Tuesday, October 11, 2005

How to influence your school district's child nutrition wellness policy

After the recent progress for school nutrition reform in Britain, North Americans are asking why their own children can't have some of the same. For example, this article from the Toronto magazine NOW explores whether there are any celebrity chefs in Canada who could accomplish what television cook Jamie Oliver did in highlighting the need for better school meal programs in the United Kingdom.
Waterloo – There's a rush on for celebrity chefs who can do for Canada what Jamie Oliver did for England: be the flashpoint for a lightning campaign to abolish junk food from schools. Late in September, England's Labour government agreed to ban bad food from school vending machines and school meals. The ban follows several months of television campaigning by the popular TV chef, adored as much for his breezy boy-next-door looks and style as for his flair for cooking and passion for healthy eating.
Perhaps the closest thing in the United States is the Edible Schoolyard, the school garden and food education program founded by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in California.

All politics are local, and school nutrition policies in the United States are even more local than other politics, due to the local nature of school financing and governance. When the federal government passed child nutrition and WIC program reauthorization last year, Congress did not mandate national child nutrition reform, but did provide a vehicle for local action in this area. By that start of the 2006-2007 school year, each school district must establish a formal local "wellness policy" that meets certain minimal criteria.

The Center for Ecoliteracy has released an inspiring report (.pdf) full of suggestions for school wellness policies that exceed the minimum. The report's format is draft language that parents can bring to the attention of their school district leaders, for adoption or modification to suit local needs. Here is a sampling:
  • No student in the _______ School District goes hungry during school;
  • An economically sustainable meal program makes available a healthy and nutritious breakfast, lunch, and after-school snack to every student at every school so that students are prepared to learn to their fullest potential;
  • Each school in the district shall establish an instructional garden (tilled ground, raised bed, container, nearby park, community garden, farm, or lot), of sufficient size to provide students with experiences in planting, harvesting, preparation, serving, and tasting foods, including ceremonies and celebrations that observe food traditions, integrated with nutrition education and core curriculum, and articulated with state standards;...
  • At each school site, students shall play a role in a recycling program that begins with the purchase of recycled products and maximizes the reduction of waste by recycling, reusing, composting and purchasing, recycled products;
  • Meals will be attractively presented and served in a pleasant environment with sufficient time for eating, while fostering good eating habits, enjoyment of meals, good manners, and respect for others;
  • Students at the K–8 level will not be involved in the sale of candy, sodas, cookies and sweets at any school sponsored event or for any fundraising activity;
  • A full-service kitchen will be installed at school sites where public bond money is expended to repair or remodel a school....

Read the whole thing. Some of it is far out, but catch yourself short and give yourself a scolding if you find yourself dismissing it as unrealistic. Which one of these proposals is more than your own children deserve?

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