All over the U.S. there are school districts, advocacy groups and chefs working to turn the tide of fast food lunches through initiatives for accessing and serving sustainable meals. From New York City to Appleton, Wisconsin, from Los Angeles to Santa Monica and from Washington DC to Portland Oregon, positive change is spreading by leaps and bounds.
For example, Farm to School programs are sprouting up across the country. Schools buy and feature farm fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, eggs, honey, meat, and beans on their menus; incorporate nutrition-based curriculum; and provide students experiential learning opportunities through farm visits, gardening and recycling programs. These programs connect schools with local farms with the objectives of creating healthy cafeteria meals, improving student nutrition, and providing vital health and nutrition education opportunities, while supporting and building connections with local family farms.
A new federal government mandate requires schools and other facilities that receive federal dollars for feeding programs to form a Wellness Committee (comprised of community members, educators, school administrators, health care professionals, and others) to formulate and adopt a Wellness Policy. This new mandate provides a positive opportunity, because wellness policies can restore authority for decisions affecting the health of children to their families and communities. The Model Wellness Policy Guide was produced by The Center for Ecoliteracy in collaboration with Slow Food USA, the Chez Panisse Foundation, Chef Ann Cooper and other experts, to help interested parties foment positive changes in their schools' food.
Here are but a few of the many wonderful and inspiring projects that are helping to change the way we feed our children, plus resources to help you get healthy programs growing in your own community. We really can change the way we feed children - one plate at a time.
The Center for Ecoliteracy has spent millions of hours of time and a fair amount of money working to support positive changes in school food. The Center was a prime motivator in Berkeley's Nutrition Policy, one of the most novel policies in the country. They provide tremendous resources through their Rethinking School Lunch website. http://www.ecoliteracy.org/
For information on how to support school gardening in your community, visit http://assoc.garden.org/ag/asg/
To learn more about Chef Ann Cooper and her work transforming school lunch across America, visit www.chefann.com and www.lunchlessons.org. C heck out the Healthy Kid's Meal Wheel and download the Nutrition Report Card for kids ages 6 to 18.
Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard, arguably the most famous school garden in America, showcases her passion and commitment to truly change how we feed children and teach them about food. 850 public school students learn how to grow, harvest, and prepare nutritious seasonal produce in the Edible Schoolyard's one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom.
Slow Food USA is committed to awakening a child to the enjoyment and health benefits of quality foods and the principles of land stewardship. Through the Slow Food in Schools program, they support school gardening, cooking programs, and food and farming education in schools across the country. http://www.slowfoodusa.org
Farm to School program information, wellness policy tools and more. http://www.foodsecurity.org/
The National Farm to School Network is a collaborative project with the goal of strengthening and expanding activities in states with existing programs and assisting others that do not yet have programs. http://www.farmtoschool.org/
The goal of the SchoolFood Plus Initiative is to improve the eating habits, health and academic performance of New York City public schoolchildren while strengthening New York State agriculture through the procurement of local, regional produce.
The Harlem Children's Zone, a charter school in New York City, features healthy foods made from scratch, utilizing as much local product as possible. This innovative program features universal meals, which means that ALL of the children are eating healthy food. http://www.hcz.org
The Food Project in Boston was started in 1991 to, " grow a thoughtful and productive community of youth and adults from diverse backgrounds who work together to build a sustainable food system." Currently hundreds of teens and volunteers together produce more than a quarter million pounds of chemical free produce every year. The Food Project model could be replicated all across the country. http://www.thefoodproject.org/
EATWISE (Educated and Aware Teens Who Inspire Smart Eating) is a group of young people in New York City who are educating themselves and other students about how eating right can have a positive impact on their health and their entire world.
A new nutrition education project being piloted in 100 New York City schools, FoodChange's CookShop® Program is designed to increase awareness and consumption of wholesome foods in the school community, and improve the health and well-being of the school-going population.
Presented by the highly-regarded James Beard Foundation, Spoons Across America is a source for children's culinary education, providing and supporting food and nutrition education to children, families, and teachers through classroom, after-school, and community-based programs.
Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children by Ann Cooper and Lisa Holmes (Harper Collins, September, 2006). Inspiration and food for thought, plus over 100 delicious kid-friendly recipes! Look for it at your favorite bookstore, or get it in the Organic Valley General Store
Read Chef Ann's story! (download PDF here)
What you can do at home. Parents, take these points to heart!
Download and print the Future is Organic Poster, with lunch strategies and an A+ lunch maze.
Does your child’s lunch box make the grade?
Try these strategies with Food Sleuth Melinda Hemmelgarn.
Smart savings on organic products.
Browse and print coupons for fine Organic Valley foods.
(Print quantities limited).
Organic resources for raising safer, stronger, healthier—happier—children.
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