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Back to School: The Policy and Practice of School Lunch

  • Museum of Food and Drink 62 Bayard Street Brooklyn 11222 United States (map)

Whether they are universally free, served throughout the summer, or meatless, school meals are a perennial hot button issue in New York City and beyond. The stakeholders are passionate and diverse: politicians, unions, superintendents, parents, and of course, the students. As are the opinions about what facet of school meals are the most important: nutrition, sourcing, cost, and, last but not least, whether the food will actually be eaten.

With Child Nutrition Reauthorization, which determines national policy for school food programs, up before Congress, and the second anniversary of The Free Lunch for All Program in NYC, this discussion is as timely as ever. Join Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams, Founder of Brigaid, Dan Giusti, author of Free For All, Professor Janet Poppendieck, and former Editor in Chief of Edible Manhattan and Brooklyn, Ariel Lauren Wilson for an honest discussion the issues surrounding school meals in NYC and beyond.

An informal reception with samples of Brigaid’s school lunch menu to follow the conversation.

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For the past three decades, Eric L. Adams has served the residents of Brooklyn as borough president, state senator, police officer, and coalition builder. In November of 2017, he was reelected for a second term to represent all of Brooklyn as borough president. Born in Brownsville and educated in the City’s public school system, Eric is committed to ensuring Brooklyn’s bright future by helping each and every Brooklynite reach his or her full potential. Eric has worked to make the popularity of Brooklyn’s brand translate into prosperity for the over 2.6 million Brooklynites that call the borough home. He is a big believer in the power of connections, of bringing together people in need of services with resources that have long existed but have been underutilized. As a legislator, Eric’s record in the New York State Senate was one that underscored his strong commitment to the rights of those from every walk of life, including protecting the right to privacy, supporting marriage equality, defending a woman’s right to choose, as well as fighting for students’ rights, workers’ rights, and animal rights. His work involved efforts to prevent racial profiling, gender discrimination, domestic violence, and elder abuse.



Raised in a large, food-loving Italian family, Dan Giusti attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and quickly rose the ranks of the culinary world. He served as Executive Chef of 1789 in Washington, D.C., then crossed the pond to work at Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. After three years as Head Chef, he returned to the United States to tackle another challenge: school food.

In 2016, he founded Brigaid, which recruits trained chefs to lead institutional kitchens under the premise that students deserve real, wholesome food, cooked from scratch with care and passion. This guiding principle continues to inspire Dan’s work as he leads his teams in the schools of New London, Connecticut, and the Bronx.   



Jan Poppendieck is a Professor Emerita of Sociology at Hunter College, City University of New York, a co-founder of the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College and a senior fellow at the CUNY  Urban Food Policy Institute at the CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy. Her primary concerns, both as a scholar and as an activist, are poverty, hunger, and food assistance in the United States.  She is the author of Breadlines Knee Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance in the Great Depression (Rutgers, 1986, University of California Press, 2014)  Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement (Viking, 1998, Penguin, 1999) and Free For All: Fixing School Food in America, (University of California Press, 2010), which received the 2010 Book of the Year award from the Association for the Study of Food and Society.  Jan was a Group V Kellogg National Leadership Fellow and is a recipient of a 2011 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award.  She appears in the documentaries A Place at the Table  and Lunch Lines. She serves on the Boards of Directors of Community Food Advocates, and  the  Advisory Committee of Wellness in the Schools. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, Woody Goldberg, and is the mother of one daughter, Amanda Goldberg, and the grandmother of Winter Rose Daly.



Ariel Lauren Wilson (Lauren, for short) is a food and agriculture writer and editor. She is the former editor-in-chief of Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn and now leads strategic communications for FoodPrint, an online guide for consumers seeking to make more sustainable food decisions. She is also a Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture fellow and is currently writing a children's book about dirt.