'Angry mom' hopes to take crusade for healthier school food to Olympia
Beth Loveridge, leading a charge toward what she calls healthier food in schools, peers into a lunchroom window in the Stevens Middle School cafeteria in Port Angeles. -- Photo by Diane Urbani de La Paz/Peninsula Daily News.
By Diane Urbani de la Paz. Peninsula Daily News
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She felt fed up with the pace of change at the district.
"I'd be better off going to the School Board as an angry mom." she remembers telling a friend.
Not long after that, Loveridge got her daily e-mail from www.IdealBite.com, a Web site for those who want to "live green."
The message was about "Two Angry Moms," a documentary film about the very cause Loveridge has been fighting for: healthier food in schools.
She ordered 10 copies of the DVD and put up fliers about free screenings at local libraries.
She now has scores of allies, "people who want to be part of the school food revolution," she said.
What angered the moms in the movie, Susan Rubin and Amy Kalafa: artificial, fatty, sugary foods surrounding their kids when they entered cafeterias.
Their film is a how-to for parents who want their schools to dump things like high fructose corn syrup for something simpler and naturally sweet.
Carrots, for instance.
From local farms.
The Katonah-Lewisboro School District featured in "Moms" has made changes - from fried chicken nuggets to oven-roasted chicken and from pizza with white crust to whole wheat.
Port Angeles' lead revolutionary, meanwhile, doesn't harp on the things most of us already know about, such as the obesity epidemic among American children.
Good food, grades
Instead Loveridge, 50, has turned herself into a student of the link between good food and good grades.
"It's been shown that when we change the food, children's behavior and learning improve," she said, citing reports she's read since starting her campaign.
Central Alternative High School in Appleton, Wis., for example, replaced burgers and burritos with salads, fresh fruit and water.
School officials reported that truancy and fights declined while test scores rose.
Can it be that simple?
Of course not.
Loveridge understands that public school districts are confined by stringent budgets.
And finicky kids.
And entrenched policies.
So she's using patience plus optimism - and this mom has dropped the "angry" prefix.
"I don't want all of this to sound like an attack," Loveridge said, adding that she's e-mailed Port Angeles School District officials to ask for a meeting on school cafeteria fare.
She understands that she has yet to receive replies since those officials "get about 5,000 e-mails."
Said Tina Smith-O'Hara, the communications officer for the district: "We will continue to work with local groups" to improve what's on students' plates.
Mark Sperrazza, food services chief for the Chimacum and Port Townsend school districts, said state and federal funding of school food renders Loveridge's revolution next to impossible.
"The bottom line is: I've got about a buck to spend on a kid's lunch," he said.
Sequim School Board president Sarah Bedinger, who's running for her second term in the Nov. 6 election, added, "There's always room for improvement" on school menus.
"We'd like to see more organic produce. They're working toward that, but a lot of it is a function of x amount of dollars and what's historically been done."
If Sequim has a revolutionary counterpart to Loveridge, it would have to be Kia Kozun, the farmer and marketer who's brought berries, carrots, and salad greens from nearby fields into Sequim lunch rooms.
So far this year, fruit from Graysmarsh Farm and vegetables from Nash's Organic Produce have been served in Sequim school cafeterias four times.
"At first the kids complained," Kozun said, "because they don't like change."
But after some time and some more carrots, "the natural instincts kicked in, so they just want more."
Kozun, a member of the Nash's Organic Produce crew, said she's lived in households where no one but she ate fresh produce.
She proceeded to make nightly salads - and it took one month for her housemates to be "chowing them down."
Kozun believes Loveridge's tactics - requesting meetings with school officials, urging other parents to lunch and learn for themselves in their children's cafeterias - are fertile seeds of change.
"Beth is saying, 'Let's start a dialogue,'" Kozun added.
"She's gone out of her way to inspire people within the school district, while not pointing fingers."
Both women want to take their cause to the state Legislature in 2008.
"If you want higher test scores and smarter kids, feed their minds and bodies," Kozun said.
"We can do it. The food's right here."
Loveridge is gathering energy from other parents who've come to see "Two Angry Moms."
At her first screening on Oct. 8, "there were only about 20 people there, but most of them were people I didn't know, and they brought several new, very important perspectives to me."
One mother, whose three children qualify for free school lunches, told Loveridge that after seeing what's offered, "she has decided, that even on their limited income, it is more important for her to provide lunch for her kids then to allow them to eat what she considers to be unhealthy food at the school."
Loveridge also met parents of preschoolers who told her they want to get involved even before their kids start first grade.
"If parents demand it, [school food] will change," Loveridge said.
At the same time she and Kozun say students need to know more about how food affects their lives.
The concepts of eating locally and naturally are "as important as anything they're being taught in school," Loveridge said.
Like any revolutionary - and any mom - Loveridge doesn't expect an easy ride.
"It's just walking up to each road block," she said, "and figuring out a way around it."
"TWO ANGRY MOMS," a documentary film about parents' efforts to remake school cafeteria fare, will be screened at 3 p.m. Saturday and 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St., and at 6 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Sequim Branch Library, 630 N. Sequim Ave.
Admission is free, as is borrowing a copy of the "Moms" DVD.
For information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Good to Go Natural Grocery, 1105 S. Eunice St., Port Angeles, or Nash's Farm Store, 1865 E. Anderson Road, north of Sequim.
Sequim Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or email@example.com.
Last modified: October 24. 2007 9:00PM