Fairfax parents push for “real food” for kids

How many ingredients are in a McDonald’s plain beef patty? Three: Beef. Salt. And pepper.

How many ingredients are in beef patty served in Fairfax County cafeterias? Twenty-four by my count, including caramel color and hydrolyzed soy protein.

Some parents are less than thrilled.

“We’re in one of the best school districts in the country and we’re teaching kids about nutrition, but we’re not offering them food choices that are in line with what we’re teaching them,” said JoAnne Hammermaster, mother of two Fairfax students.

“That doesn’t make any sense. They need to learn to make good choices now.”

Hammermaster is part of Real Food for Kids, a group that wants the school system’s Food and Nutrition Services division to consider revamping lunch menus with more fresh produce and less processed food.

“If we don’t teach kids about eating this kind of food in elementary school, by high school it’s too late — they’re used to eating the pizza, French fries and chicken nuggets every day,” Hammermaster said.


Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery in Arlington. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Schools spokesman Paul Regnier said the system is already conducting its own study and is not seeking advice from individual parent groups. School lunch is “pretty nutritious already,” he said. “But nutritious enough is not enough — kids have got to be willing to eat it.”

Real Food for Kids is hoping to make a public splash with an event at Wolf Trap school on Monday afternoon in celebration of Food Day, which is being celebrated by chefs and locavores across the country.

Hundreds of kids will gather with two renowned chefs: David Guas of Arlington’s Bayou Bakery and Ann Cooper, the so-called Renegade Lunch Lady who overhauled school lunches in Berkeley, Calif., turning them into cooked-from-scratch, whole-food meals.

Should be fun: they’re going to make giant salads in kiddie pools and toss them with garden rakes. If you want to go, you can RSVP here.

If you can’t make it, you can still partake of a coupon for a free healthy snack from any Whole Foods grocery store in Northern Virginia. It expires Oct. 28.

And if you’re interested in delving into the ingredients of Fairfax school lunch meals, you’re in luck. They’re all online.

Emma Brown writes about national education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.

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