Hampered by Hunger?

a new study links food access to SAT scores—plus a lot more kid/food news!

Before we get to this week’s kid/food news, I first want to thank the many readers who asked after me and my family during the terrible winter storm and power/water outages here in Texas. I was so touched by your concern and tried to respond to every email—but with intermittent power and internet access, I apologize if I missed anyone! 💕 We’re fine now, but many Texans are still reeling from the crisis; if you’d like to donate to relief efforts, here’s a good list from the Houston Chronicle.

I also wanted to share some nice news about subscriptions to this newsletter! Because I couldn’t publish last week’s issue, The Lunch Tray will go behind its paywall one week later than planned—i.e., on March 10. But even with the one-week extension, I know many of you only recently found this newsletter, and I wanted to give you more time to decide if it’s for you. Just as I was trying to figure out how to do this, Substack made some changes to its platform that allow me to easily identify my newest subscribers—those who signed up on or after February 1—and continue to send you free weekly issues through March 25. Similarly, all future non-paying subscribers will now automatically receive four free weekly issues whenever they happen to sign up. Yay! 😺

Once your free issues run out, though, I do hope you’ll join the ranks of my paid subscribers—readers willing to pay just $4 a month for this content-rich weekly format. 💕 It’s your financial support that allows me to create both versions of the newsletter. 💕

OK, now let’s get to the latest kid/food news . . . .

Top Kid/Food News 🧒🏽 📰

  • A groundbreaking new study finds that students’ SAT scores are affected by the date on which their family receives SNAP (food stamps) benefits. Specifically, kids who tested soon afterward (i.e., when their homes were presumably better stocked with food) had higher scores than those testing two weeks after the aid was distributed. Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk has more on the study’s important public policy implications.

  • Drawing yet another connection between nutrition and academics, a new report from the Brookings Institute finds that free school meals boost students’ performance in the classroom, raising math scores among some cohorts and reducing suspensions among others.

  • As we’ve discussed here, improved academics are just one reason why advocates are seeking to extend free school meals beyond the pandemic. Here’s the latest on that growing movement from The Counter and the BBC’s The Food Chain podcast.

  • But is there a downside to free school meals? As Jessica Fu explains in The Counter, universal meals could also mean lower funding for impoverished schools because free meal applications are often used as a key metric in distributing those dollars.

  • Obama-era Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was easily confirmed by the Senate this week to resume that post, which includes overseeing all federal child nutrition programs. The Counter explores what’s ahead for his agency.

  • A troubling new report estimates that over one million children work as child laborers in West Africa’s cocoa region.

  • Eight children who claim they were enslaved on Côte d'Ivoire cocoa plantations have filed a landmark lawsuit in Washington, D.C. against seven of the world’s largest chocolate companies.

  • There have been a number of articles in recent days from around the globe regarding the advertising of unhealthy food to children—here are pieces about or from: Spain, New Zealand, Scotland, Germany, Norway, and Mexico.

  • Poor maternal diet may predispose a child to excess weight gain, a new study concludes.

  • Peer support programs help needy college students sign up for SNAP benefits, reports Lela Nargi in Civil Eats.

Cafeteria Corner: School Food News 🍎 🏫

  • Winter storm Uri made school meal distribution in Texas extremely difficult, but school nutrition professionals rose to the occasion. Food Management has an inspiring slide show of their efforts.

  • As schools increase in-person instruction and winter weather makes eating outside difficult, teachers and school district officials worry about Covid safety in the cafeteria. Sarah Schwartz explores their concerns in Education Week.

  • On a related note, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published updated resources on school nutrition during Covid, including a useful checklist when meals are eaten at school.

  • Due to the pandemic, school districts are allowed to seek waivers to avoid complying with various school nutrition requirements. The Center for Science in the Public Interest releases a new survey assessing the scope of these waivers and recommending best practices.

  • Cheez-Its and a dried turkey stick? The Rochester City School District is criticized by parents for serving cold, subpar school meals.

  • Buffalo’s Muslim community is seeking halal lunch options in that city’s school cafeterias.

  • The mayor of Lyon, France streamlined school meal service during the pandemic by mandating meatless menus. French farmers and butchers are less than pleased.

For Growing Eaters—and Those Who Feed Them 👶 🥣

  • Annie’s pledges to remove potentially harmful ortho-phthalates from the packaging of the cheese powder used in its boxed macaroni and cheese. Economist and parenting expert Emily Oster puts the phthalates risk in perspective.

  • Dietitian and childhood nutrition expert Jill Castle has a new book: The Smart Mom's Guide to Healthy Snacking: How to Raise a Smart Snacker from Tot to Teen.

  • Here are the best supplies for making your own baby food, according to New York magazine.

  • PepsiCo targets teens with a new fruity beverage.

  • Playing a cell phone game with implicit nutrition education led children to make healthier food choices (at least in the near term), a recent study finds.

  • A picky dad worries he’ll pass on his selective eating to his kids. Slate’s Care and Feeding advice columnist offers reassurance.

  • I recently told you about Waffles + Mochi, Michelle Obama’s new Netflix food show for kids. Stained Page News has all the details about the show’s related children’s cookbook.

The Grown-Ups’ Table 🍸🍴

Some interesting food links that caught my eye:

  • Are processed foods addictive? The New York Times surveys experts, while Salt Sugar Fat’s Michael Moss (who has a new book on the subject, Hooked) says yes in USA Today.

  • Think you’ve eaten wasabi? Think again.

  • Did we really need this kind of ridiculous (food-industry driven) research?

  • Dairy made: an entrepreneur fashions t-shirts from expired milk; Tibetan monks create art out of yak butter.

  • 5,500 delectable words on Naples pizza.

Until Next Time . . . .

That’s it for this week! If you enjoyed this newsletter—and I hope you did 🙂 —please help other interested readers find it by sharing on your social networks or via email:


And don’t forget: If you work in the kid/food world and have something big going on—an article or op-ed you've just written, an innovation in your school food program, a new advocacy campaign or policy initiative, recently published research, or any other news or tidbits—shoot me an email! 📫 I can’t promise that every item will make it into the newsletter, but I’d love to know about it. (Please note, however, that I don’t engage in sponsorships of any kind. So if you have a new kids’ food product, I regretfully can’t promote it here.)

Readers can always connect with me via e-mailTwitterFacebook, and Insta, and you can learn more about my book at my author website, bettinasiegel.com.