Real Food For Kids In Fairfax CountyTue 17 Jul 2012
Story by Kathryn Luwis
Real Food For Kids is at it again. This Fairfax County, VA-based parent advocacy group has been working relentlessly to improve the food for their school children. Victories are sweet for any grass roots organization, and Real Food For Kids has something to celebrate.
Assessing Food and Nutrition Services
On June 29, Fairfax County released the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the School Board’s directed, independent assessment of the Food and Nutrition Services, which manages all food services for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). The primary objective of the assessment is “to assess FCPS Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) to identify cost-effective ways of making FCPS school food healthier by increasing the amount of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and striving to eliminate processed foods.” The Request for Proposal** is an opportunity for all qualified contractors to offer a bid and Real Food For Kids wants to get the word out!
In response to rising childhood obesity and diabetes rates, Real Food For Kids has been working to encourage Fairfax County Public Schools to provide healthier, more appetizing, whole foods made from scratch.
According to At-Large School Board member Ryan McElveen, “This study has the potential to both improve our school food offerings and, perhaps more importantly, help students realize the importance of healthy food in their lives. The fact that the School Board, school staff and Real Food For Kids advocates have partnered to craft this assessment speaks volumes to the progress that can be made in the coming years by working together.” McElveen and Hunter Mill District member Pat Hynes worked with the County to develop the RFP. "This study will give us a chance to model how a large, self-sustaining school food service operation can move decisively from highly-processed meals toward more healthy, whole foods. This is a collaborative effort among the school board, FCPS Food and Nutrition Services leadership and parent advocates. I look forward to getting the study off the ground!" says Pat Hynes.
JoAnne Hammermaster, President of Real Food For Kids expressed her gratitude for the support of the School Board. “We applaud the efforts of Ryan McElveen and Pat Hynes whose work on producing the RFP has brought us one step closer to providing FCPS children with more nutritious food,” says Hammermaster.
“We are excited to see Fairfax County seeking a comprehensive, independent assessment and looking for innovative ways to move toward providing students with the healthiest food possible,” says Jocelyn Hsu, Co-Founder of Real Food For Kids.
The $200,000 for the assessment of FCPS Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) will come from the FNS fund reserves, which total approximately $18 million for the 2012-2013 school year. Under U.S. Department of the Agriculture regulations, Food and Nutrition Services funds may only be used for the operation or improvement of school food services. The School Board’s decisions to obtain an independent assessment does not reduce the FCPS school operating fund, which is used to pay for teachers, aides, textbooks, and other instructional expenses.
Real Food For Kids has been striving to educate parents and administrators about the vital connection between diet and school performance. “Fairfax County is one of the largest and better known school districts nationally. If we can make positive changes to school food here, it will not go unnoticed. We want to have excellent school food on par with the excellent education Fairfax County offers.”
Real Food For Kids hopes to serve as a blueprint to others looking to make similar changes in their school districts---one victory at a time.
**The RFP number 2000000273 can be found here. A pre-proposal conference will be held on July 12, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. in the Fairfax County Public Schools Gatehouse Administration Center I, Conference Center Room 1610, 8115 Gatehouse Road, Falls Church, Virginia. The closing date and time for RFP bids is Aug 9, 2012 @ 02:00 PM.
About the author: Kathryn Luwis is a founding member of Real Food For Kids who has always had an interest in the link between nutrition and wellness. She lives in McLean, Virginia with her husband and three teenage sons, who eat all day long.
Photo credit: Laura Magane Goyer
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