Fresh, delicious, kid-friendly school meals are possible

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Melissa McCart's article on the complexities of school lunch provision ("Nation Is Churning Out New Era of School Lunch," Oct. 6) points out a national trend that has been decades in the making -- consolidation and standardization that brings down the costs of food service but creates meals that are more responsive to federal mandates than to our need for sustenance, taste and health. There are a lot of questions about how these are organized: Are they programs for all children? Businesses or social programs? An integral part of the school day?

But the article missed a great opportunity to explore the alternative. The food service that provides all of the meals at the Environmental Charter School is Pittsburgh Community Kitchen. Every day, Pittsburgh Community Kitchen prepares fresh, USDA-compliant school lunches that students really like. Although much smaller in size, Pittsburgh Community Kitchen is a vendor -- just like the ones that provide food for many large public school districts -- but the difference is that PCK prepares fresh, regionally sourced, USDA-compliant, kid-friendly meals in partnership with schools, at reasonable cost.

On top of all that, PCK is already cooking for the "markets" that Curtistine Walker, director of food service for the Pittsburgh Public Schools, covets -- Meals on Wheels, hospital food service and catering. With a mission to reduce food waste and create delicious and healthy food, rather than turn a substantial profit, PCK's chefs actually produce a small miracle with each affordable, tasty and carefully sourced meal they serve. PCK also provides local jobs and training, bringing additional benefits to the city.

To understand the difference, I invite Ms. McCart to spend time in Tod Shoenberger's kitchen, seeing how he and his staff pull this off every day that school is in session.

Director and Associate Professor
Food Studies Program
Chatham University

The writer is a board member of Pittsburgh Community Kitchen.


First Published October 20, 2013 8:00 PM


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