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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for any parent
Lunch Lessons begins by stating everything that is wrong with the American diet. It clearly explains what children should be eating and explains why children need to stay away from additives, high fructose corn syrup, fast food, trans fat, etc. Did you know that children born in 2000 and after who are following the current trend of the fast food, prepared food nation, are...
Published on November 14, 2006 by BarkLessWagMore

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107 of 111 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a book about improving school lunch policies
The photograph on the cover of this book is a bit misleading. The topic of "Lunch Lessons" has a lot more to do with improving American school hot lunch programs than it is about packing healthy brown bag lunches for your own child. It does include a list of recipes at the back of the book. Many sound great, like the "Three Cheese-Vegetable Strata" and the "High Protein...
Published on May 15, 2007 by H.M. Fonseca


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107 of 111 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a book about improving school lunch policies, May 15, 2007
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The photograph on the cover of this book is a bit misleading. The topic of "Lunch Lessons" has a lot more to do with improving American school hot lunch programs than it is about packing healthy brown bag lunches for your own child. It does include a list of recipes at the back of the book. Many sound great, like the "Three Cheese-Vegetable Strata" and the "High Protein Squares" (a homemade replacement for power bars). They also look very time-consuming. Although I haven't tried any of the recipes, it seems to me that making your own pizza dough for the "Pizza Wheels" might take a bit longer than anyone wants to spend making lunch. Actually, I think the recipes are really in here to inspire the people who make hot lunches in school cafeterias.

Like other reviewers I am interested improving school nutrition policies. I head a health committee at my daughter's school dedicated to improving nutrition and fitness for the students and their families. As such this book should be a perfect fit. Unfortunately for me, my daughter attends a private school and almost all of the information in this book, including the reference list in the back, is only helpful if your child attends a public school. (I've actually found more useful information on government web sites than I have in this book!) That doesn't mean it's been completly useless. There are a few great tidbits to be found here and there. I found the recommendation about "laptop lunches" really great. I don't think I would have found out about the company and their fabulous lunch boxes had it not been for this book. (The cover photograph shows a "laptop" lunchbox.)

In the end I think I would recommend this book to anyone interested in taking on the enormous problem of unhealthy school lunches in public schools. If you're looking for new ideas for your child's lunchbox there are probobly better books out there. If like me you're trying to improve the health policies at a private school there probably won't be many ideas in "Lunch Lessons" that you can use exactly as described.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for any parent, November 14, 2006
Lunch Lessons begins by stating everything that is wrong with the American diet. It clearly explains what children should be eating and explains why children need to stay away from additives, high fructose corn syrup, fast food, trans fat, etc. Did you know that children born in 2000 and after who are following the current trend of the fast food, prepared food nation, are facing a shorter life span than their parents? I didn't but it makes since with obesity and diabetes on the rise in the young.

There is a chapter devoted to outlining the caloric needs of a growing child, which food groups are actually necessary for correct development and a helpful chart explaining portion sizes and the number of servings to eat per day based upon the childs age. The book is filled with tools to help anyone learn to change their eating habits and lifestyle (because it is a huge lifestyle change) and I'd bet even those without children would find it a very useful reference and jumping off point for dietary change.

The middle section of the book is about several school systems who bravely changed the menu by eliminating pre-packaged processed food and brought in whole foods from local farmers. The stories, especially the comments from the children, are inspiring and hopeful. What surprised me the most were the positive social experience these children enjoyed while tending to a garden and preparing their healthy meals.

The recipe section is filled with lunch options I've never before considered. I tend to get stuck in a rut with whole grain bread, natural PB&J, turkey cold-cuts, turkey hot dogs, etc. I'm not sure if my kids will go for some of the more radical options like couscous (especially my meat loving son) but I'm going to give it a shot. I never thought of packing home baked mac & cheese or chicken pot pie but those are two faves I'm betting will get them more excited about lunch.

This is a book that will remain in personal collection and one I'm betting I'm going to be picking up on a weekly basis as I prepare my meals.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Many good features to Choose From, January 5, 2007
I read this book because I am involved with several committees dealing with healthy eating and fitness issues for school children in our area, and because I'm very interested in this topic. "Lunch Lessons" proved to be very informative and provided lots of ideas on changes that parents, teachers and policy makers can be making with their own children and/or with programs at school. It gave a nice overview on the history of the School Lunch program and how it has changed over the years. There are interesting summaries of innovative programs that are going on in different parts of the country, helpful resource guides and a policy guide. And it has some GREAT recipes that I intend to try at home and possibly use in some cooking demonstrations I will help organize for children. Because I am a registered dietitian, I did take issue with some of the information, especially in the chapter on Basic Childhood Nutrition, such as the absorption of calcium from plant sources, the quality of research on relating food dyes and additives to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and whether we should be changing recommendations on feedint infants under 1 year of age. Other parts of the chapter were, however, well done. Also, I do not feel all readers will "buy in" to the ideas for organic foods, switching to local food vendors, composting, etc. But pulling out any of the ideas on promoting a greater variety of minimally-processed foods, well prepared, in moderate portions, and eaten at a leisurely pace will benefit many. The distressing rise of obesity and health problems among our youth mandates change; and these experienced authors offer good ideas for action.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lunch Lessons will open your eyes..., September 8, 2006
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I commend Ann Cooper and Lisa Holmes on their approach to raising awareness to our Nation's archaic method of feeding children. Ann Cooper does not only preach about the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) needing major reform, she is out there in the trenches taking action. This book brings attention to benchmark school systems and provides ideas to help foster change. This is a great read for parents who want to know what is going on in the changing landscape for School Nutrition; Extremely beneficial for school food service providers in hopes to get them on the "bus" to reform; A must read for School Administrators that hold the "purse strings" which dictate our childrens diets; and for anyone else that is concerned with the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and lack of "real food" that is promoted to children.

Chet Thompson,

Certified Chef de Cuisine

Culinary Concept Developer
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Organizing for Healthy School-Provided Lunches, Avoiding Hazards, and Recipes, November 12, 2007
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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Lunch Lessons points out a major flaw in the approach that many parents take to delivering the good life for their children: After buying an expensive house in a good school district, purchasing the latest SUV to drive the kids safely around, reading to them in the womb and before bed, and carefully providing nutritious food at home, many parents heedlessly buy hot lunches at school that are essentially garbage in terms of nutrition value. Between classes, those same cosseted kids can use their allowances to buy fast food, soft drinks, and junk snacks at school. Is it any wonder that the kids have trouble concentrating and learning?

In addition, there are other lurking health hazards. Pick the wrong lunch box, and the plastics in it may leak toxins into your child's food. Try to save a little money on food, and deadly pesticides and metals may be building up in your child.

For some reason, school lunches are usually bad . . . and bad for you. I remember living on maple bars (a form of doughnut) for lunch every day during junior high school. I'm sure my parents never knew what I was spending my money on. And I didn't know any better.

In Lunch Lessons, Ann Cooper and Lisa M. Holmes share what they've learned about what can be accomplished by pushing for better school lunch programs. If you are prepared to be an activist in this area, you'll get the information and encouragement you need to take the right actions. I found nothing to second guess in that part of the book.

My main complaint came in the recipes. The authors seem to be insensitive to glycemic issues, even though they quote a lot of warnings about children being at risk for future diabetes. A typical recipe will feature "all-purpose flour" rather than whole wheat flour. The pasta is also not specified to be whole wheat. They go for 1% milk when nonfat milk would be healthier (let the kids get their good fats from healthy sources instead like cod, olive oil, avocados, cashews, and so forth). They also use sugar as an ingredient rather than some natural sweetener that isn't burned up so quickly by the body. I could go on, but the recipes didn't match up with the messages in the rest of the book. I graded the book down accordingly.

Why do you have to reform the school lunch program? Well, if junk is available at school, your kids are going to eat it. I know I did.

Think also where you may be shortchanging your children's futures by not considering the influences that they connect with. What are they watching on those Internet videos?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational, November 9, 2006
By 
Muffinhead's mom (Richmond, VA United States) - See all my reviews
For any parents and education or health professionals who are working to improve the health of our nation's children, this book is a must-read. In addition to a wealth of valuable information about strategies to improve school lunch programs (and what's in the lunchbox!), the book also reminds us why we must continue our efforts to make schools healthy havens for our kids. I do think that what they outline reflects a high ideal that may not be attainable, but hey, why not shoot for the stars?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wake-up call on eating and living green for kids and their parents, June 5, 2008
Lunch Lessons is an in-depth expose of how our unhealthy American diet is literally killing us, particularly its impact on our kids who participate in the USDA school lunch program. Nearly 80% of American schools don't meet the USDA's nutritional requirements. This doesn't come as a surprise seeing as schools are expected to provide a full meal for $1.50 per child. Many schools have done away with kitchens entirely, and rely on reheating processed foods. Financially-strapped districts raise money for extracurricular activities by contracts with soft drink and fast food companies, fueling the current childhood obesity crisis.

Lunch Lessons looks at the impact of revolutionary school lunch programs that aim to reconnect students with their food by raising their own vegetables from seeds, performing investigations, and preparing the fruits of their labor. Other featured schools buy locally grown organic produce for slightly more than commercial brands, and prepare meals that are proportioned appropriately and contain whole grains, fruits and vegetables without additives, extra sugars, or fat. There are also suggestions on how to "green" your home by buying eco-friendly cleaners, composting and recycling, and green dining and shopping alternatives. The book is scattered with statistics on American obesity, diet-related disease, and sidebars, but the placement was disruptive to the text and I frequently lost my place as I skipped around reading the various doom-and-gloom factoids.

The rest of the book consists of recipes taken from the various schools and programs mentioned earlier in the book, and include selections for breakfast, snacks, and lunch. Full nutritional info is included, as well as a conversion guide to figure out the daily values for various ages (the standard nutritional info is based on a 2,000 calorie diet, which is about two times too high for very young children, and not enough for an active teen). Many of the recipes are vegetarian and are low-fat, and are simple enough that older children could prepare these on their own. Some of the more interesting choices included frittata with spinach, mushrooms, and cheese, peanut butter and jelly power muffins, fruit smoothie, orzo salad, pumpkin curry, carrot-ginger soup, and red lentil burgers, although many sounded adventurous for picky eaters.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Useless unless you haven't done any reading, May 30, 2010
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This review is from: Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children (Paperback)
I bought this book hoping for a practical guide to affecting real change in the school lunch system. I wanted a basic road map -- how to get started in MY school, raise awareness, get around the hurdles. Instead, I got this brilliance: "In some [school] kitchens we have been in, we've seen a refrigerator, a freezer, a sink, and then nothing else but these hot-boxes... Currently kitchen staff workers don't need to know the first thing about cooking. That has to change. How can we fix this? First and foremost we need to make an investment in our schools to regain the cooking kitchens we've lost over the years. Beyond that we have to hire food-service workers who know how to cook...We also need to spend more money on food." Obviously that's about as helpful as saying that in order to improve the nutrition of school lunches we need to reduce the power of the industrial corn and soy lobbies. Ya think?

Another thing (and this, admittedly, is not a big deal, but irked me) was that there are barred facts stuck in every other page or so, and some of them make no sense. Several draw comparisons between unlike things -- for example "Calories on the rise: In the 1960's a McDonald's small fries was 210 calories, versus 610 calories today for a large." If you want to prove your point, authors, you should have cited the growth of the "small" and the resultant increase in calories -- not compared different sizes from different eras. This gives the reader no real information on what's changed. Morgan Spurlock did this better..

For anyone who's seen Supersize Me, Food, Inc., read Fast Food Nation, seen Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, or knows who Marion Nestle or Michael Pollan are, this book is a complete waste of time. Yes, the system needs better guidelines and more resources. And we, the parents and concerned educators (I happen to be both) need practical solutions that lie somewhere between a collection of healthy recipes to prepare for our own kids and millions of dollars of funding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unclear purpose, factual errors abound, May 29, 2012
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This review is from: Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children (Paperback)
From the first chapter on nutrition (written by Dr. Oz, the TV Doctor, rather than a qualified nutritionist) to the end of the third (of five) chapters, Lunch Lessons is a hodge-podge of topics, sometimes inaccurate, and always unreferenced. There is a good deal of discussion of the inadequacy of school lunches, but the authors also delve into lengthy tangents on cleaning products to use at home, or parenting advice to garden with kids. The discussion is marred by a lack of clear focus in the book, as well as manifold factual errors.

There's no question school lunches in the US are abysmal, as is children's nutrition in general. As such, there is very much a place for a book covering what this book purports to be. However Lunch Lessons is not such a book. It lacks depth in the political context of the school lunch program, has a pop-sci understanding of many of the relevant technical topics, and virtually no discussion of the medical research into the obesity epidemic. As a book of advice, it is sorely lacking in a holistic view of health, discussing healthy lawn care instead of exercise, for example.

Next to nothing in the book is referenced, and the information is occasionally simply wrong. Chapter one tells readers to drink eight glasses of water a day, for example, despite this being a well-refuted myth. The authors also say dioxins may be in plastic wrap; although some hazardous chemicals may be in plastic (particularly those not intended to be heated), dioxin is not among them.

The last two chapters of the book are mostly recipes. Some look pretty good, although not all are really packed-lunch material. I am looking forward to trying some of them.

In short, this book has less than a chapter on the purported topic of school lunches, filling in the rest with a smattering of topics which could just as easily be found in the pages of any issue of Yes! Magazine or similar publication. It is not the book on school lunches which desperately needs to be written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Lunch Box Ideas, April 6, 2008
Great ideas for the picky eater and this helps add ideas to the mundane lunch box routine
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Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children by Ann Cooper (Paperback - September 4, 2007)
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