The 3-Minute Interview: Charter school foodie Lisa Dobbs

People,Alan Blinder

Dobbs, a trained chef, oversees the food services program at E.W. Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School in D.C.

What makes your school cafeteria special?

We use no processed food at all. Everything we do here we make from scratch. For example, our meat comes from the Shenandoah Valley, and our apples come from West Virginia and a farmer who does integrated pest management. I get tilapia from a sustainable farm; otherwise, I'd have to buy tilapia from China, and God knows how that's produced.

Some people might say that approach is a bit extreme for a school. Why do you do it?

I was living in Russia with my family, and my kids wanted to eat in the cafeteria. I couldn't believe it. It was chicken nuggets and not one leaf of lettuce. A lot of the health problems we have today are diet-related, and I became immersed in how we feed our children as a nation. I later met with the founder of this school, who had the same vision I did, and we wanted to see if we could make a school food service look like it should look.

How did the kids react?

They love the teriyaki chicken and anything we serve that has ground beef. Our ground beef tastes 100 times better than what you get at Whole Foods.SClB

How does your program affect their futures?

The benefits you see immediately are that you see the kids eating things and making choices that are good for them. Once you start teaching kids how to eat, it just isn't true that they're not going to eat vegetables and the other things we want them to eat. They will eat it if they understand it and it tastes good. If you give them crap, that's what they'll eat and grow up thinking of as food.

- Alan Blinder

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