Book Reviews

Book review: Free For All.

Concerned parents persuaded school authorities in poor communities to serve breakfast in 1890 for free. They observed and concluded that grumbling stomachs prevented students from concentrating well enough to absorb knowledge. Academic performance of hungry children was noticeably lower than those who were fed and of equal intelligence.

The good professor of sociology Janet Poppendieck at Hunter College, City University of New York, studied how the school feeding system evolved and after many interviews with school officials, cafeteria workers, and students came to several conclusions.

This extremely well researched and thoughtfully written book exposes how the system failed to evolve with requirements of each generation.

A school cafeteria designed in 1930 for the number of students then and food service requirements was never changed to accommodate double the numbers today, and modern expectations.

There are many other problems that she points out, but the most important issue is how food manufacturers “infiltrated” policy-making institutions and forced school officials to adopt their products.

Food service in the American school food system is a very complicated and political subject, and the author’s analysis should be required reading for every parent and school official.

Only relentless and forceful parental pressure can affect changes, actually a revolution, which must take place soon.

Free for All is a timely and extremely thoughtful call for change.

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