We need to serve the freshest, high quality, and seasonal food available to all school students who wish to buy school lunches. Why do we not see this as important? How can we expect our children to care for themselves at such a basic level when the institutions responsible for creating fine minds and bodies flunk at the lunch table.
Dan Giusti, a former head chef in one of the top restaurants in the world, is now pushing an initiative to create better school lunches. In an interview with CBS News, Giusti shared his desire to impact children by changing the way school lunches are done. “There is a problem with school food in general, because this idea that the kids don’t deserve high-quality, which obviously they do,” he said. “If anybody, they’re a captive audience, and they’re our kids. If anybody deserves the best food that we can give them, it’s them, because they have no choice.” Through his company, Brigaid, Giusti has hired trained chefs to make high-quality lunches at Winthrop Elementary in New London, Connecticut. The meals are made from scratch and include pasta, tuna, and middle eastern dishes.
Originally, a head chef at famed restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, Giusti started to recognize he wanted to do something bigger. “I knew I wanted to feed more people; that was the big thing,” he told CBS News. “I wanted to make food with real purpose that really contributed to something.” As a result, he left his job in 2015 to “fix America’s school lunches.” “It’s called school food. Like, that’s weird,” he said. “It should just be food. A lot of the food that is served in a school would never be served anywhere else, and that’s the unfortunate fact.” Since Giusti has been at the school, the children have fallen in love with eating school lunches again, stating remarks like “That it’s actually fresh,” “And it’s made from scratch,” and “Sometimes I want to go up for seconds.” School Superintendent Manuel Rivera hired Giusti to create meals for the school’s 3,500 children.
“If we can’t eat it, we shouldn’t serve it to our kids,” he said. Rivera received push back from some people in the community that he was not properly utilizing tax dollars. However, Rivera says the initiative has not cost New London public school taxpayers anything. Fundraising efforts like Brigaid’s popular weekly community dinner and grants have helped cover the costs. Since the federal school lunch program will reimburse New London $3.50 a meal, Giusti states they had to be creative in making food within their budget so employees could be paid and other maintenance expenses could be covered. “So, when it’s all said and done, you have about $1.25 for food. Making food, a meal that kids really want to eat, for $1.25 is super challenging,” stated Giusti.
Last year, Giusti invited a dozen star chefs to compete in a fundraiser to see what meals could be created for $1.25. The renowned chefs were able to create dishes such as chicken tacos, Futomaki rolls, tofu lasagna, and Monte Cristo sandwiches to name a few. A panel of New London students and other adults chose the winner which was a Caribbean fish sandwich – haddock seasoned with herbs and lemon juice. Now, Dan Giusti and Brigaid are moving into New York City to help with their lunches, starting at Morris High School in the Bronx. “There are 1,800 schools in New York City,” he said. “But I mean, the goal is to get everywhere. To me, my dream is in ten years that things are just different, that it is normal to do what we do.”
In some schools kids help with the table setting, washing dishes, and managing the eating areas. Some school gardens help provide some of the vegetables for lunch. Lunch is free to all students in other countries and all the children help with serving or managing kitchen duties.