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Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children [Paperback]

Ann Cooper
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 23 2007

Remember how simple school lunches used to be? You'd have something from every major food group, run around the playground for a while, and you looked and felt fine. But today it's not so simple. Schools are actually feeding the American crisis of childhood obesity and malnutrition. Most cafeterias serve a veritable buffet of processed, fried, and sugary foods, and although many schools have attempted to improve, they are still not measuring up: 78 percent of the school lunch programs in America do not meet the USDA's nutritional guidelines.

Chef Ann Cooper has emerged as one of the nation's most influential and most respected advocates for changing how our kids eat. In fact, she is something of a renegade lunch lady, minus the hairnet and scooper of mashed potatoes. Ann has worked to transform cafeterias into culinary classrooms. In Lunch Lessons, she and Lisa Holmes spell out how parents and school employees can help instill healthy habits in children.

They explain the basics of good childhood nutrition and suggest dozens of tasty, home-tested recipes for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. The pages are also packed with recommendations on how to eliminate potential hazards from the home, bring gardening and composting into daily life, and how to support businesses that provide local, organic food.

Yet learning about nutrition and changing the way you run your home will not cure the plague of obesity and poor health for this generation of children. Only parental activism can spark widespread change. With inspirational examples and analysis, Lunch Lessons is more than just a recipe book—it gives readers the tools to transform the way children everywhere interact with food.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details


Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In prose both straightforward and practical, Cooper and Holmes cleverly avoid the depressing air of many of current nutrition manuals in their charge against the school lunch status quo; though they do note in the foreword that "thirty to forty percent of children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes," they've largely jettisoned scare tactics in favor of practical, easy-to-follow solutions for the daily school lunch pail. The book is well documented throughout, giving authors' claims that their advice will lead to "increased ability to concentrate, increased cognitive development...and less moodiness" a solid foundation. Clarifying which foods are truly hazardous to children, the authors offer readers a litany of substitutions and positive options. Avoiding trans-fats and processed foods is only the beginning of advice that includes "trusting your children's appetites" while keeping in mind that "you are the boss" where food choices are concerned. Perfect for working parents who believe they're far too busy to pack a school lunch for their child, this well-organized manual offers a host of surprisingly simple meal changes and easy-to-follow recipes. Other sections offer tips on getting involved locally to transform school lunch programs; the end of the book boasts a valuable resource guide with helpful websites.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“Perfect for working parents who believe they’re far too busy to pack a school lunch for their child” (Publishers Weekly )

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars No-Nonsense book Oct. 17 2007
By Dobrin
Format:Paperback
This book goes far beyond good ideas for kid's lunches' recipes. The author calls for parents to become active in the school system, to prevent waste, to educate children about food and proper nutrition. This is a no-hype, no-false-promises book. It educates and calls for action. I respect the author for doing that.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
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
By H.M. Fonseca - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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.
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for any parent Nov. 14 2006
By BarkLessWagMore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Many good features to Choose From Jan. 5 2007
By Edna Oakley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lunch Lessons will open your eyes... Sept. 8 2006
By C. Thompson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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
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 Nov. 12 2007
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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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