They say your strongest memories come from your sense of smell. One of my most memorable smells came from my school cafeteria. Before attending elementary school, lunch was a special time: my older sisters were in school and my mother and I would have lunch together. I savored her sandwiches: tuna or chicken salad with diced celery on Pepperidge Farm very thin white bread, spread lightly first with creamy butter. Delicious.
So, imagine the shock and awe when introduced to cafeteria food. At first it seemed exotic: pushing the sea-green trays down the steel galley line – it felt very grown up to be making decisions about your own lunch.
But then things went steadily downhill: the rest of the cafeteria experience consisted of pushing indiscernible meat products and beige “sides” around the plate. But the worst, was the twice-monthly serving of “Mexican pizza”. What an insult to both Mexico and Italy. The pizza crust was an unconscionable combination of damp white dough laden with some sort of ground beast then topped off with a non-refrigerated cheese product and cut into thick squares.
The smell was nauseating. I made frequent trips to see the nurse, feigning illness. In the beginning, my mom would come and get me, but after a while they figured out that it was just my aversion to the ‘Mexican Pizza smell’, so my mom stopped coming to pick me up. Tough love.
Cafeterias have changed drastically since then, but the food has stayed the same: mystery meat and vegetables boiled beyond recognition and of course the addition of French fries and soda’s, contributing to our childhood obesity crisis.
But there is good news on the horizon: did you know that Georgia is one of the trailblazers in the Farm to School movement? Groups like Georgia Organics are providing schools with tools to teach kids about locally grown food, healthy preparation and the value it brings to the community.
In many schools around the state, schools are creating mini farms and growing much of what they now eat right on campus. There’s another way to get involved in the F2S movement: host a screening of Cafeteria Man, a new documentary garnering lots of attention because of the film’s gregarious protagonist, Chef Tony Geraci.
This visionary chef is a steamroller of energy with a single passion: fresh is good. As food service director for Baltimore city schools, Geraci went on a quest to overhaul cafeteria food and transform the way our children eat. Want to learn how he did? Come to GPB on Tuesday, October 2 at 5:30 p.m. for a free screening of the documentary, Cafeteria Man and meet Chef Tony. Georgia Organics will be on hand to tell you how your school can join the F2S movement and lets bid adieu to mystery meat and say hello to local fresh food!