies food , the way the government oversees our food , the way the USDA puts food on kids ' plates that 's unhealthy , and allows unhealthy food into schools .
And by -- tacitly , all of us send our kids , or grandchildren , or nieces , or nephews , to school and tell them to learn , you know , learn what 's in those schools .
And when you feed these kids bad food , that 's what they 're learning . So that 's really what this is all about .
The way we got here is because of big agribusiness .
We now live in a country where most of us do n't decide , by and large , what we eat . We see big businesses , Monsanto and DuPont , who brought out Agent Orange and stain-resistant carpet .
They control 90 percent of the commercially produced seeds in our country .
These are -- 10 companies control much of what 's in our grocery stores , much of what people eat . And that 's really , really a problem .
So when I started thinking about these issues and how I was going to change what kids ate , I really started focusing on what we would teach them .
And the very first thing was about regional food -- trying to eat food from within our region .
And clearly , with what 's going on with fossil fuel usage , or when -- as the fossil fuel is going away , as oil hits its peak oil , you know , we really have to start thinking about whether or not we should , or could , be moving food 1,500 miles before we eat it .
So we talked to kids about that , and we really start to feed kids regional food .
And then we talk about organic food .
Now , most school districts ca n't really afford organic food , but we , as a nation , have to start thinking about consuming , growing and feeding our children food that 's not chock-full of chemicals .
We ca n't keep feeding our kids pesticides and herbicides and antibiotics and hormones .
We ca n't keep doing that .
You know , it does n't work .
And the results of that are kids getting sick .
One of my big soapboxes right now is antibiotics .
Seventy percent of all antibiotics consumed in America is consumed in animal husbandry .
We are feeding our kids antibiotics in beef and other animal protein every day .
Seventy percent -- it 's unbelievable .
And the result of it is , we have diseases .
We have things like E. coli that we ca n't fix , that we ca n't make kids better when they get sick .
And , you know , certainly antibiotics have been over-prescribed , but it 's an issue in the food supply .
One of my favorite facts is that U.S. agriculture uses 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides every year .
That means every one of us , and our children , consumes what would equal a five-pound bag -- those bags you have at home . If I had one here and ripped it open , and that pile I would have on the floor is what we consume and feed our children every year because of what goes into our food supply , because of the way we consume produce in America .
The USDA allows these antibiotics , these hormones and these pesticides in our food supply , and the USDA paid for this ad in Time magazine .
Okay , we could talk about Rachel Carson and DDT , but we know it was n't good for you and me .
And that is what the USDA allows in our food supply .
And that has to change , you know .
The USDA can not be seen as the be-all and end-all of what we feed our kids and what 's allowed .
We can not believe that they have our best interests at heart .
The antithesis of this whole thing is sustainable food .
That 's what I really try and get people to understand .
I really try and teach it to kids . I think it 's the most important .
It 's consuming food in a way in which we 'll still have a planet , in which kids will grow up to be healthy , and which really tries to mitigate all the negative impacts we 're seeing .
It really is just a new idea .
I mean , people toss around sustainability , but we have to figure out what sustainability is .
In less than 200 years , you know , just in a few generations , we 've gone from being 200 -- being 100 percent , 95 percent farmers to less than 2 percent of farmers .
We now live in a country that has more prisoners than farmers -- 2.1 million prisoners , 1.9 million farmers .
And we spend 35,000 dollars on average a year keeping a prisoner in prison , and school districts spend 500 dollars a year feeding a child .
It 's no wonder , you know , we have criminals .
( Laughter )
And what 's happening is , we 're getting sick .
We 're getting sick and our kids are getting sick .
It is about what we feed them .
What goes in is what we are .
We really are what we eat .
And if we continue down this path , if we continue to feed kids bad food , if we continue not to teach them what good food is , what 's going to happen ? You know , what is going to happen ?
What 's going to happen to our whole medical system ?
What 's going to happen is , we 're going to have kids that have a life less long than our own .
The CDC , the Center for Disease Control , has said , of the children born in the year 2000 -- those seven- and eight-year-olds today -- one out of every three Caucasians , one out of every two African-Americans and Hispanics are going to have diabetes in their lifetime .
And if that 's not enough , they 've gone on to say , most before they graduate high school .
This means that 40 or 45 percent of all school-aged children could be insulin-dependent within a decade . Within a decade .
What 's going to happen ?
Well , the CDC has gone further to say that those children born in the year 2000 could be the first generation in our country 's history to die at a younger age than their parents .
And it 's because of what we feed them .
Because eight-year-olds do n't get to decide -- and if they do , you should be in therapy .
You know , we are responsible for what kids eat .
But oops , maybe they 're responsible for what kids eat .
Big companies spend 20 billion dollars a year marketing non-nutrient foods to kids .
20 billion dollars a year . 10,000 ads most kids see .
They spend 500 dollars for every one dollar -- 500 dollars marketing foods that kids should n't eat for every one dollar marketing healthy , nutritious food .
The result of which is kids think they 're going to die if they do n't have chicken nuggets .
You know that everybody thinks they should be eating more , and more , and more .
This is the USDA portion size , that little , tiny thing .
And the one over there , that 's bigger than my head , is what McDonald 's and Burger King and those big companies think we should eat .
And why can they serve that much ?
Why can we have 29-cent Big Gulps and 99-cent double burgers ?
It 's because of the way the government commodifies food , and the cheap corn and cheap soy that are pushed into our food supply that makes these non-nutrient foods really , really cheap .
Which is why I say it 's a social justice issue .
Now , I said I 'm doing this in Berkeley , and you might think , `` Oh , Berkeley . Of course you can do it in Berkeley . '' Well , this is the food I found 24 months ago .
This is not even food .
This is the stuff we were feeding our kids : Extremo Burritos , corn dogs , pizza pockets , grilled cheese sandwiches .
Everything came in plastic , in cardboard .
The only kitchen tools my staff had was a box cutter .
The only working piece of equipment in my kitchen was a can crusher , because if it did n't come in a can , it came frozen in a box .
The USDA allows this .
The USDA allows all of this stuff .
In case you ca n't tell , that 's , like , pink Danish and some kind of cupcakes .
Chicken nuggets , Tater Tots , chocolate milk with high fructose , canned fruit cocktail -- a reimbursable meal .
That 's what the government says is okay to feed our kids .
It ai n't okay . You know what ? It is not okay .
And we , all of us , have to understand that this is about us , that we can make a difference here .
Now I do n't know if any of you out there invented chicken nuggets , but I 'm sure you 're rich if you did .
But whoever decided that a chicken should look like a heart , a giraffe , a star ?
Well , Tyson did , because there 's no chicken in the chicken .
And that they could figure it out , that we could sell this stuff to kids .
You know , what 's wrong with teaching kids that chicken looks like chicken ?
But this is what most schools serve .
In fact , this may be what a lot of parents serve , as opposed to -- this is what we try and serve .
We really need to change this whole paradigm with kids and food .
We really have to teach children that chicken is not a giraffe .
You know , that vegetables are actually colorful , that they have flavor , that carrots grow in the ground , that strawberries grow in the ground .
There 's not a strawberry tree or a carrot bush .
You know , we have to change the way we teach kids about these things .
There 's a lot of stuff we can do . There 's a lot of schools doing farm-to-school programs . There 's a lot of schools actually getting fresh food into schools .
Now , in Berkeley , we 've gone totally fresh .
We have no high-fructose corn syrup , no trans fats , no processed foods .
We 're cooking from scratch every day .
We have 25 percent of our -- ( Applause ) thank you -- 25 percent of our stuff is organic and local . We cook .
Those are my hands . I get up at 4 a.m .
every day and go cook the food for the kids , because this is what we need to do .
We ca n't keep serving kids processed crap , full of chemicals , and expect these are going to be healthy citizens .
You 're not going to get the next generation , or the generation after , to be able to think like this if they 're not nourished .
If they 're eating chemicals all the time , they 're not going to be able to think .
They 're not going to be smart .
You know what ? They 're just going to be sick .
Now one of the things that -- what happened when I went into Berkeley is I realized that , you know , this was all pretty amazing to people , very , very different , and I needed to market it .
I came up with these calendars that I sent home to every parent .
And these calendars really started to lay out my program .
Now I 'm in charge of all the cooking classes and all the gardening classes in our school district .
So this is a typical menu .
This is what we 're serving this week at the schools .
And you see these recipes on the side ?
Those are the recipes that the kids learn in my cooking classes .
They do tastings of these ingredients in the gardening classes .
They also may be growing them . And we serve them in the cafeterias .
If we 're going to change children 's relationship to food , it 's delicious , nutritious food in the cafeterias , hands-on experience -- you 're looking in cooking and gardening classes -- and academic curriculum to tie it all together .
Now you 've probably garnered that I do n't love the USDA , and I do n't have any idea what to do with their pyramid , this upside-down pyramid with a rainbow over the top , I do n't know .
You know , run up into the end of the rainbow , I do n't know what you do with it . So , I came up with my own .
This is available on my website in English and Spanish , and it 's a visual way to talk to kids about food .
The really tiny hamburger , the really big vegetables .
We have to start changing this .
We have to make kids understand that their food choices make a big difference .
We have cooking classes -- we have cooking classrooms in our schools .
And why this is so important is that we now have grown a generation , maybe two , of kids where one out of every four meals is eaten in fast food , one of every four meals is eaten in a car and one out of every last four meals is eaten in front of a TV or computer .
What are kids learning ? Where is the family time ?
Where is socialization ? Where is discussion ?
Where is learning to talk ?
You know , we have to change it .
I work with kids a lot . These are kids I work with in Harlem .
EATWISE -- Enlightened and Aware Teens Who Inspire Smart Eating .
We have to teach kids that Coke and Pop Tarts are n't breakfast .
We have to teach kids that if they 're on a diet of refined sugar , they go up and down , just like if they 're on a diet of crack .
And we have to pull it all together . We have composting in all of our schools .
We have recycling in all of our schools .
You know , the things that we maybe do at home and think are so important , we have to teach kids about in school .
It has to be so much a part of them that they really get it .
Because , you know what , many of us are sort of at the end of our careers , and we need to be giving these kids -- these young kids , the next generation -- the tools to save themselves and save the planet .
One of the things I do a lot is public-private partnerships .
I work with private companies who are willing to do R & D with me , who are willing to do distribution for me , who are really willing to work to go into schools .
Schools are underfunded .
Most schools in America spend less than 7,500 dollars a year teaching a child .
That comes down to under five dollars an hour .
Most of you spend 10 , 15 dollars an hour for babysitters when you have them .
So we 're spending less than 5 dollars an hour on the educational system .
And if we 're going to change it , and change how we feed kids , we really have to rethink that .
So , public and private partnerships , advocacy groups , working with foundations .
In our school district , the way we afford this is our school district allocates .03 percent of the general fund towards nutrition services . And I think if every school district allocated a half to one percent , we could start to really fix this program .
We really need to change it .
It 's going to take more money .
Of course , it 's not all about food ; it 's also about kids getting exercise .
And one of the simple things we can do is put recess before lunch .
It 's sort of this `` duh '' thing .
You know , if you have kids coming into lunch and all they 're going to do when they get out of lunch is go to have recess , you see them just throw away their lunch so they can run outside .
And then , at one in the afternoon , they 're totally crashing .
These are your children and grandchildren that are totally melting down when you pick them up , because they have n't had lunch .
So if the only thing they 'd have to do after lunch is go to class , believe me , they 're going to sit there and eat their lunch .
We need to -- we need to educate .
We need to educate the kids .
We need to educate the staff .
I had 90 employees .
Two were supposed to be cooks -- none could .
And , you know , I 'm not that better off now .
But we really have to educate .
We have to get academic institutions to start thinking about ways to teach people how to cook again , because , of course , they do n't -- because we 've had this processed food in schools and institutions for so long .
We need 40-minute lunches -- most schools have 20-minute lunches -- and lunches that are time-appropriate .
There was just a big study done , and so many schools are starting lunch at nine and 10 in the morning .
That is not lunchtime .
You know , it 's crazy . It 's crazy what we 're doing .
And just remember , at very least tacitly , this is what we 're teaching children as what they should be doing .
I think if we 're going to fix this , one of the things we have to do is really change how we have oversight over the National School Lunch Program .
Instead of the National School Lunch Program being under the USDA , I think it should be under CDC .
If we started to think about food and how we feed our kids as a health initiative , and we started thinking about food as health , then I think we would n't have corn dogs as lunch .
Okay , Finance 101 on this , and this -- I 'm sort of wrapping it up with this finance piece , because I think this is something we all have to understand .
The National School Lunch Program spends 8 billion dollars feeding 30 million children a year .
That number probably needs to double .
People say , `` Oh my God , where are we going to get 8 billion ? '' In this country , we 're spending 110 billion dollars a year on fast food .
We spend 100 billion dollars a year on diet aids .
We spend 50 billion dollars on vegetables , which is why we need all the diet aids .
We spend 200 billion dollars a year on diet-related illness today , with nine percent of our kids having type 2 diabetes .
200 billion .
So you know what , when we talk about needing 8 billion more , it 's not a lot .
That 8 billion comes down to two dollars and 49 cents -- that 's what the government allocates for lunch .
Most school districts spend two thirds of that on payroll and overhead .
That means we spend less than a dollar a day on food for kids in schools -- most schools , 80 to 90 cents . In L.A. , it 's 56 cents .
So we 're spending less than a dollar , OK , on lunch .
Now I do n't know about you , but I go to Starbucks and Pete 's and places like that , and venti latte in San Francisco is five dollars .
One gourmet coffee , one , is more -- we spend more on than we are spending to feed kids for an entire week in our schools .
You know what ? We should be ashamed .
We , as a country , should be ashamed at that .
The richest country .
In our country , it 's the kids that need it the most , who get this really , really lousy food .
It 's the kids who have parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts that ca n't even afford to pay for school lunch that gets this food .
And those are the same kids who are going to be getting sick .
Those are the same kids who we should be taking care of .
We can all make a difference .
That every single one of us , whether we have children , whether we care about children , whether we have nieces or nephews , or anything -- that we can make a difference .
Whether you sit down and eat a meal with your kids , whether you take your kids , or grandchildren , or nieces and nephews shopping to a farmers ' market . Just do tastings with them .
Sit down and care .
And on the macro level , we 're in what seems to be a 19-month presidential campaign , and of all the things we 're asking all of these potential leaders , what about asking for the health of our children ?
Thank you .