Tuesday, May 15, 2012

First Chapter Review: Fed Up with Lunch by Sarah Wu, A.K.A. "Mrs. Q."

This is a book I requested for review last fall. The topic of school lunches has been on my mind for a while now for a variety of reasons:

  • I have two girls in the public school system;
  • Both girls have opted to eat school lunch more often this year than in the past;
  • The girls buy chocolate milk with their lunch because they insist the 1% white milk the school offers doesn't taste quite right;
  • Our school district--which has had a wellness policy in place for the past few years--offers the children foods like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, french toast sticks, pancakes, peanut butter and jelly and more fast foods on a regular basis;
  • I've eaten in our schools' cafeterias. I don't know what they do to get the food to taste like that, but I can't imagine why my kids willingly eat it;
  • News reports suggest that the government has/had plans to purchase millions of pounds of treated beef (pink slime).
Our school district offers three options for students each day--entree, bagel, or peanut butter and jelly--and they also have fruit or a fruit and veggie bar many days of the week. The menu, however, still consists primarily of fast foods. The kids in our school district only have 15 minutes to eat, so that must be figured into the picture.

 BLURB: When school teacher Mrs. Q forgot her lunch one day, she had no idea she was about to embark on an odyssey to uncover the truth about public school lunches. Shocked by what her students were served, she resolved to eat school lunch for an entire year, chronicling her experience anonymously on a blog that received thousands of hits daily, and was lauded by such food activists as Mark Bittman, Jamie Oliver, and Marion Nestle. Here, Mrs. Q reveals her identity for the first time in an eye-opening account of school lunches in America. Along the way, she provides invaluable resources for parents and health advocates who wish to help reform school lunch, making this a must-read for anyone concerned about children's health issues.

COVER:  Great! The cover with its bold title is what made me look into this book. Early on in the book, Wu describes the little eating set of a napkin, straw and spork wrapped in plastic that our kids use to eat their lunches. I had to chuckle at seeing one on the cover. The lined paper that highlights the subtitle is also a good tie-in to the environment where the investigation takes place.

FIRST CHAPTER: Especially with non-fiction, I read the Introduction of books. Here, Wu describes what led to The School Lunch Project and her blog. The first chapter discusses her need to remain anonymous for the sake of her job, and how she created her alter ego, Mrs. Q. She shares the first day of her project, what she ate, and the logistics behind how she managed to blog about her lunch without getting caught.

KEEP READING! Big time, yes! In addition to the fact that this topic has been on my mind for months, Wu's humor combined with her investigative skills make this a fabulous read. One of the points she is clear to make is that the overwhelming majority of the students in her school were fed thanks to the reduced or free lunch program. So, her concern as an educator and a mom came from knowing this might be her students' main opportunity to get a healthy meal. Her genuine concern is the overriding style that is clear to the reader as she moves along. I'm already up to Chapter 3, so I know I will keep going.

If you have kids in America's public schools who frequent the cafeteria, you might want to read this one. The reviews on Amazon have been mixed, but right now I'm really enjoying it.

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (October 5, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1452102287
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452102283  
  • SRP: $22.95
  • Available for Kindle

  • I received a free hardcover of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinions. A full review will follow. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for this review.


    brokenteepee said...

    I remember the bouncing meatballs when I was in school. They were made with textured protein. They literally bounced. But we loved them.

    That was a few ::cough, cough:: years ago now before "healthy" school lunches were even talked about.

    Cheryl said...

    I remember soggy french fries and pizza with gross cheese. Those were, however, the safest things to eat. Shudder.

    Anonymous said...

    Hi Cheryl. I remember hearing about this blog and checking it out a few times.

    When my son was in school, he didn't get to buy school lunches too often. In elementary school, he would look over the monthly menu and he got to buy 2-4 times a month. In middle school, they had some ala carte choices, so we'd let our son buy something once in awhile to go with his lunch he brought from home. In high school, he brought his lunch everyday. Didn't want to bother with standing in long lines.