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Episode 107
The Doctor's Farmacy

How To Improve School Lunches, Grades, And Behavior At No Extra Cost

Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

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*For context, this interview was recorded on March 31, 2020

One in three children born today will develop type 2 diabetes and four out of ten will be overweight. There’s a fundamental problem happening around our country when it comes to how we feed our kids and the lifelong health risks they face as a result. 

When we think about fixing the problem, it makes sense to look at our schools. In Boston, for example, 30,000 children a day rely on the school food system for 2 to 3 meals a day. That gives the educational system a lot of power to change the nutritional profile of our children’s diets with real food, but unfortunately, many districts are stuck relying on packaged and processed options.

Certain groups are making some amazing positive changes, though, by installing real school kitchens that serve real food. My friend Jill Shah, who joined me for this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy, has led that fight in the Boston public school system with incredible results. 

Learn more about My Way Cafe and reforming school food programs at mywaycafe.org and shahfoundation.org

Find the documentary Eat Up at eatupfilm.com

I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

In this episode, you will learn (video / audio):

  1. School food programs during school closings from COVID-19
    (3:33 / 3:36)
  2. The experience that led Jill to work on school food program reform in Boston
    (7:31 / 7:34)
  3. Serving whole, real food in schools costs less, employs more people, and is completely scalable
    (10:55 / 10:58)
  4. National policy rollbacks of guidelines implemented during the Obama administration
    (17:55 / 17:58)
  5. Improvements in children’s health, behavior, and academic performance
    (20:58 / 21:01)
  6. The role of local governments in addressing school food programs
    (25:19 / 25:22)
  7. How school food program reform can support local economies
    (30:29 / 30:32)
  8. Dealing with competitive foods in schools
    (32:57 / 33:00)
  9. Getting My Way Cafe into your local school system
    (41:46 / 41:49)
  10. Branding My Way Cafe as a lever for change
    (44:22 / 44:25)

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
Jill Shah

Jill Shah is the President of the Shah Family Foundation, which supports innovative and transformative work where education, healthcare, and community intersect in the city of Boston. The foundation’s primary work and support is centered on Boston’s schools and community organizations, with the goal of sharing broadly the programs and solutions that prove successful. Jill’s civic interests include healthy food in schools, food access in high-needs neighborhoods, rigorous and successful public schools for all kids, and a deeper collaboration between education and healthcare around issues of physical, mental, emotional, and social health.

Transcript

Speaker 1:
Coming up on this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy.

Jill Shah:
Families who rely on school food are also probably relying on snap or some other federal subsidies or the food banks to bring food into their homes, and so school food is more critical than ever right now.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Welcome to The Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman, and that’s farmacy with an F, F-A-R-M-A-C-Y, a place for conversations that matter. If you care about your children, and you care about our children’s health as a nation and their future, then this conversation is going to really matter because it’s with my good friend and incredible troublemaker in the best sense of the word, my friend, Jill Shah, who I’ve known for a long time as a friend and as a colleague. We worked together years ago on something called Jill’s List, which is a great compendium of all integrative and alternative therapies in Boston and around the world.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
She’s just one of the most extraordinary people I know. She’s the president of the Shah Family Foundation, and she and her foundation and her husband support the most incredible initiatives that are transforming education, health care, and our communities at Boston and hopefully around the world. They’re really focused right now on Boston schools and community organizations. They basically figured out solutions to some of the toughest problems that we face in our schools today, which is school nutrition. She’s focused on how do we take the abomination that is school lunch in America and turn it into something delicious, yummy, affordable and accessible for everybody?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We’re going to talk a lot about that today, her initiative with the Shah Foundation, her husband, the My Way Cafe, which I talked about at length in my book Food Fix. She’s a major character in that book, because it’s such an impressive program. We’re going to talk about it and just get into the details of what’s wrong with our school lunch program, why it’s so important and how it can be fixed, and why it’s such an important initiative. She’s a graduate of Providence College. She majored in English.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
She’s just been a serial entrepreneur. That’s S-E-R-I-A-L not cereal because I’m a serial killer. I don’t want [inaudible 00:02:18]. She started something called iXL and R Eccentric. As I mentioned, she started Jill’s List, which she sold to Mindbody in 2013. She’s received numerous awards, and she’s just an awesome human being. So welcome, Jill.

Jill Shah:
Thank you, Mark.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, you’re sequestered up in Boston. You’ve got your kids at home.

Jill Shah:
I do.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You’re like many trying to struggle through how to figure out how to make sense of this new world order, but you’re continuing your work, and it probably is an interesting moment for you because you’re focused on schools, and most schools are closed now. Often, schools are the place or often the only place kids who are underserved get their food. I mean, there’s more than 30 million kids across America that rely on free lunches and sometimes free breakfast as their main source of nutrition, and yet, most of the food that they’re eating is so horrible and ends up in the trash, or worse that they eat it and it makes them really sick.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Now, it’s a particularly tough time because kids are struggling at home with lack of food and lack of services. I guess before we get into the My Way Cafe and what you’ve done, so how are you trying to figure out a way to help kids during this time when they’re not able to access the limited food that they do get in school lunches on a good day, and it’s not a good day today?

Jill Shah:
No, it’s not a good day today. I mean, the current paradigm is just absolutely crazy, but school food is more important than ever, I think probably. If you think about family, so in the city of Boston, for example, we have free school lunch, and we have free summer meals for all kids in the city of Boston because 70%, a little over 70% of families whose kids attend Boston public schools live at or below poverty. So that qualifies as-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Let’s say that it’s 70%.

Jill Shah:
70% of kids who attend Boston Public Schools live at or below poverty.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Jill Shah:
That’s not an unusual stat. I mean, that would be a similar stat for other major cities across the country, and those cities hold the majority of our students. So when we talk about the fix that we’re about to talk about, think about that, because if you rolled this out in all major cities across the country, you would have a total change in the diets of many, many Americans who are still young and healthy. In any case, what COVID-19 has done is flip, so everyone’s now out of school. The Summer Meal Program, which is the program that the USDA has allowed everyone to convert to, so that allows community partners as well as schools to prepare and serve meals for kids.

Jill Shah:
You’ve got this added issue that parents and kids are afraid to come out of their homes, so we need to supplement with delivery. There’s amazing things happening across the country where school buses are being lit up as delivery vehicles to bring… It’s amazing. There’s a whole variety of things that are happening, so really well run school food programs are producing meals, turning them out and packaging them, and sending them to families across the country. There’s a lot of work to do. For example, in Boston, we’re distributing probably around 10 or 12,000 meals a day currently.

Jill Shah:
We’re only a week into this or two weeks into this. God, time just flies. We feed 30,000 kids a day in the city of Boston, usually two or three meals a day. So there’s a lot of room for growth here. What Summer Meals do though in this time is it’s really that plus snap, plus the food bank that many families are-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Food stamp snap, food banks.

Jill Shah:
Yes. Exactly, so these government subsidized programs that provide food, and it’s in combination. Families who rely on school food are also probably relying on snap or some other federal subsidies or the food banks to bring food into their homes. So school food is more critical than ever right now.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, that’s good to hear because it’s a big worry of mine when you see 46 million people on snap and one in four kids on snap and food insecure. It’s millions and millions of children, and I think we don’t take our kids as serious in this country. I feel we neglect them. We neglect their health, their well being, their safety, their vitality. It’s just tragic. We’ve seen now two out of 10 kids who are obese in America. Four out of 10 are overweight. If a kid is overweight, he’s likely to live 13 years less than someone who’s not overweight, more likely to struggle in life, earn less money, have worse jobs, have more disability, more unhappiness, more suffering.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
This is a totally preventable thing. This is a totally preventable thing, and it often starts in schools. You had an interesting experience where you were volunteering at an elementary school, and you were trying to get kids to eat arugula and other greens that were growing in the school garden.

Jill Shah:
Mustard.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Mustard. Even though they had a garden, which is a big deal, they weren’t actually eating this stuff in the school inside the school. They were feeding them frozen food that was prepared in a factory in some other state that was packaged in plastic, shipped in by trucks, and reheated in microwaves or rewarming ovens or deep fried. You were like, “What’s going on here?” You were astonished to thinking about what to do to fix the problem?” You’re a problem fixer, and that’s what I love about you.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You were like, “I’m just not going to complain and whine about it. I’m going to do something.” Can you [inaudible 00:08:29] experience and how that led to your experiment in Boston city schools?

Jill Shah:
Well, when I was there, I was like, “How can this be right?” There’s an old folding table that has cracks in it, and that’s where the food gets dumped effectively. There’s one person that does everything. Well, all they have to do is take frozen food out of the freezer, and throw it into a warming oven that only I think heats to 170 degrees. It literally is a warming oven. I remember going out with friends that night, and I was describing my observations of the day. They’re like, “No, that can’t be.” You just can’t possibly be.

Jill Shah:
So I called Billy Shore who runs Share Our Strength, which is another amazing organization that helps feed kids across the country. I said, “How is this possible that this is the way kids are fed in America?” He said, “Oh, absolutely, mostly because there are no kitchens in lots of schools in urban districts.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
None. Wait. Say that again. There’s no kitchens in school kitchens.

Jill Shah:
There are no kitchens. There are no kitchens in school kitchens. Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
[inaudible 00:09:30].

Jill Shah:
There’s only a warming oven and a table and a person.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Deep fryers?

Jill Shah:
No deep fryers. No, there are deep fryers in cafeterias that have kitchens. I’ve seen lots of deep fryers actually. I haven’t seen them lit up though, because we’re just taking tons of pre-wrapped packaged food, and feeding it to kids across America. There’s a huge in Vegas… I don’t know. Maybe it’s not there every year but it was there last year. There’s a huge trade show. If you’re a food nutrition services worker, you are more than invited. If you’re you or me, you are absolutely not invited. You just go and you walk the aisles. We sent two folks there.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Undercover.

Jill Shah:
Undercover. It’s just rows and rows and rows and rows of prepackaged food. There’s not anything fresh, whole or real to be seen anywhere, and lots of brands that you know well, Domino’s and Pepsi and all these other guys marketing school food to these programs, and so these programs buy into it super easy. You can make the menu sound delicious. It’s really easy to take stuff out of plastic and put it in warming up. We thought… I actually thought, “Okay, it’s probably because there’s just not enough money in the subsidy, and so that must be what it is. This is all we can afford.”

Jill Shah:
Well, we get into the story, and we started to do the analysis on it. It ends up you absolutely can pay kids all whole real food. You can employ more people locally in doing it, and the prepackaged stuff actually cost more than the real.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wait. Wait. You’re saying that the junk food and the processed food and the food is more expensive than real food cooked from scratch by real humans locally in the kitchens.

Jill Shah:
More expensive. That’s exactly right. When we were going through this process, we brought in chefs to just help us understand it. Ken Oringer, who is a celebrity chef in Boston, pointed this out to us. He said, “The prepackaged roast beef that they’re slicing up has been processed, right? So a whole bunch of people have touched it, manipulated it, and injected it with preservatives and salt and all kinds of other things-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And sugar.

Jill Shah:
… and sugar, lots of sugar, that’s right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Why do you put sugar in turkey? I have no idea.

Jill Shah:
No, well, probably to hide whatever other things you’re trying to hide, because you cooked it so long ago. He said, “That costs way more than if we just order some roast beef, and have it shipped to the schools.” As we started to do the analysis, it was true in every case. If you buy prepackaged stuff, because it’s been processed, there’s so much more cost in it, and then you’ve got margin on it as well. So there’s profit on it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow. You basically decided you were going to take this on, and you created something called My Way Cafe. In the discovery of the challenges, you found a whole set of solutions, because the basic mantra is, “Look, there’s only a small amount of money that kids get for school lunch.” What is it? $2 or something for lunch?

Jill Shah:
It’s a little more than that, $3.45.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
$3.45.

Jill Shah:
$0.20 of it is milk.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Which by the way [inaudible 00:12:46].

Jill Shah:
Skim, skim or flavored [inaudible 00:12:50].

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Another topic we’ll get into, because I could go on for hours about that.

Jill Shah:
I know.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You hear the mantra, “Look, this is the best we can do. We can’t serve kids delicious, real whole food because it’s too expensive. It’s too difficult. It’s not possible.” You actually figured out that not [inaudible 00:13:09] possible, but it’s not that hard, and it’s totally scalable. Tell us about that process.

Jill Shah:
Well, it was fun to do it on paper, so if you pull out spreadsheets and you start to put in all the food costs and all the labor costs and all the transportation costs, you can show very easily in a model that you can take the same subsidy from the USDA, employ three times as many people, serve all real whole food, and the only single time investment you need to make, we did it philanthropically. Then the city has now taken it over is to build these micro kitchens. They’re not even… I mean, they have a combination oven, and they have the right number of sinks.

Jill Shah:
They have prep tables, and they have a freezer and fridge in them, so they’re not nothing out of this world, but it’s exactly the amount of equipment, we have rice cookers as well, for people to prepare a full buffet of hot and cold food every day for kids. It looks like a rainbow. Kids love it. It smells good. It doesn’t smell like heated plastic in schools anymore. It smells like real food, but that process took a long time. That process took about nine months of us pushing really hard and… Is that a cat?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yes, it’s my cat.

Jill Shah:
So cute. I love it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
He’s my work companion. I don’t have many other people to hang out with anymore, except my wife.

Jill Shah:
No, you have the cat. We have the cats too. We tripped over. It was one thing at a time, every hurdle. You can imagine why government alone can’t do this because there are so many nos that get in the way, and so every time someone said no, we said why not? We would just solve the problem. Then we get to the next thing. One of the earliest problems we solved was everything was coming in wrapped. Apples were wrapped in plastic. Oranges are wrapped in plastic. It just made it look so unappetizing.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Jill Shah:
The answer to the why do we have to do it this way was, “Well, you don’t have fruit washing sinks in the kitchens.” We said, “If we put a fruit washing sink in the kitchen, do we have to wrap the fruit anymore?” They said, “No, you just got to wash the fruit.” It was just super simple, not expensive solution to a really big problem. Kids weren’t eating the fruit because it took five minutes to unwrap the bloody thing, and it didn’t look appetizing anyway. We just had to do that with everything. We got rid of-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Instead of people saying, “This is why not,” and just stopping there, you’re like, “Well, how do we fix this?”

Jill Shah:
Exactly, because it just didn’t seem-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You found that it wasn’t that hard, right? It’s a sink. It’s other simple things. What was interesting, you showed me once it was a little subversive, because you started this program in the school. You did in one school. You showed it could be done. You’ve got them to not ship in the food from out of state all wrapped in plastic. You didn’t really tell anybody what you’re doing. By the time people caught on, it was too late. These these big food service providers that were cashing in all the government supports and making crappy food were out of business.

Jill Shah:
That’s right. It was interesting, because the one thing that we caught wind up is that the food provider, so the vendor that provided all the plastic wrapped food. That opportunity was up for bid, and we happen to just walk in the door as that bidding process is being set up. The only recommendation we made because we didn’t want to have anything to do with plastic-wrapped food is we said, “Make sure that you have the right to pull out any school if for any reason you would want to shift the way you’re feeding kids.”

Jill Shah:
They wrote that into the bid. The deal was done with that in mind. We knew already like, “If this thing works, then we’re just going to be able to pull off.” That’s what’s happened. 30 schools a year have come off of that contract and have gone on to this fully managed by the Boston Public Schools real whole food program.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Who made those decisions about the contracts? Was it the school superintendents? Was it the [crosstalk 00:17:22]?

Jill Shah:
The head of food services, [inaudible 00:17:23]-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The head of food services.

Jill Shah:
… who came from LA. She was trying to do a lot of things in LA in terms of shifting the food also in what they were serving there. This all seemed very risky to her, and we kept saying to her, “We’re here to carry the risk on this. We’ll make sure that we don’t break anything.” It was her decision to put the language into the contract, and she really made sure that we could keep pushing forward, because it was complicated.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It is. I think, right now, we’re hearing a lot of mantras about school lunch. “Oh, we put in these nutrition guidelines that are better under the Hunger Free Kids Act that Obama passed in 2010, which improve the [inaudible 00:18:14] to eat more whole foods, more vegetables, et cetera, et cetera, although they still passed potatoes, I mean, “french fries” as a vegetable and ketchup and pizza as vegetables, which just still is hard to imagine. Now, what’s happening is these guidelines are being rolled back because they’re saying the kids won’t eat the healthy food.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
They throw it in the garbage. It tastes bad. It costs too much, and so they’re rolling back these guidelines. Yet, your model shows that that’s just a bunch of nonsense.

Jill Shah:
It’s interesting. I think the one thing we did in terms of a service model, which I think changes the way kids behave around food, is it’s all child driven. The protein is separate from the grains, is separate from the warm vegetables, is separate from all the cold fruits and vegetables, is separate from the beans, et cetera. So nothing has to touch anything else, which is a big reason that kids don’t like certain things. If I walk down the line, I might take protein. I may take chicken, and I might forego that rice because I don’t like it, but maybe there’s a roll that I want.

Jill Shah:
I like the roasted broccoli, or I don’t like any of the hot vegetables maybe, but I do want an apple, and I want some celery and I want to carrot, but I definitely don’t want a salad. I do not want dressing, but I do want the hot sauce. Kids make their own meals, and this is not slow. This happens. There are servers on the other side. This is all within the $3.45 who are talking with kids. Kids are saying please and thank you. There’s a whole conversation that’s going on that wasn’t happening before, and they’re getting exactly what they want. They walk up the line pretty gleefully actually often.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
They eat it.

Jill Shah:
They eat it all because they asked for it. That’s what they wanted.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
There’s no food waste.

Jill Shah:
There’s no food waste. There’s no food waste. Then we really insert opportunities for kids to try things right. While they’re sitting around, they’re sitting at the table eating, we might say, “These are chickpeas. Would you like to try chickpeas?” We introduce new foods, tofu. Tofu is like… Kids love tofu now. Love it. It’s just so hard to hear the argument that kids won’t eat the food. I think the adults don’t know how to present the food to the kids.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Just to recap, the economics work, you can create better food more locally sourced made from scratch. All you need is a little bit of an improvement in the kitchens. You hire more people, which still is within the cost structure-

Jill Shah:
Totally.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
… who are happier with their jobs because they’re actually cooking and making kids happy. The kids are happy. They’re not throwing out the food. How’s their health and academic performance? Have you tracked that?

Jill Shah:
It’s interesting. We are doing… There’s a study being done right now on the behavioral health because we were hearing from so many principals and teachers that negative behavioral events had gone way down in the schools, and so kids were just being disciplined less. Teachers and principals thought it was because of the school food, the new school food. We don’t have data yet. We are going to start doing some research on their physical health as well, but I can tell you one story that I tell all the time.

Jill Shah:
There was a child who was diagnosed with failure to thrive, and part of the school’s responsibility was to try to get a half a can of a protein drink into this child every day. His name was George. I walked in about three days after the My Way Café program had started in his school, and the principal was teary eyed. She said, “I got to tell you.” She said, “This boy, George, told me his situation.” She said, “He’s eating every meal.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Jill Shah:
I ended up meeting George a week later. He said, “Do you know the people who make the food?” I said, “I do. Yeah.” He said, “How does someone make a recipe?” I said, “It was kind of like coloring. If you take a red crayon and a blue crayon and you put them together, it’s purple, so that’s what they do.” He’s like, Ah.” He’s like, “I’m pretty sure that I want to be a chef.” This is a kid who’s a couple weeks ago.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
[crosstalk 00:22:35].

Jill Shah:
His head nutrition came in to see what was happening. His mom wanted to be able to bring the food home so he would eat at night. I mean, this is a game changer. As far as I can tell, it was his relationship with one of these newly hired cafeteria service workers who just changed his mind about eating. It was mind blowing.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s incredible.

Jill Shah:
It still is. I know. He’s such a cute kid.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Maybe you haven’t collected the data yet, but I think it’s going to show remarkable things. When you look at kids in schools and violent, disruptive behavior, it’s a big issue. I mean, one in 10 kids are on ADD medication. We have to have Special Ed. It’s an enormous problem in schools. School nurses are dishing out medications left and right. We know from the studies that these are difficult cases. There’s a 3000 kids study which were incarcerated youth, and they were basically replaced junk food with healthier options, and got rid of sugar and refined foods.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
In 12 months, there was a 21% reduction in anti-social behavior, a 25% reduction in assaults, a 75% reduction in use of restraints. Get this, Jill, there was 100% reduction suicides, which is basically….

Jill Shah:
Oh my gosh.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
When you think about it, suicide is the third leading cause of death in children aged 10 to 19. When you look at the CDC study, there was an incredible study by the CDC looking at nutrition in kids, and found that those kids perform far better when they’re well nourished. If they’re not, they’re basically having poor academic performance. They’re having more absenteeism. They’re having more disruptive behavior. They’re less likely to problem solve, less likely to pay attention.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I think this is something we just don’t understand that we’re doing to our kids, and it’s something that’s completely solvable with real food. I mean, the CDC published this in a report in 2014 called Health and Academic Achievement. It was just such a clear link between poor nutrition and poor academic performance with lower test scores, lower grades, poor cognitive function, less alertness, less attention, poor memory. It was just amazing. So we have the ability to change this. We just don’t do it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I think the science is there. Now, what you’ve shown is that the possibility of scaling this is there. I think it’s pretty remarkable. There are other people around the country. There’s groups like Conscious Kitchens and others who are working on the same problem, but one of the challenges with this whole school lunch thing is it’s not a national program. Schools are under the purview of local governments. There’s just such a lack of uniformity in this country around school nutrition.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
How do we solve for that? I know you’ve been in Washington. You’ve talked about this with our leaders. I mean, how are you seeing this scaling and building up? Because if you’ve done it, then it’s doable, and it should be done everywhere. What are the challenges there?

Jill Shah:
The guidelines could get tighter. There’s no guideline right now on sugar. I mean, the government has to want to take a stance on what is healthy versus what is not healthy, because right now, everyone has their own palette to paint with. So I honestly wonder, there are so many principals and superintendents across the country who I think do actually very much care about this issue. I really think it’s probably with those folks that this program needs to get rolled out. So what we’re trying to do in Boston, and the mayor has been an amazing proponent of this, I think, that level of government makes it really easy to do something terrific like this.

Jill Shah:
Some of those hurdles that we came up against, he was the one who knocked them down. We did it within the current guidelines, but it’s interpretations of guidelines [inaudible 00:27:01].

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Sure.

Jill Shah:
I think that level of government is probably the right level of government to address this, because everything does have a local flavor to it, if you will. What we did in Boston, I think, shows that you can do it. We have a very clear template now for how to roll out exactly the same kind of program in your city. Quite honestly, all of the things that were hard for us to do should not be hard for anyone else to do, because we can predict them, and we can also show what the solution was for every single problem.

Jill Shah:
The pain doesn’t need to be replicated quite honestly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You’ve made the first effort that clear the way and the obstacles and create a playbook.

Jill Shah:
Yeah. There is a playbook. Actually, we have a playbook that will be available on our website, I think, next month.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s mywaycafe.org.

Jill Shah:
It’ll be on mywaycafe.org. It’ll also be on the Shah Family Foundation website, which is our family foundation. It should be pretty easy to access for anyone who wants it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I mean-

Jill Shah:
We employ four or five people who just act as… Right now, they’re consulting with BPS, but there’s a number of other school systems across the country at this point who just use us to problem solve and help.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I once gave a talk years ago to these teachers and the principals. I think was in Buffalo, all the Buffalo schools. They told me there was this organization called the some of the superintendents of the greater city school, so all the major cities in America. There’s this meeting of all the superintendents and all of the… I mean, that would be seemed like to me a place to go to share the story to tell.

Jill Shah:
Yes. I think we… Well, who knows what’s going to happen now with COVID-19, but, I think, we were supposed to be working our way onto the agenda for this year. Last year at the Council of Great City Schools, which is the-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s it. Correct.

Jill Shah:
They showed the movie.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow. The movie you’re talking about is a documentary called Eat Up, which tells the power of food and the future of our children and how hard it can be in America to do the right thing in the face of these crazy regulations and corporate interests, and you show how it can be done in the movie. It’s great to have this conversation, but people should definitely go to Amazon and iTunes, and watch the movie Eat Up. You can go to eatupfilm.com to learn more about it and to watch it. It’s well worth the watch.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
If you care about your kids, if you care about our kids, if you care about the nation, because our kids are the future of our nation, then you got to watch this movie and get everybody you know to watch it, particularly all the people who are involved in schools and local politics.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
This is a game changer. I think your creativity, your ingenuity, your sticktoitiveness, and your unwillingness to listen to why not really is a lesson for us all-

Jill Shah:
Too hard.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
… in how to actually take a stand, because this is something that we can fix. When you think about some of the intractable problems in our food system, they’re not so local like if you talk about industrial agriculture or regenerative ag or changing snap regulations, but school lunches and school food programs, these are local. These are things that parents and citizens can influence with their local [inaudible 00:30:31].

Jill Shah:
Not only that. Some of the stuff that you talk about in Food Fix is it can happen because of shifting the school food program. As we moved the entire city to 100… so, 125 schools, 54,000 kids fed three times a day, that the buying power for whole real food that we have as a city is massive. What that allows us to do then is say, “Okay, what do we want to purchase locally?” We already purchase fish locally or in Boston or coastal city, but should we be doing deals with local chicken farmers? Should we be promising them a certain amount of tonnage of chicken, which allows them to then go get the investors that they need to expand their farms?

Jill Shah:
All of this means that we help the local economy. We help the farming and the agricultural economy. We keep it all within our jurisdiction. So it’s an actually… It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing if we can truly get it to work.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s right. That’s true.

Jill Shah:
Then you can imagine like, here’s the holy grail, as you get the hospitals and the colleges that are around you to all join in the same procurement function. I mean, we really wouldn’t have to go outside of New England very much.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No. No, these models for this is something called the Good Food Purchasing Program out of California, which has become a model nationally for government’s institutions to source food that’s grown, ideally that’s grown humanely that takes care of the workers, that’s sustainable. I mean, there’s just really great models for this. There’s a company… There’s also innovative companies that are solving some of the problems that are harder to solve. For example, how do you source for big institutions and programs like schools all the local food having a million different vendors?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, there’s a company called Azadi, which is based in Cleveland, where they figured out how through using tech platforms to aggregate all these local producers and connect them to food service companies or to schools to actually drive a much more simpler supply chain that actually works. There’s a lot of people innovating in this food space. I agree with you. The schools can be the beachhead, where we actually land and start to change the food system. I think you’re right, starting with kids and starting with schools, I mean, who’s going to fight getting our kids better nutrition?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I mean, maybe there are people, but it’s going to be a hard position to defend. “Well, I want my kids to have the right to eat doughnuts in school or whatever.” How do you deal with this whole issue of what we call competitive foods? In schools, big food companies have infiltrated schools in such a massive way by providing free sports and arts and music education. They get to put in all their advertising in the bathroom stalls and in the gymnasiums. They buy little Coca Cola chairs for the kindergartners to sit on, and they have all these foods that they get to pick.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
If they’re on Jill Shah’s My Way Cafe lunch line, and there’s broccoli, but there’s also cookies and donuts and chips and junk food, or Domino’s Pizza or McDonald’s hamburgers, how do you fight that?

Jill Shah:
I mean, so we actually have spent a lot of this year pulling together food policy for the city of Boston. We did that in collaboration, where it was really led by food nutrition services in the city of Boston. We agreed to a set of procurement rules, “So here are the things that we absolutely will not serve. And here are the things that we want to serve. And here are some things in the middle that we are going to want to move away from and not serve whenever possible.” That policy is super helpful, because any of those things that you just listed wouldn’t qualify.

Jill Shah:
Like we’ve already said, we don’t want these kinds of preservatives, additives, all of these things. So none of those food providers would meet the mark in terms of how we purchase food.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Correct.

Jill Shah:
That’ll get presented to the public. We started to do something that we call State of the Plate, and so we have an annual celebration with the governor and the mayor and the heads of the hospitals.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I think you’ve invited me to that. I had never make it.

Jill Shah:
Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yes, I’m going to go.

Jill Shah:
No, no, no. Well, it’s probably going to be virtually this year, but yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Are we going to be eating virtual food?

Jill Shah:
I hope not. Touche. We’ll have to send everyone little bento boxes or something. I think these things are really important to be very clarifying and to say, “This is what we will do and we won’t do as a community to our kids,” because to your point, Mark, when I was down in Washington, one of the meetings that I was at worried me quite a bit is in terms of setting rules for the next set of recommendations for Americans. The question was asked, “Who are we setting the recommendations for?” 80% of Americans are in some way sick, obese, overweight, suffering for some sort of chronic disease.

Jill Shah:
Who are we setting these guidelines for? Then you think about kids, this 50 million Americans who are still pretty healthy. We haven’t done anything terribly destructive to [inaudible 00:35:56].

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, 40% of them are overweight, and one have ADD. That’s not that great.

Jill Shah:
I think this is-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
They’re better, but not that great.

Jill Shah:
Well, right, but if you’re going to start somewhere, this is-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Absolutely.

Jill Shah:
You already have a USDA subsidy. You already have a whole set of incentives. This could be the largest intervention that the US healthcare system decides to deploy, just for you to feed well.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s $25 billion just for that, right, every year?

Jill Shah:
Yeah. I mean, just feed kids well. That would be such a game changer, at least according to you and other doctors you know well, I think.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Stay with me.

Jill Shah:
I think it would be extraordinary.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What about the schools that say, “Well, we love this idea, but we get so much money from the vending machines and from all the stuff that we can’t do without,” because there was a… I remember, during the Vietnam War, there was a slogan, which was, “Maybe the military should have big sales to buy weapons, and the kids should get school money.” Now, it’s so bad. How do we solve that?

Jill Shah:
Well, I mean, I think, this is where advocate local advocacy comes in. As a locality, you have to decide what is okay and what is not okay, and what do you need and what do you not need? Are there other resources that you can draw upon, or can you forego something? I mean, if it really is that, we need to decide to feed our kids crappy food so that we have chairs, then, I guess, that is a major decision point, but I wonder how each locality would handle that. I totally respect any city or town’s decision making.

Jill Shah:
There’s lots of different things that they have to consider. I also think there are lots of folks out there who would be happy to support good food programs. I think to identify that we’re going to lose chairs if we feed kids properly, I think that-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s more like music and sports teams and all that stuff is just tough, because we really have our priorities backwards here.

Jill Shah:
We do.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The generation of Americans today, if it’s going to live sicker and die younger than their parents, this is the first generation in history where life expectancy is going down. One in three kids born today will have diabetes in their lifetime, type two diabetes.

Jill Shah:
Right, but I don’t think you can just say to communities, “Okay, we’ll forego the sports team.” I think it’s a little bit bigger than that, ad that was the thing that happened in Boston is you really have to determine, “Okay, what is the sticking point here?” If we want to have the sports team, do we then also have to serve pizza every day or whatever it is, or something even more gross than pizza, or is there a way that we can present the need and fund the sports team in a different way?

Jill Shah:
I think, that is all about communities coming together and deciding what’s important.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s true. We really need kids in this country. We’re 31st in reading and math in the world. We have such high rates of disease in kids and unhealthy behaviors. We have all these problems. I think, well, one of the things you can do, Jill, with My Way Café is to document the impact of the food that these kids are eating on their well being, their emotional, mental, cognitive, academic performance, absenteeism, behavioral issues. If you can figure out how to do that, that’s a game changer.

Jill Shah:
It’ll be a game changer.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s a game changer because I think there hasn’t been enough. There are studies, but they’re far and few between, and they have it by changing diets in schools that you can have an impact on these kids dramatically. I remember a story of a guy in Washington who developed charter school for some of the poorest, most underserved communities there, mostly immigrants, African Americans. These kids were struggling. There was very low graduation rates, very poor academic performance on standardized testing, lots of behavioral issues.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
They decided to feed the kids three meals a day a real whole food, and have a good academic program, but then these kids started doing so well on academic test scores that parents from other well-to-do neighborhoods wanted to ship their kids into this school because [crosstalk 00:40:35] a high level.

Jill Shah:
Well, they were present. They were fed, and so they were present at school. I agree with you about the testing, and I think there’s lots of things that we should do to better understand why the program is so important to kids physically and mentally. We’ve increased participation by about 30% with this program, and we’ve decreased waste. That means kids are taking whole real food out the line, and they’re putting it into their bodies and eating it. Teachers are saying that they show up in the classroom differently.

Jill Shah:
When you show up in the classroom in a ready to learn state as opposed to some state where you’re not present, already, the results of it are pretty extraordinary.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
[crosstalk 00:41:18].

Jill Shah:
I do think it’s important. Obviously, we live in Boston. There’s incredible academics who have proposed researching this in different ways. It will be amazing to see the results of that. At the end of the day though, just seeing kids be present, be calm. Cafeterias go from being these raucous environments to kids literally sitting and eating and having conversation. All that’s different is the food.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Food is medicine. That’s for sure. Jill, people are seeing this, mothers, fathers, parents, teachers wondering, “How do I get this in mys school? What do I do? How do I figure this out? Can I scale it?” Can you talk about how that could happen for them and what you’re working on [inaudible 00:42:04]? You talked about this handbook, but tell us more.

Jill Shah:
I think as a locality, I think it needs to be driven ultimately by decision makers, so food nutrition services heads, mayors, city councilors, folks who really can oversee any of the issues that are going to come up in making this change happen, and then as a community or as that contingency, you want to look at where you are today and where you wanted to get to. Then look at all of the things that are stopping you from getting there, because it means you have to procure differently. You may need different things in your kitchens.

Jill Shah:
You may need to hire and train individuals. You may need logistics. All of our staff comes into one warehouse, and then gets shipped out to each locality on a daily basis. So you have to think about where you want to be and then all of the things that it require you to do those things. Then get permission to do them, but I do think this is why it’s most easily for parents to go and advocate to their food services head is probably the way to do this and to get that person on board so that they can lead the charge, because really, they hold the reins on all of those different pieces of the puzzle.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So each school district has a food service person.

Jill Shah:
Correct.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Not each school but each school district.

Jill Shah:
Each school district, correct, and so the superintendent, the food services director, the head of the city or town, those folks are the folks that you would want to buy into an idea like this. What our resources can help folks do is really determine what sorts of investments are going to have to be made where or what sorts of things have to change. If you’re buying all prepackaged food from one vendor, how do you then purchase real broccoli, real apples, real chicken? How many… So just what kind of processes you have to change.

Jill Shah:
We can help with all of that. Our foundation’s website, which is Shah, S-H-A-Hfoundation.org, the Eat Up website, Eat Up film or the Eat Up movie.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Eatupfilm.com.

Jill Shah:
Eatupfilm.com and mywaycafe.org, all of those will have all of the materials available on them.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, that’s amazing, Jill. I mean, I-

Jill Shah:
Wait, I want to tell you one other thing too, because My Way Café was not… We didn’t brand it for the sake of having fun with the name. We did that because every individual’s voice is so important, and so we knew that if we gave parents something simple to say, that when they walk into a school committee meeting and said, “I want my school to have My Way Café,” and it started over and over and over again as opposed to saying, “I want my kid to have fresh whole real food every day.” It’s so much.

Jill Shah:
We just branded it from day one so that parents across the city could just say, “When are we getting My Way Café?”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Is your team song the Frank Sinatra song, My Way? How did you get My Way?

Jill Shah:
Oh my God, no. We did sing that for a little while. It was so hard to come up with something.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I just want to take a minute to honor you and to paint a picture of what the [inaudible 00:45:15] would like and why this is so important, because it’s not just by kids in schools. This is a lever, a leverage point for changing the whole food system. You start with the supply chain, which is where the food comes from. You’re going to incentivize the production, the growing, the distribution of real, whole food. You’re creating a giant marketplace for it, which is a 25-billion-dollar school lunch program.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Then you’re catalyzing employment through training, hiring, and creating satisfying jobs for school workers who are working in those school kitchens.

Jill Shah:
That’s right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You’re creating health for kids, which is going to have an impact for them throughout their whole lives in terms of their life success, their social success, their economic success, their ability to live healthier lives. You’re going to be creating global economic competitiveness around our performance, because kids who learn better are smarter and do better and have better jobs and are able to more contribute to society. You’re going to be decreasing the obesity epidemic, decreasing the behavioral challenges that kids have.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You’re going to be showing that this model is something that actually can work within an economic model of the USDA school subsidies, which is very limited and show how it can be done well. You’re creating this whole cascade of changes throughout the food system that can actually show how this can be done not just in schools but in institutions, in universities, in colleges, in government buildings, in the corporations, in hospitals. This is just like a catalyst that shows that this model can be done at scale, and all of a sudden, you changed the entire food service industry, which is massive.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s, I think, as big as the restaurant [inaudible 00:47:22]. It just serves so many people. I think that-

Jill Shah:
Well, I’m not sure that I will do that, but it’s going to be an example.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I mean, why not? Why not?

Jill Shah:
Why not? I’ll go after it. Why not?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, you’re like, “I’m not going to take this anymore. This isn’t right. This doesn’t have to be this way. Even though it’s always been this way, it doesn’t have to be this way, and we can [inaudible 00:47:43].”

Jill Shah:
The thing that really angered me was that we do this to our most vulnerable populations, right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

Jill Shah:
So many of us can choose what our kids eat every day, but when you’re dependent upon two or three meals a day coming from your school, it should not be that. We’re using those dollars in more ways cripple the population.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
To harm them. We’re harming our children.

Jill Shah:
We should be making the best choices about the foods that we provide giving then the recipients of that still choice so that they can really eat what they want to eat every day.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, if there was a mother of the world award, I would give it to you.

Jill Shah:
You’re sweet. That’s very nice.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I think you’re being a mother to all of these children who are suffering and struggling. It’s just an incredible thing. The first time I heard about it, it just blew my mind. I’ve been following it right from the beginning, cheering you on, and I really want people to take seriously being an activist. In my book Food Fix, I do talk about the things we can do personally to make the change, whether it’s changing our diet or growing a garden, having a [inaudible 00:48:56]. Those are all nice and good things, but the truth is to get scale and to get real change in the food system, this idea, My Way Café, is a catalyst that I think we can all get behind, and that we as parents, as citizens, can go…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Even if we’re not a parent, we just care about kids can go to the school district to find this food service head, and talk to them and teach them.

Jill Shah:
Totally.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Everybody can do this, and it’s something we can do [inaudible 00:49:22], in our communities, and we can be empowered and literally can change the face of school food in America, and change the future of our kid’s cognitive, emotional and physical well being, which for me, there’s nothing important.

Jill Shah:
No, I think that’s right on. I think that that was why we agreed to do the movie too is, I think, the movie just… It’s a fun movie, and it shows how actually anybody. You show up at a school committee meeting. You knock on the food services’ director’s door. You call the superintendent. Anybody can start to make change happen.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No is an opportunity to get to yes, right?

Jill Shah:
Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Everybody should watch the movie and get inspired. This is a great conversation, but the movie will tell the story. You’ll see the kid’s faces. You’ll see their smiles. You’ll see them eating the broccoli. It’s a super awesome movie. Jill, thank you for the work you do, for the work the Shah foundation does, for being the awesome human you are. I love you, Jill. I’m so glad to have you on The Doctor’s Farmacy podcast.

Jill Shah:
I love you too, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk about this and to share it with more people, so thank you so much.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Thank you. Well, you’ve been listening to the Doctor’s Farmacy. If you love this conversation, please share with your friends and family. Leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you. Subscribe wherever you get your podcast. We’ll see you next time on The Doctor’s Farmacy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Hi everyone, it’s Dr. Mark Hyman. Two quick things, number one, thanks so much for listening to this week’s podcast. It really means a lot to me. If you love the podcast, I’d really appreciate you sharing it with your friends and family. Second, I want to tell you about a brand new newsletter I start called Mark’s Picks. Every week, I’m going to send out a list of a few things that I’ve been using to take my own health to the next level. This could be books, podcasts, research that I found, supplement recommendations, recipes, or even gadgets, and I use a few of those.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
If you like to get access to this free weekly list, all you have to do is visit drhyman.com/picks. That’s drhyman.com/picks. I’ll only email you once a week, I promise, and I’ll never send you anything else besides my own recommendations. Just go to drhyman.com/picks, that’s P-I-C-K-S, to sign up free today.
Speaker 1:
Hi everyone, I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualifying medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit IFM.org, and search their find a practitioner database.
Speaker 1:
It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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