DC Schools

In 2010, former Washington Post reporter Ed Bruske spent a week in the Washington, DC school his daughter

attends and wrote about what he saw. Bruske has a web site called “The Slow Cook.”

The District reports they have gotten rid of the pre-cooked, plastic wrapped “foods” they had been providing and


replaced them with “fresh cooked” foods, prepared in the school’s own kitchen.schoollunch2

H. D. Cooke School, where Bruske’s daughter is a student, recently had a multi-million-dollar renovation that gave them a brand new stainless steel commercial kitchen with all the bells and whistles, including a walk-in freezer and refrigerator. But a closer look turns up some surprises. There is no cooktop and there are no pots and pans – essentials for any kitchen. But the school kitchen staff doesn’t actually cook the food; they heat it in either a convection oven or in a steamer, and the kitchen’s director doesn’t have training in cooking, as most people would define the term. The food is supplied by Chartwells-Thompson, a giant food distribution company.

Bruske described what he found in the Washington, DC School: “When I passed through the doors of the ‘Kid’s Stop Cafe,’ I walked straight into the maws of the industrial food system, where meals are composed of ingredients out of a chemist’s lab, where highly processed food is doused with all sorts of additives and preservatives in distant factories, then cooked and shipped frozen so that it can be quickly reheated with minimal skill and placed on a steam table.

schoolfood“Since nearly all of the ingredients for school meals…arrive frozen or canned, and in many cases already cooked, they are quickly prepared in the convection oven or in the steamer. Some things, such as the ‘cheese sauce’ used on lunch nachos, aren’t even removed from the plastic bag they arrived in before they are heated in the steamer.”

He continues, “I was perplexed by the sheer banality of so much processed, canned and sugar-injected food being fed to our children on a daily basis; disappointed that no one seemed to take issue with this sort of food service; chagrined that pizza and Pop Tarts and candied cereals were being served so routinely alongside Mountain Dew masquerading as milk…”

Not so fresh, and not so green

Black Plastic Spork Isolated on a White Background

H.D. Cooke’s $35 million renovation was intended to make it an environmentally friendly school. But a closer look
shows that the food service is based on cardboard and plastics that are not recycled. The children are given foil-wrapped foods, plastic containers, and a plastic spoon/fork hybrid with the food deposited on a Styrofoam tray that is their plate. The kitchen has no dishwasher as there is no need for one.