The anonymous blogger who chronicled her year choking down public school lunches revealed her identity on “Good Morning America” this morning.
Sarah Wu, the public school speech pathologist who pens the hugely popular “Fed Up With Lunch” blog, said on GMA that parents really have “no clue” what their children are eating at school.
“It’s so important that they have a good meal to do well in school,” she said.
Wu was an accidental blogger. At the public elementary school where she works, 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. For many, she says, it’s the biggest meal they’ll eat all day. When Wu forgot to bring a packed lunch one day, she found herself eating what the kids ate — cafeteria food, as it turned out, that was highly processed, full of salt and starch, Wu has said.
That first meal, she said today, was “barely recognizeable.”
Watch more with Wu tonight on “Nightline” at 11:35 p.m. ET.
Outraged, Wu decided to keep eating — and to write about her experiences on a blog, using her cell phone camera to discreetly snap photos of meals that frequently consisted of chicken nuggets, beef patties and tater tots. Worried that speaking out could mean losing her job, Wu kept her identity secret using the pseudonym Mrs. Q. Last year, she was interviewed by “Good Morning America” while in shadow. At the time, she thought her cover would eventually be blown.
“I think, all right, the principal’s going to call me down into the office and say, okay, get out. You have 20 minutes. Get your stuff and get out of here,” she said in March, 2010.
But Wu continued blogging, and the response she got was huge. Thousands began visiting her site — celebrity chef Jamie Oliver counts himself a Mrs. Q fan — and soon a book deal followed. But the publication of “Fed Up With Lunch: How One Anonymous Teacher Revealed the Truth About School Lunches,” available on book shelves starting today, also meant Mrs. Q had to reveal herself as Mrs. Wu.
Wu says she’s not sure how her school will react to the news but says she hopes for the best. In her book she writes she’s relieved to be going public.
“It’s been increasingly hard to hide who I really am with people I care about — and I care about my students and coworkers, the lunch ladies at my school, and, of course, the remarkable group of caring people who have followed and contributed to my blog,” she wrote.
Wu has seen improvements in school food. Since she started her blog, she’s seen a little more, she said, in the way of fresh fruit and fresh vegetable offerings, she said today.
Chicago Public Schools has released the following statement about its meals program:
Chicago Public Schools is committed to the health and wellness of our students, which include offering nutritious menu item choices to our students. As part of our mission to ensure that programs benefit the health and wellness of students, our nutritional standards are designed to exceed the USDA’s Gold Standard of the HealthierUS School Challenge guidelines. CPS has increased its choices of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, and eliminated deep fat frying.
Last school year, we rolled out a new menu that included the following:
- All menus contain zero trans fats.
- A different vegetable is offered each day, meeting frequency requirements for dark green and orange vegetables.
- Whole grains are featured every day, including items such as whole grain pastas and breads.
- Fresh fruit is offered to all students each day at lunch and three times per week at breakfast.
- Fruit juice is limited to two times per week.
- No sodium is added during meal preparation; menus offerings are seasoned using a variety of spices.
- Preference is given to locally grown produce – last year more than $2 million of fresh produce was served in CPS Schools.
- 116 CPS elementary schools have salad bars; a salad option is offered each day in high schools.
- Only skim or 1% milk is served.
• We will continue to review our menu offerings and nutrition standards and will continue to make changes as necessary to ensure that we provide healthy food choices for all of our students.
New this school year:
- 1.2 million pounds of Amish antibiotic free chicken legs through a contract with Miller Poultry have been procured. CPS is the first large district in the U.S. to offer this type of chicken. This was a program put together working with local and national partners including Healthy Schools Campaign, School Food FOCUS and the PEW Charitable Trust.
- In partnership with the USDA, CPS ordered more than 1 million pounds of chicken leg quarters. Rachael Ray created a menu based around these chicken leg quarters to run on October 13 during National Nutrition Week. The menu includes Rachael Ray’s Yum-O.
- Working with one of our USDA Foods processors, Jennie-O Turkey Store, we introduced turkey pot roast and barbecue that are less processed and lower in sodium.
- In partnership with Asian Solutions, which is a local company based in Bolingbrook, and have introduced three new chicken entrees that are less processed, use whole muscle chicken and are lower in sodium than other processed chicken products. The flavors are teriyaki, New Orleans (spicy) and Bombay curry.
- We are piloting a new vegetarian station at Juarez High School that ties in hot vegetarian entrees and sides with a deluxe salad bar. The current name is “Meatless Meals” but we are running a contest at the school to name the station and will announce the new name in the near future. We currently are running a two week menu cycle.
- No dessert or candy-type ingredients are included in our breakfast menu.
- Introduced a raw, whole muscle fish filet. The most popular use will be in a fish taco that includes whole grain tortillas manufactured by Chicago-based Baja Foods and green cabbage from DeGroot farms in Kankakee.
- CPS is the first urban school district to offer Organic Milling cereals to our students which are all natural, high in fiber, low in sugar and don’t contain high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors or flavorings.
- In a quest to ensure that all students have proper nutrition to start the school day CPS offers Universal Breakfast to all students. Studies have shown students who eat breakfast have fewer discipline problems, are more attentive and have better classroom performance. Since introducing this program breakfast participation as close to doubled.
• Our mission to insure that programs that benefit the health and wellness of students begins with nutrition. Our commitment to The First Lady’s childhood obesity initiative is widespread and cross-departmental. CPS is an active participant in Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move campaign through our active participation in the HealthierUS School Challenge that set rigorous standards for nutrition, physical activity and nutrition education.
Watch more on this story tonight on “Nightline” at 11:35 p.m. ET.