Voting With Your Dollars: From Consumers to Schools

Voting With Your Dollars: From Consumers to Schools

I am teaching a seminar this semester called Digesting the Modern Diet. One of my students, Katie Chiffer, is the founder of the website Project Lunchbox: Let’s Eat! and the blog Let’s Eat Lunch, she speaks at health and wellness fairs, and teaches cooking classes at North Shore Community College. All of this on top of her being a freshman in college. Katie’s mission is to educate families about the link between healthy eating and positive school performance. She has kindly agreed to write a guest blog about some of the great work being done at different schools in the United States and includes one of her healthy and delicious recipes.

Guest blog by Katie Chiffer: 

A nationwide trend has emerged over the past few years in school cafeterias. More and more, school districts pledge to provide their students with sustainably sourced meals and/or opportunities for food education. Take the Sausalito Marin City District in California, for instance. Throughout 2015 and 2016, its cafeteria adopted a menu consisting of only non-genetically modified and organic ingredients. This school district is not only providing its students with meals of improved nutritional quality, but it is also supporting initiatives that engage students beyond the cafeteria. From experiences with gardening to curriculum focused on culinary techniques, students expand their knowledge of food through interactive educational endeavors.

Additionally, have you heard of FirstLine schools in New Orleans, where the Edible Schoolyard NOLA program provides students with meals prepared using innovative flavor combinations? For instance, their watermelon, feta, and mint salad sounds delicious and is just one example of the culinary creativity on display because of this program. Students are also provided opportunities to prepare culinary dishes and glean knowledge about the nutritional quality of the food being consumed.

There are countless other examples of school districts working, either as single entities or in collaboration with others, in order to improve the nutritional quality of the meals they provide to their respective student bodies.

I was fortunate enough to affect change in my local elementary school’s cafeteria. In particular, after speaking with the Director of Nutrition Services for the school, I was able to serve a recipe from the repertoire of Project Lunchbox: Let’s Eat!, Homemade Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe below).

My favorite photograph was taken at the end of the lunch period the day this salad dressing was added as an option. From left to right, there sat a: bottle of Ranch salad dressing (completely full), a bottle of my Homemade Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette (completely empty), a bottle of Caesar salad dressing (full), and finally, a bottle of Italian dressing (three quarters of the way filled). The empty bottle was a testament to the students’ reception of this new recipe.

If you’re interested in learning about some of most acclaimed lunch programs in the United States, visit here.

Lastly, consumers adhere to the timeless advice of voting with their dollars in order to enact change in the local and global food systems. It seems as though the time is right for even more schools to heed this same advice. Who’s with me?

Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

P.S. In case you would like to try it, here is the recipe to Project Lunchbox’s Homemade Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette.

1/4 tsp. of ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. of Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. of Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. of 100% pure maple syrup
2 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar (Choose a balsamic vinegar with grape must, and without caramel color added!)
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil


  1. Put all of the ingredients, except for the extra virgin olive oil, into a bowl and lightly whisk them together.
  2. Slowly pour the extra virgin olive oil into the bowl while simultaneously and continuously whisking.
  3. Add your favorite salad greens and other vegetables right on top of the dressing…toss and enjoy!

Yield: Approximately 1/3 cup of salad dressing

Photo by Katie Chiffer



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