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Free for All: Fixing School Food in America (California Studies in Food and Culture) Hardcover – January 4, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Sophisticated and nuanced."--"The Washington Monthly"

"Meticulously researched, patiently explicated, potentially groundbreaking. . . . Should be required reading for everyone who eats food, buys food, has kids, or cares about nutrition."--"Bookforum"

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

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

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

"Sophisticated and nuanced."--Michael O Donnell"The Washington Monthly" (01/01/2010)"

Sophisticated and nuanced. --Michael O Donnell"The Washington Monthly" (01/01/2010)"

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

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

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
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Product Details

  • Series: California Studies in Food and Culture (Book 28)
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (January 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520243706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520243705
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #979,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was disappointed to discover that while the author portrays a comprehensive and very interesting account of our country's school food system, Poppendieck's slant on nutrition in school foods (for example, reducing fat and increasing carbs as beneficial) is outdated. I wish she had more current research on this aspect.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
Every parent of school-aged children and policymakers concerned about child nutrition and school meal programs should read this book. it offers a compelling picture of how school lunch and breakfast programs operate and the complex set of circumstances and challenges that face those who run these programs and try to nourish our nation's school children. It explains how various policies have evolved and the political, economic and social forces that both drive and complicate the process of trying to nourish all school children while balancing competing demands for taste and nutritional value, participation, and cost. Critics of the school lunch program can rightly claim the need to improve the nutritional quality of school lunches, but this book helps us all understand how very difficult it is to operate them in a climate of contradictory policies that impede participation and children's acceptance of nutritious foods in a fast-food society and an educational environment that limits meal times and places and forces competing food choices to bring up participation and revenue. It also shows how the heavy administrative burdens of meal counting and three-tiered meal eligibility and reimbursements (for poor and near poor, and non-poor children) adds to the difficulty of maintaining a program that is both cost-effective and nutritious. I highly recommend this book and the author's ability to make this topic both highly readable, thoughtful and balanced.
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Format: Hardcover
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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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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Format: Paperback
Free for All is a historical analysis of school food programs in the US since their inception during the Progressive Era -- with a strong emphasis on two points: (a) who pays? and (b) how did we get ourselves into such a muddle? The history is in many ways remarkably like that of almost any other major social program: early implementation during the Progress Era based on localized funding, broad scale enactment during the Depression, another surge during the War on Poverty, a defensive posture since Reagan. What is unusual is the extent to which a byzantine bureaucratic madness has infected the program, thanks to early commitments to helping farmers and to the rise of nutritional science, in which the federal government has tried to legislate healthy meals by legislative quantities (e.g., total calories, percent fat), which leads to bizarre anomalies like a school district having to add a chocolate pudding dessert to their lunches to meet dietary standards.

This is in many ways an extremely well written book and one that deserves a wide audience. Indeed, it's hard not to describe the audience for this book without sounding like a grandiose blurb off the back cover of a book (e.g., everyone who cares about the future...). Instead, I'll simply point out that it was recommended to me by an anti-hunger advocate as the one book to read on US federal food policy.

Other books talk about how it is `thorough' or `has dry stretches'. This isn't especially the fault of the author. She writes well for a sociologist. She resists the temptation to use or invent jargon and she lays out the problems as clearly and with as much sympathy for as many of the people involved as possible.
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