Cook for America Co-Founder Kate Adamick talks to genConnect about her new book, Lunch Money: Serving Healthy School Food in a Sick Economy, and how it can help schools identify ways to serve kids healthier meals without breaking their budgets
Nationally renowned school food reform expert Kate Adamick, co-founder of the Cook for America Lunch Teachers™ Culinary Boot Camps that have helped hundreds of schools throughout the United States convert their cafeterias into scratch-cooking operations, has just released a timely new book, Lunch Money: Serving Healthy School Food in a Sick Economy, which dispels the myth that school food reform is cost prohibitive. Kate agreed to answer a few of our questions about her new book, which has been praised by such food systems leaders as Marion Nestle, Jamie Oliver, and Mark Bittman.
genConnect: Kate, you’ve been working in the school food reform arena for nearly a decade. Why did you now decide to write Lunch Money: Serving Healthy School Food in a Sick Economy?
Adamick: While I’ve been delighted that the topic of school food as a factor in children’s health has become dinner table conversation across the country — even in the White House — I have been dismayed by the fact that most educators and policy makers still struggle to understand how schools can afford to replace their existing processed convenience foods with healthier cooked-from-scratch meals.
For a long time, I, too, was of the opinion that successful school food reform would require substantial additional government funding for healthier foods. However, after years of working closely with school districts to examine their day-to-day operations, it became clear to me that the average school district has two existing internal sources of revenue of which it is unaware: wasted time and wasted money. As it turns out, the key to financial success for most school food service operations lies in putting down the box cutters and can openers, and picking up calculators and pencils.
genConnect: How does the book help school districts identify opportunities for cutting costs and increasing revenue in their own school food service operations?
Related: Transforming School Lunches
Adamick: Lunch Money is a “how to” book packed with money-saving and revenue-generating tools for use in any school kitchen or cafeteria. I included as many practical examples, diagrams, charts, mathematical formulas, and worksheets as possible to help uncloak the mysteries of funding cooked-from-scratch school meals within the confines of ever shrinking school budgets. And, because I know that math can be intimidating for many people, I tried to be as entertaining as possible to help alleviate any anxieties the reader may be having about working with numbers. After all, life is a lot more pleasant when work is fun.
genConnect: What is your ultimate goal for Lunch Money?
Adamick: When school districts use the tools in Lunch Money to begin identifying just how much money can be found in their existing systems, they will be able to redirect that additional money toward better ingredients, more efficient equipment, and professional training for their food service workers. My hope is that school district administrators, school food service directors, and activist parents all find that Lunch Money helps them better understand that the use of simple math can transform the old adage, “A penny saved, is a penny earned,” into “A penny saved is thousands and thousands of dollars earned” — and can transform school food from a problem into a solution to the childhood obesity epidemic.
Profits from the sale of the book, Lunch Money: Serving Healthy School Food in a Sick Economy, are being donated by Kate’s consulting firm, Food Systems Solutions® LLC, to the Children’s Health Foundation.
- For more daily expert updates, follow genConnect on Twitter and Facebook.
- To stay on top of Kate Adamick’s latest posts, as well as the contributions from other experts on the site: Sign Up for genConnect.