School Lunches in New Orleans
The Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools website states:
Our vision is simple: a great education for every kid in our city, no matter the color of their skin, what neighborhood they stay in or how much money their parents make.
This statement, combined with the New Orleans location, led me to guess that the organization favors parental choice in education. “What neighborhood they stay in or how much money their parents make” sounds like a reference to the traditional district system, in which school assignments are based on geography and the alternatives are open to people who can pay tuition. And choice policies have shaped the New Orleans school system to a degree reformers most places can only dream of: Children who temporarily relocated from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina received vouchers to attend public or private schools of their choice, and New Orleans has a larger percentage of students attending charter schools than any other city.
I read further and saw that my guess was wrong. The “What We’ve Done” section of the website is all about school food. Of the 12 recommendations for change, two call for more local food in school lunches. One suggests that schools establish gardens on their premises because “Students need to grow fresh food and taste what they grow.”
Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools is lobbying for something peripheral to a great education. It doesn’t matter where school food was grown, as long as students get a nutritionally complete meal. And gardening, while it’s possibly educational and rewarding, is not a basic human need. If you think of school priorities, like creating a safe environment and teaching students to read, maintaining a garden would be pretty far down the list.
I hope Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools will reevaluate its goals and stay true to its original mission. A couple of questions to consider: Are the most pressing inequities already addressed, so that we can now devote our attention to gardens? Or do neighborhoods and parental income levels continue to keep a great education out of reach for many students, for reasons that have nothing to do with food?