Friday, July 2, 2010

The Problem with Chefs Move to Schools: A Cook's POV

You know that I went to the White House on June 4th to participate in the kick-off program for the new initiative, Chefs Move to Schools.

You know that I was super-excited about participating in this launch, even though there were many, many people attending, and I still see several bold-faced names who were in attendance missing from the list of chefs who have signed-up to participate in the program.

But after some time, and a chance to dig into the web site and the program, I'm realizing an important fact.

There is no program.

Now don't misunderstand. There's a web site and a lot of excitement among those in the food community, particularly those of us who already work with kids and love doing so. But I haven't yet found a specific program to help put this all into action. To help all of the participants, both from the school & chef sides, to be on the same page.

An email received from Share Our Strength, a really fabulous organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America, encourages us to "Search for your state, then look for a school near you; there is a contact listed for each school. You are also encouraged to match yourself with a school of your own choosing - where your kids go, near your restaurant, maybe even the one you attended as a child! If there isn't a school near you at this point, check back later or just ask around in your community to make a connection! "

Ok, I can do that. In fact, I'm already teaming with Monocacy Elementary School. But it seems to me that by encouraging Monocacy to participate, I may have just added a layer of red tape to our process. Maybe? I really can't tell.

Here's what I thought would happen:
  1. Schools and chefs would register for the program, then be paired
  2. Schools and chefs would both be given program guidelines to follow with the flexibility to put our own spin on things
  3. Suggestions for funding would be offered (not the actual funding, but ideas on who and how to approach this issue)

Instead, here's where it stands today:

  1. Schools and chefs register for the program and are expected to pair themselves up (no problem here)
  2. There's a website with info as it pertains to school lunches and daycare, but with no curriculum guidelines for chefs and cooks going in and teaching the kids about food.
  3. No one is discussing funding. This is 100% volunteer.

Before you start thinking I'm greedy, please understand that food costs money. And when you're going into a school with hundreds of kids, and you're expected to provide not only your time but the food as well, we're talking what could be a major financial commitment from some very small business owners who probably don't pay themselves very much, if anything.

If you're a big name in the field with successful restaurants, tv shows, and the like, that's very different from someone who owns his or her own business and isn't raking in the big (or even medium) bucks. I will willingly donate my time, but providing all that food for samples etc.? Where is that money going to come from? Are there grants? Ideas on working with PTSAs, or do I need to figure it out myself? Doesn't it seem a little silly to have 900+ chefs (those currently registered for the program) all starting from scratch, on their own? Seems like we'll end up with 900+ different approaches.

I love me some Obama, deep, deep down in my heart, but either I'm missing some major info on this program (which is not impossible), or it's just not there, or it's not easy to find.

I've gone ahead and registered for Share Our Strength's Operation Frontline program to see what their curriculum looks like and see if perhaps that program is a good fit for me & the school. I'd like to know what other cooks & chefs are doing and what their plans are for participation in this program and if maybe, just maybe, I'm missing something here. Because right now? I'm just confused.

1 comment:

Katherine from Atlanta said...

I had our principal sign up for the chefs move to schools program over the summer, and so far we have gotten nowhere. It's really too bad, because it sounds like such a great idea, and something that parents will really be excited about and children and families could benefit from. But like you say...what is the porgram? how will it be funded? If it costs the school money, we likely cannot afford to do it.