This is my first review for the BlogHer book club, and honestly...I worry that I won't get asked back. Gah. Let me just rip the band-aid off...I didn't love this book. Here's why...
*The subject material is perfect for a debate topic. As such, I wanted structure. Contentions. Evidence. What I got was far too much information - wtih a few contentions & evidence thrown in. To be fair, there is A LOT of evidence in the book. It reminded me of team debaters lugging around a 1/2 dozen ox-boxes. Why does one need THAT many sources to prove a point? After the first 150ish pages, I found it a severe case of scope creep (yes, I just jumped from debate to project management - keep up!).
*I found the tone of the book to be extremely negative. Now, I am no stranger to making waves in the school system. Austin is still convinced that the Superintendent won't greet him b/c of the work that I did with a group of concerned parents at the middle school. I applaud being involved in your child's school, and believe that you should rally to protect the best interests of your child. However, I felt that the book encouraged an antagonistic approach from the get-go. For example, the author encourages parents to go eat lunch with their child to witness the horrific conditions first hand. Really? Why not volunteer to help out during lunch time. Maybe a teacher could actually sit down for a minute while you monitor kindergartners use of sporks.
*The opening chapter tells of the author finding out that her middle-school aged daughter was spending her lunch money on poptarts & rice krispie treats. She describes this as the impetus for embarking on this campaign. This is where my opinion of the issue and my opinion of the book get tangled up. The issue - there are dozens of unhealthy, downright disgusting choices available to kids. There are 7 (SEVEN!) ice cream options on our high school's ala carte menu. You might want to have that with a side of danish, or a convenient uncrustable (shudder). I wholeheartedly agree that we need to, have to, MUST improve the choices that our children are offered in the school cafeteria. Garbage in, garbage out - I don't need to rehash the stats about obesity or diabetes among children. BUT. I felt that the author put the blame SOLELY on the shoulders of the government, the district, and the school administration. Who's missing? Oh right...the parents. Want to know what your kid is eating for lunch? Ask him/her. You really don't need to go all nanny-cam on the lunch ladies. Ask your kid. If they lie to you? You've got bigger problems than pop-tarts. Again, I completely, vehemently,. agree that we need to provide better choices in our cafeterias. I also believe that we have to teach our children how to make good choices. They will experience temptation in some form or another for their entire lives - start teaching them how to make good choices, and they'll be more likely to reach for the apple instead of the pastry. I have 2 teens who are living proof of this. (oh, by the way...they'll still choose the pastry on some days. just like I got a PSL with whipped cream yesterday. yes, I know better...but I did it anyway)
*Many of the examples of schools to aspire to be in the book are affluent and/or private. Yes, there ARE some public, lower income schools mentioned...but they seemed to be in the minority (no pun intended). How do we fix broken school lunches in broken school systems that are struggling to provide basic textbooks to their students? I don't have the answer - and neither does the author.
Outcomes (good ones) of reading this book - I joined our district's Wellness Committee (with Austin's permission!), I called my Mom to talk about school lunches, I sparked a lively discussion at work about the topic, and I really looked at the menus for Austin's school. I think that this book does a fine job of starting the conversation - so for that? I'll give it a C+.
Disclaimer - This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club, but the opinions expressed are my own.