Turning the Tables SLP Sarah Wu (a.k.a. “Mrs. Q”) Name: Sarah Wu, MA, CCC-SLP Position: Speech-language pathologist, Chicago Public Schools Hometown: Rhinelander, Wisconsin In December 2009, Sarah Wu, a school-based speech-language pathologist in the Chicago Public Schools and a busy new mom, forgot her lunch. Like any other resourceful ... In the Limelight
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In the Limelight  |   August 01, 2012
Turning the Tables
Author Notes
  • Kellie Rowden-Racette, online writer and editor for The ASHA Leader, can be reached at krowden-racette@asha.org.
    Kellie Rowden-Racette, online writer and editor for The ASHA Leader, can be reached at krowden-racette@asha.org.×
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School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   August 01, 2012
Turning the Tables
The ASHA Leader, August 2012, Vol. 17, 34. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.17102012.34
The ASHA Leader, August 2012, Vol. 17, 34. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.17102012.34
SLP Sarah Wu (a.k.a. “Mrs. Q”)
Name: Sarah Wu, MA, CCC-SLP
Position: Speech-language pathologist, Chicago Public Schools
Hometown: Rhinelander, Wisconsin
In December 2009, Sarah Wu, a school-based speech-language pathologist in the Chicago Public Schools and a busy new mom, forgot her lunch. Like any other resourceful school-based professional would have done, she decided to buy lunch at the school’s cafeteria. What she received made an impression—and not a good one.
“I was so shocked how much processed food was there and to learn about soggy bagel dogs, slimy ’rib-b-ques,’ and highly processed, frozen PB&Js,” she said. Moreover, she learned that fries and tater tots met the nutritional requirements for vegetables, and fruit cups, gelatin cups, and frozen juice pops met the requirements for fruit. “It was all in packages and it was so gross,” she recalls.
Wanting to draw attention to her alarming discovery, but not feeling like her individual complaint would be heard, Wu took to cyberspace in January 2010. She created an anonymous blog appropriately named “ Fed Up With Lunch”. Her goal was to eat a school lunch every day for an entire school calendar year, take pictures, and write about it. She didn’t really have a specific goal in mind, but had always enjoyed writing and needed a way to channel her disgust.
What happened next was more than she expected. By March the blog was featured on Yahoo’s homepage, by April “Good Morning America” contacted her and interviewed her (in the shadows to conceal her identity), and soon after she was contacted by two literary agencies to write a book.
“I just figured I would go for it,” said Wu of her decision to write the book. “I wanted to see some changes and this seemed like the best way to get my message out there.”
The book, which came out in October 2011, is based on the blog, but also includes more information about her and her views on food, exercise, and education. She also describes growing up in Wisconsin; her mother was, she said, “one of those granola moms” and she and her siblings were always healthy eaters. It’s this upbringing, she said, that largely shaped her views today.
Wu revealed her identity on a later episode of “Good Morning America” (“Um, that was majorly scary,” she confesses. “I thought I was going to be fired for sure”), and she set off on a national tour to promote the book.
“I’m generally a quiet person and don’t seek a lot of attention,” she said of her whirlwind experience. “But this was so important to me and I think it was good for me to push my comfort zone a little.”
So now, almost a year after Fed Up With Lunch hit the shelves, Wu finds herself at a crossroads. Due in November with her second child and not sure if the workload in the school setting is a good fit with this next phase of her life, Wu is looking to find a way to focus more on life at home. Although she had some interesting opportunities after the release and success of her book, she says that she wants to remain in the speech-language pathology profession because she truly enjoys what she does.
“I didn’t do this [write the book] because I wanted a new career—I did this to make a change in my community. I love being a speech-language pathologist,” she said. What’s more, she feels a bit triumphant about the blog and the book because of the changes she has witnessed in the schools where she has worked. Among the changes are two school lunch vendors now offering antibiotic-free chicken drumsticks from local Amish providers (“Can you believe that?” she says, still in awe) and, equally impressive, the addition of a salad bar in her school.
“I was pretty much blown away,” she said. “It was so nice to see the buy-in from the principal. It just drives home that this message needs to come down from the top for it to happen.”
Sarah Wu, MA, CCC-SLP, can be contacted at fedupwithlunch@gmail.com.
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August 2012
Volume 17, Issue 10