Monday, April 2, 2012 at 4:00 AM
Thiamin mononitrate, disodium inosinate, pyridoxine hydrochloride are just a few of the hard-to-pronounce ingredients in a typical school lunch burger. But some schools are phasing processed food out and are bringing scratch cooking back to their kitchens.
Related ArticlesThe Pawpaw: Foraging For America's Forgotten Fruit
Thomas Jefferson once prized this mango-like fruit native to North America. Can it reclaim cache?
Thiamin mononitrate, disodium inosinate, pyridoxine hydrochloride.
Why are these hard-to-pronounce ingredients added to everything from a burger served in schools to veggie burgers in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store? We try to answer that on this edition of Tiny Desk Kitchen.
It turns out the answers are as varied as the ingredients. But as we yearn to know what's in our food and how it's made, these kind of ingredients with unfamiliar names make people suspicious.
"For me, it's just a huge red flag," says Ryan Lonnett, a parent of children in Fairfax County, Va., schools. He's an advocate with the group Real Food For Kids.
When he looks at the ingredient list of the burger served in his kids' cafeteria, he says things like disodium inosinate stand out. "Since I don't know what it is, I'd rather not put it in my body," Lonnett says.
RFFK wants Fairfax County schools to phase out or reformulate processed foods such as a grilled cheese served in a bag, a jumbo turkey frank and a cheese quesadilla. The group also wants the county to purchase new kitchen equipment and begin preparing some foods from scratch.
"We now have 36 school [parent teacher associations] that have signed a resolution that encourages the county to make changes," says JoAnne Hammermaster, head of RFFK.
Making the transition is not as simple as it may sound. Listen to my story on Morning Edition to learn why.
Fairfax County Public Schools has decided to phase out the 26-ingredient burger. Penny McConnell, who directs the county's Office of Food and Nutrition Services, says she will replace it with an alternative frozen patty made of just 100 percent beef. The change could come as soon as mid-April. But McConnell says she doesn't have the kitchen equipment, the space or the labor force to return to scratch cooking in schools.
She says the pre-prepared foods made by manufacturers are healthful and help limit the risks of food-borne illness, since they prevent the chance of cross-contamination that comes with handling raw meat. "That product that comes from a manufacturer, it's gone through lab analysis and safety checks," McConnell says. "I know it's safe."
The debate about school food is a reflection of a wider, cultural rethink about the way we eat.
"What I believe is that we're going back," says Ann Cooper, director of nutrition services for the Boulder Valley School District in Colorado. "If we want to be healthy and want our kids to be healthy, we've got to find our kitchens again."
She has actually brought scratch cooking back to her schools. And lots of cities are inviting chefs into cafeterias and classrooms, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Chefs Move To Schools program, which encourages students to learn more about food and cooking. More than 3,300 schools and 3,400 chefs have joined the program, according to the USDA's Hans Bilger.
The Culinary Trust, one of the partners in the project, is offering grants to support the initiative. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]
This article is filed in: Food, Health, Children's Health, Home Page Top Stories, News
The French honor the patron saint of baking with cream-filled cake topped with caramelized sugar.
From Science Fiction To Fact, Robots Are Coming To A Farm Near You
Some dairy farms use high-tech robot milking machines that also clean udders and monitor cow health.
Vermont Beer Makers Bring Back Old-Time Maple Sap Brews
Late season maple sap was used in a potent beer that cooled farm workers in the heat of summer.
Even Your Mother Will Approve Of Vegetable Chips
These baked, seasoned crisps are so tasty and colorful, you might not miss those fried potato chips.
Jetlagged By Your Social Calendar? Better Check Your Waistline
The disconnect between our social calendars and our biological clocks is creating 'social jet lag.'
News updates from WGBH