'Top Chef's' Tom Colicchio Talks School Lunch Reform

Kim Conte

tom colicchioYou may already be a huge fan of Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio, but here's another reason to love him: School lunch reform is an issue that's near and dear to his heart.

In fact, the celebrity chef and father of two recently testified before the House of Representatives, advocating for the Improving Nutrition for America's Children Act. Not only that, his mom used to manage a school cafeteria!

If you remember two episodes ago on Top Chef, the contestants took over the cafeteria at a local middle school. That experience taught him that the popular belief about school lunches -- that you can't make them healthier because kids won't eat it -- is false. In fact, Colicchio believes that kids will eat whatever is delicious -- even healthy foods.

As he explained to Eatocracy:

We're adults. We're the ones who should teach the kids what's good to eat. I don't think the government should ever regulate what we eat at home, but we're feeding them in school with tax dollars. Quite frankly, if my tax dollars are being spent to feed kids, I'd rather feed them better food.

Colicchio, who is involved in a lot of charities and organizations working to fight against childhood hunger, said he wants school lunch to be free for everyone. That probably won't happen under either of the bills before Congress (one asks for $4.5 billion; the other for $8 billion). But the extra funding can only improve the situation, which is why Colicchio agreed to advocate for the legislation.

How did he become so interested in this issue? His mom, who managed a school cafeteria, was constantly fighting to get fresh vegetables and fruits on the menu. A few years ago she told him:

I work because I know the kids coming into my lunchroom and the kids coming for breakfast -- this is probably the only thing they're going to eat all day.

Her influence is a huge reason this issue is so important to him today.

Isn't it awesome to see someone use their celebrity and expertise for good?

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