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Free for All: Fixing School Food in America (California Studies in Food and Culture) [Paperback]

by Janet Poppendieck
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 10, 2011 0520269888 978-0520269880 1
How did our children end up eating nachos, pizza, and Tater Tots for lunch? Taking us on an eye-opening journey into the nation's school kitchens, this superbly researched book is the first to provide a comprehensive assessment of school food in the United States. Janet Poppendieck explores the deep politics of food provision from multiple perspectives--history, policy, nutrition, environmental sustainability, taste, and more. How did we get into the absurd situation in which nutritionally regulated meals compete with fast food items and snack foods loaded with sugar, salt, and fat? What is the nutritional profile of the federal meals? How well are they reaching students who need them? Opening a window onto our culture as a whole, Poppendieck reveals the forces--the financial troubles of schools, the commercialization of childhood, the reliance on market models--that are determining how lunch is served. She concludes with a sweeping vision for change: fresh, healthy food for all children as a regular part of their school day.

Frequently Bought Together

Free for All: Fixing School Food in America (California Studies in Food and Culture) + Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty + Growing Up Empty: How Federal Policies Are Starving America's Children
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Editorial Reviews


“Meticulously researched, patiently explicated, potentially groundbreaking. . . . Should be required reading for everyone who eats food, buys food, has kids, or cares about nutrition.”
(Bookforum 2009-12-01)

“Sophisticated and nuanced.”
(Michael O'Donnell The Washington Monthly 2010-01-01)

“[An] excellent, informative book. . . . Poppendieck’s research is extensive and meaningful.”
(Lisa Sasson Gastronomica 2011-07-01)

“A masterful work of public sociology that is likely to play an important role.”
(Heather Sullivan-Caitlin Teaching Sociology 2011-10-07)

From the Inside Flap

"In her extraordinarily well-thought-out, beautifully written, sympathetic, and compelling book, Jan Poppendieck makes clear that Free for All has two meanings: how pressures to reduce the cost of school meals put our children's health at risk, and how best to solve this problem—universal school meals. Anyone who reads this book will find the present school lunch situation beyond unacceptable. Free for All is a call for action on behalf of America's school kids, one that we all need to join. I will be using this book in all my classes."—Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics

"President Obama has promised to end childhood hunger in America by the year 2015. He and his team should read Jan Poppendieck's new book Free for All. Her simple premise is that hunger is the enemy of education. She makes a persuasive case for the federal government to provide nutritious free school lunch and breakfast to every school child in America as a major step to end childhood hunger, reduce obesity and a whole range of nutrition related diseases and to improve the education of our children at the same time. Now, for the first time in my 35 years of fighting hunger we have a president who has pledged to actually do it starting with children and a book that provides the roadmap for an important part of the journey. Anyone who cares about our children should read this book."—Bill Ayres, Co-Founder and Executive Director of WHY (World Hunger Year)

Free For All is an essential resource for anyone interested in school food reform. Janet Poppendieck has taken on a topic of extraordinary complexity and produced a comprehensive and engaging analysis of how the current system came to be, why it is so resistant to change, and what we can do to improve it. Throughout she rejects the scapegoating, moralism, and quick fixes that characterize so much of the current debate over school food. Instead, she offers insightful structural analysis, engaging interviews with front-line food service personnel, and colorful accounts of visits to lunch rooms across the nation. Free For All looks beyond local success stories, calling for a national program redesign that challenges us all to rethink the role of school food policy within the larger food system. What Upton Sinclair's The Jungle was to food safety regulation at the beginning of the last century, Poppendieck's Free for All may well be for school food reform at the start of the new century.”—Timothy D. Lytton, Angela and Albert Farone Distinguished Professor of Law, Albany Law School

“Janet Poppendieck's Free for All is a timely and extremely thoughtful call for a sane, just, and healthy school food agenda for America's children. Complex yet clear, vivid and engrossing, Free for All should be required reading for relevant courses in sociology, education, social work, and public health. It is truly food for thought for students, community activists, and policy makers.”—Ruth Sidel, PhD, Author of Unsung Heroines: Single Mothers and the American Dream

Product Details

  • Series: California Studies in Food and Culture (Book 28)
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (January 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520269888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520269880
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Free For All: Fixing School Food in America, is a fabulous guide to the intricacies of School Food change. It's a must-read for those interested in how the system came to be so convoluted but unlike many similar books this one is loaded with examples of how ordinary people have organized to improve school food. Poppendieck believes that the time to transform School Food is now--it's the moment in which education and health are joined in the public eye. She also shows how environmental activists determined to slow global warming can accomplish all of the above by signing on to the now-vibrant School Food reform movement. Well-written, easy to read, very thoughtful book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I'm a blogger about school food (among other topics) (thelunchtraydotcom) and I'm constantly relying on, citing and recommending this book to my readers.

In clear, readable and extremely well-researched prose, Poppendieck lays out for the reader everything you'd ever want or need to know about the school lunch program, from its historical roots (which explain the sometimes perplexing regulatory thicket governing the program now) to what it's like behind the scenes in actual school kitchens. What I like best about Poppendieck is that she approaches the subject with no agenda, hidden or otherwise - even as she promotes reform, she clearly has empathy for school districts which are trying, under intense financial pressure, to provide meals that are compliant with federal regulations.

If you care about the issue of school food in America, this is a MUST READ.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and a Fun Read December 15, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book has all the information of the most erudite academic publication and the fun of a good read as you follow the author's journey through the world of school lunch. It is more than Food for Thought: it strips the issues down to a Naked Lunch and is a pleasure to digest. School lunch feeds the future, so get informed and get active. Enjoy!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Free For All June 1, 2010
This book was certainly eye-opening about the politics of school food. Reading is a bit tedious at times with many repetitions of information but interesting enough to slog through it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thorough January 18, 2011
To be perfectly honest, large parts of this book were painfully dry and difficult to hack through. I read plenty of dense books, but for some reason this one was especially rough. That said, it's practically the only book you'll ever need to read on the subject. The author did excellent research on all aspects of the question and provided a rare balanced and effective response.
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