Letters for the week of September 11-17, 2002 

Organic lunch for breakfast, organic lunch for lunch, organic lunch for dinner, topped off with some foie gras.

Two out of three kids prefer organic food
The article "Teacher, There's a Fly in My Arugula" (Aug. 21) implied that the organic program caused the loss of participation: this is not accurate. The fact is, when BUSD did serve organics during the 2000-2001 school year, participation was up at every elementary salad bar, at the Willard Salad Bar, and for the six weeks of the new school year (2001-2002) that we served organic sandwiches -- those were sold out. By mid-December 2001, no organics were being served anywhere in the district.

Increased participation was so dramatic at the elementary school salad bars for 2000-2001 that approximately 25 to 30 percent of the kids who normally ate the "regular" school lunch continued to do so. The other 65 to 70 percent of students ate at the organic salad bars. Staff at those schools also participated. Nonschool BUSD employees stopped by those schools for lunch. Sales at Willard Middle were up, as students and staff enjoyed that salad bar immensely. In fact, Willard was to become the model for the rest of the secondary schools -- at least that was the game plan.

BHS was the only site where we experienced a decline in sales as that site. That site served 100 percent organic items as well. The other sites served a combination of organic and "regular" school fare -- yet it was quite obvious that the organic menu items were driving the surge in participation at those sites that served a combination of organic and "regular" school fare.

When the new director came on board, all organics ceased -- as she added items from her previous school district to our menus.
Rick Fuller, former district employee, Antioch

No thanks for your nonnutritious article
I don't know why I expected more from the Express, but since I am one of the parents who has been working to improve the food in Berkeley Unified, I happen to know that Justin Berton's article about those efforts was poorly researched. One of the article's premises, that students' participation in the school food program declined because they don't like organic food, is false. In fact, the opposite is true. More organic food was served the year prior to this last year; there were organic salad bars, hot entrées, and organic snacks. This year, that practice disappeared shortly after the year began, and that's when participation started to decline.

Justin's article is tabloid-ish, as he reveals his apparent disdain for those who care about the food their children eat and takes jabs at everyone involved. In fact, rather than report our successes in improving the food, Justin spent his time digging up gossip. What a waste of reporting and reading time.

One wonders, what was Justin's point in writing this article? Justin didn't even scratch the surface to get at what the real issues are. Like social stigma about organic food. Or school kitchens that have been "remodeled" to eliminate their ability to cook real food.
Marcy Greenhut, parent, BUSD, Berkeley

Intestinal Distress
I am also very disappointed in your article. I gave you enough information to nail the district for institutional racism, corruption, and mismanagement, not to mention outright failure to protect the quality and freshness of the food being fed to the kids.

Your article wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. What made me very angry is the blasé way you wrote the whole thing. I don't think the folks in Phoenix have a clue as to real journalism. This was a story that, if written properly, might have made a real dent in the district's willingness to take us seriously. As it is, you appear to be blaming organic food offerings for the downturn in participation. In fact, the kids have stopped eating in the schools because of the lack of real nutritious food.

Your article and, I might add, the Express have done an incredible and hurtful disservice to those parents who are involved in this fight and you have done nothing to help the kids whose health and welfare are at risk every time they eat at the school.

This is no longer the East Bay Express (hasn't been for some time). It would best be called the East Bay Distress.
Ray Couture, your latest victim, Berkeley

The future is organic
The author of the article needs to think of educating children's palates as a continuum of "harm reduction" in the face of the overwhelming odds and onslaught of junk food offerings and advertising presented by the well-funded ubiquitous, mainstream food industry.

Ten years from now, kids will be eating better by choice; twenty years from now, better still. The school edible-gardens projects of growing, harvesting, preparing, and eating organic fruits and vegetables do lead to more nutritious, healthier eating habits (Garden Survey 2000, Alameda County Schools, a publication of the University of California Cooperative Extension, Alameda County). All of these projects are growing in leaps and bounds.

Come on down and volunteer to help the kids know the dangers of too much fats, sugars, soft drinks, salt, and refined foods. Teach them about the stunted development that occurs with too little fruit and vegetable consumption. Tell the kids that what seems like "convenience food" is really inconvenient, as it cuts short your lifespan. Taking a little more time for food preparation and food eating is more sociable and buys you a lot more time in the long run. It is possible to get kids (and parents) to see organic salads and veggie dishes as a real reward, rather than a fast-food kid's meal with serial toy as the payoff for good behavior.

This is just the beginning of the organic lunches movement locally, regionally, and nationwide. Preventing burnout among people striving to help kids appreciate organics is the best way to get the most bang for the buck. If the mentors can hang in there long enough, there is evidence the kids will actually grow to like the healthy stuff. Just look at the Palo Alto school district, where the kids chose the organic food over the standard lunch fare when given a blindfold taste test.
Wendy Stephens, chairman, Gardens on Wheels Association, Berkeley

Making peace with torture
While I strongly oppose Jonathan Kauffman's conclusion to "have made his peace with eating animal flesh" (Kitchen Sink, Aug. 21), I was very appreciative of his article about the cruel production of foie gras and the treatment of animals raised for food.

Kauffman acknowledges that the production of foie gras, and of other types of food, especially eggs and veal, is inhumane, and describes the torturous act of force-feeding ducks to fatten their livers for this "delicacy." I cannot accept someone "making peace" with supporting these cruel industries, just as I cannot accept someone "making peace" with raping or murdering someone. His claim that he only takes part in such food "when circumstances demand" is equally specious. As a happy, healthy vegan who loves food and delights over my meals, I can assure Mr. Kauffman and your readers that circumstances never "demand" eating tortured animals.

Sadly, I doubt Mr. Kauffman's belief that most "modern urbanites" have "ethical quandaries" with eating meat, because I believe most are unaware of the animal suffering involved in food production. Hopefully, this article helps in that respect. On the other hand, I fear that Mr. Kauffman did more harm than good by absolving people of their guilt in casually "making peace" with this violence.
Nora Kramer, San Francisco

Most small businesses should be so lucky
In your article on the Oakland small business loan program ("One-Stop Capital Flop," Aug. 21), you cite with horror the fact that this program has lost a quarter of the money it has invested. But several paragraphs later, long after about half your readers will have stopped reading, you mention that, according to the small-business administration, only one business in five survives.

Perhaps I'm missing something here, but it seems to me that if we assume that each business in the program received an equal amount of money, this would mean that three-quarters of the businesses the Oakland program invested in survived -- which by your own cited figures means that the Oakland program is doing much, much better than the so-called "free market." Indeed, in that paragraph you go on to mention several other businesses this program sponsored which were successful. Why then do you write only about those programs which were unsuccessful, and imply that they are representative of the program?

This is the kind of irresponsible journalism which gave Reagan the weapons to destroy the legacy of the New Deal -- and which Reagan himself later complained about when journalists would write about individual out-of-work people during those times when unemployment was falling. If there is something wrong with the way the Oakland program is run, I'd like to know about it. But there is nothing in the article as it is written that gives any reason to believe that the program isn't working the way it should.
Teed Rockwell, Berkeley


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