Editor’s Note: We’re so happy to bring you this latest guest post from Chef-extraordinaire, Ann Cooper. Chef Ann is a chef, author, director of nutrition services for the Boulder Valley School District and founder of the Food, Family, Farming (F3) Foundation and its pivotal project, The Lunch Box. The Lunch Box is a web portal with free tools for all schools to serve made-from-scratch recipes with fresh, real ingredients.
By Chef Ann Cooper
The President’s Task Force on Childhood Obesity just released its report and action plan to tackle childhood obesity. The report addresses five main strategies:
*The full report is available here.*
I know these types of reports are important and I do realize they help bring attention to this important issue. But OMG, when are we going to stop talking and start doing?
It seems everyone, well almost everyone today believes that we need to fix school lunch and feed our children healthier. In fact you can’t read a paper, listen to the radio or watch TV without seeing something about kids, school food and health. From Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and from experts like Michael Pollan, Kate Adamick and Marion Nestle to foundations like Kellogg, Robert Wood Johnson, Orfalea and Colorado Health and programs like National Farm to School, Slow Food and Healthy Schools Campaign; there seems to be universal agreement that most school food is unhealthy. Not only is it unhealthy, but it is making our children sick to the point that this generation may be the first in our nation’s history to die at a younger age than their parents.
So if all these parties agree that the system is broken, then why isn’t it getting fixed immediately? The answer is politics as usual — money, profit and big business. The abovementioned report, which runs over 100 pages, exemplifies everything that is wrong in politics today. Not once, let me say that again, NOT ONCE, does the report recommend immediate action to have money or other specific resources dedicated to fixing school food.
I am amazed how much talking and how little concrete action has actually happened to fix school lunch. So my calls to action are:
Below is a somewhat detailed break-down of ten of the recommendations and the language used to describe the actions to be made.
Updating government standards for meals and USDA commodities.
Increase resources for school meals.
USDA should continue to help schools with training.
Schools should consider upgrading equipment (ex: swapping deep fryers for salad bars).
USDA should work with all stakeholders to market healthier choices to kids.
USDA should work to connect school meals with local growers.
Schools should be encouraged to make improvements through Healthier US School Challenge in advance of updated Federal standards.
Increase ala cart and vending policy alignment with dietary guidelines.
Food companies should be encouraged to create healthier products.
USDA and Dept. of Education should collaborate with states to increase availability and consistency of nutrition education in schools.
Read also: Jessica Pieklo’s post on obesity as a disability.
photo credit: courtesy of Ann Cooper
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
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