A version of this article was recently published in my local paper, The Laguna Beach Independent. I was glad to see it.
Catering To Tots
There was an article in the L.A. Times on November 6th, 2010 about celebrity chef Jamie Oliver wanting to take his Food Revolution show to the Los Angeles school district to improve lunch. I could not believe it; they turned him down! Melissa Infusino, the director of partnerships in the superintendent’s office said, “Our feeling was that his time would be better spent or invested in other communities.” Maybe Ms. Infusino isn’t a reality television fan. After all, cameras are big, bulky and personally invasive and her students run the risk of bumping into them. I guess she could assemble an argument against the show, but Jamie has a moral and ethical agenda igniting much needed change across this country for the sake of our children. Does she realize the show’s value from this perspective? She may not; others have.
A few months ago a lovely woman named Lisa Sutton contacted me. Lisa is the owner of Cater Tots (www.catertots.com) in Santa Ana, California. This is a catering business that provides breakfast, lunch and snack programs to 1500 children in child care centers, private schools, USDA programs, Head Start, and summer camps throughout Orange County and parts of Los Angeles County. Sensing a true food revolution occurring from what she read and heard, she was looking for a pediatric dietitian to improve the nutritional quality of the Cater Tots menus for “my kids” as she likes to refer to them. Five minutes into our initial ninety minute conversation, I knew I was taking this job.
While Lisa does not know all 1500 children she feeds, the most compelling thing about working with her is the invested interest she has in the nutrition of these kids. She feels a motherly responsibility in feeding each one of these children because that Cater Tots meal may be the only nutritionally sound meal some of the kids eat all day.
I think we work well together because we care deeply for the kids and both of us know change takes time, especially in food service operations where money and labor are real issues. Lisa is making strategic changes in stages based on a priority list we developed together. A few short weeks after I signed on, she had already taken great strides in revamping her menus. Her food revolution has begun.
Unfortunately, Jamie Oliver is not likely to travel south to Orange County and knock on Cater Tots door to help with change. This is why Lisa has taken matters into her own hands. I hope others food service operations around our country follow Lisa’s lead.