Getting The Most Out Of Going Back To School!Thu 08 Sep 2011
Story by Hannah Ewan
We’ve been getting wonderful reports through the summer holiday weeks of Food Revolutionaries using their free time to test out recipes, try new foods and grow their own veggies.
Long may all these things continue into the new semester – but the start of classes brings new opportunities to tackle unhealthy eating. It’s time to take on school meals again!
Hopeful changes have been made to school food throughout America. Individual schools have reassessed and chosen to use fresh ingredients and scratch cooking. Flavored milk has been banned in whole school districts. But lots of you are still not happy with what your children are being fed at school, and with good reason. If you’re one of them, there are a host of ways you can get involved to make a real difference to the diet and health of kids at your local school.
First of all – do you really know what your kids are being fed? As we saw in Season 2 of the Food Revolution, Los Angeles parents were horrified when they realized what their kids had been eating day after day. We trust schools to keep our children healthy. Sadly, that trust is not always kept. Is your school serving flavored milk? Is water readily available? How regularly do your kids have processed pizza, burgers or corn dogs for lunch? If you don’t know, now is the time to go in and ask.
Do some research into wellness and nutrition policies, find out what your school’s are, and whether they are sticking to them. More importantly, do you think they’re good enough? They are there to keep your children healthy, so don’t be afraid to have your say if you don’t think they’re up to scratch.
In December 2010, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act 2010 into law. This is essentially a parents’ bill of rights. It sets out new standards for school food, which the USDA have given schools two years to shape up to. You then have the right to ask for the building blocks of a healthy diet, including less processed, fatty, salty, high calorie food items. Why not push for your school to lead the way in these changes? There’s no need to wait for the two years to be up for you to support the new standards.
Over seventeen million American children come from food insecure homes, where their only daily meals might be school breakfast and lunch. We can at least make sure those meals are as nutritious as can be. Talk to your children’s teachers. Meet with the principal and school nutrition directors. The new legislation means that everyone wins if a school makes the grade. Extra funding will be awarded to any school that meets the new nutritional standards for federally-subsidized lunches, which is sure to interest your school’s principal!
You don’t have to do this on your own; there’s a big support network out there to help you shout louder. The more parents who make their desires known, the greater the school’s mandate is to make big changes. Addressing the PTA to get them on board will give you the security of like-minded allies at school. And don’t forget, there are now over 600 active Food Revolution Facebook groups – at least one in every state. Go online to find one near you to join. If there isn’t one close, why not set one up for your local community and lead the change for better school food.
There is also a brand new download on the Food Revolution website, the School Food Presentation pack. You can find it on the School Food page under Support Tools. Created by the Food Revolution Team and designed by Paper Airplane, you can use this, with the supporting notes for each slide, to present to your Food Revolution group, PTA, school board, nutrition staff, school principal, wellness committee or anyone involved in the school food system, whether another concerned parent or a board member who can help you build support, raise awareness and inspire change in schools across the country. If you are part of a Food Revolution group why not get your group together and discuss who you want to present this to and when.
As well as the School Food Presentation, the School Food page has a ton of other downloads with useful information, advice and tips to help you in your food fight. Keep following the FR News page for inspirational stories of school, teachers, parents and kids who have worked for better food and a healthier lifestyle in their area.
Finally: please let us know how you’re getting on! We love to hear your success stories, but we also want to hear about any problems you have. It all helps us keep as up to date by posting on our Food Revolution Community wall as much as possible with the real progress the Food Revolution is making –progress made possible by your Revolutionary efforts.
About the author: Hannah is a freelance journalist from Edinburgh, who started making a mess in the kitchen when she was little and hasn’t stopped since.
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