I’m interrupting my regular Gratitude Sunday series to participate in Blog Action Day– where bloggers from around the world unite
to discuss one important global topic. I participated last year when the topic was water, but this year’s topic – Food – is especially near and dear to my heart. This year, Blog Action Day coincides with World Food Day, which is a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding, and informed year-around action to alleviate hunger.
My post today is going to stray a bit from the topic of simply alleviating hunger to discuss the nutritional content of the food we provide for our children. One of my great passions is promoting healthy eating and an active lifestyle for children. In our house, we sit down for a home-cooked family meal at least five nights of seven in a week. Although I did not grow a garden this summer because we were in Italy, I try to buy mostly locally sourced, organic, whole food as the ingredients for our meals.
But what about when our children are away from home? We can’t always control what our kids consume when they’re not at home, however, we should be able to count on our schools to provide them with a wholesome, healthy lunch. Unfortunately, this is the exception and not the norm in the United States. Today, the vast majority of school lunches around the country are composed of highly processed foods loaded with preservatives, artificial flavors and colors. The foods are often high in fat, sugar and sodium, while nutrient-dense foods like fresh fruits and vegetables get short shrift.
What’s worse is that for the nearly 20 million children in America who are eligible for free or reduced lunch, the school lunch might be the only full meal they can count on eating each day. Don’t we owe it to them – and to all children – to make sure the food they receive gives them the best chance of maintaining their health and boosting their ability to learn?
I am grateful that in Boulder County, Chef Ann Cooper came to the rescue and is in her third year of overhauling school lunches in my kids’ school district. An accomplished chef for more than 30 years, Ann has now shifted her focus to “…using her skills and background to create a sustainable model for schools nationwide to transition any processed food based K-12 school meal program to a whole foods environment where food is procured regionally and prepared from scratch.” Taking on parents, school politics, and the USDA is a tall task, and probably mostly thankless. I so admire Ann for stepping in to use her unique talents to do something rather than sitting back and either complaining or waiting for someone else to take care of the problem.
For that reason, I am one of the liaisons for the School Food Project (the Boulder Valley School District program) to my kids’ elementary school. I work to educate parents about the school lunch program Ann is offering and to increase participation. The sooner programs like this are turning a profit, the sooner we can prove to the USDA that it is not only possible, but imperative, to serve whole, healthy lunches to our kids each and every day.
Also, October is Farm to School Month, which brings awareness about the need to bring as much fresh, local food to kids as possible, as well as educate them about the origins of their food. This is a great time to ask questions at your own kids’ schools to find out what food is being served in the lunchroom, whether the school or the school district has implemented health or wellness policies, and whether there is a way to connect with local farmers for both food and education.
I’ll write more on this topic next Monday, October 24th, which is National Food Day. In the meantime, if you are interested in more information, here are some great websites to visit.
If you have kids, do you know what is being served in their school lunches?