The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Janet Poppendieck, the author of Free for All: Fixing School Food in America, speaks about the importance of healthy food in public schools. Credit: Alexandra Fleischman

Wednesday evening, as students at 1920 Commons laughed and chatted over dinner, a very different kind of conversation was taking place two floors below.

The Fox Leadership Program presented “Fixing School Food in America” featuring Janet Poppendieck, author of Free for All: Fixing School Food in America, and other guest panelists involved in school nutrition.

Poppendieck, professor of sociology at Hunter College, City University of New York, elaborated on the two-pronged efforts taken by a “continuum of people who care a lot about childhood obesity.” On one end, there are those who advocate product reformulation — making products healthier — and on the other, those who favor a return to more traditionally wholesome foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

Poppendieck admitted that “it’s an uphill battle because of the whole nature of our food system.”

She also called Philadelphia a “model for the future,” pointing to initiatives such as 25 city schools buying locally grown produce.

Despite many strides being made in the provision of healthier meals for students, all the panelists emphasized the urgency of the issue.

Jonathan Stein, general counsel for Community Legal Services, spoke of his efforts 20 years back to make the “means testing” method less “discriminating, stigmatizing and arbitrary.”

Means testing is the process that determines which students are eligible to receive free meals from the school system and was criticized by many in the panel as being ineffective.

Central High School’s Sarahn Sankofa, youth consultant for the Philadelphia Urban Food and Fitness Alliance and a panelist, discussed her work with local students during the summer, when she produced a documentary on nutrition issues in schools.

Helen Gym, a founder of Parents United for Public Education, outlined the importance of reform by saying, “This conversation is incredibly radical.”

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.