South Carolina PTA Fighting To Improve School FoodThu 30 Sep 2010
Story by Lisa Conner
There are a growing number of activists fighting for the health, safety and education of children in local schools and communities across the States. As PTA Health and Wellness Chair, Lisa Conner shares her school food concerns and the challenges her local PTA face.
With obesity rates in our country soaring, parents at Summit Drive Elementary School couldn’t help but recognize a call to action. With the state of South Carolina ranking 9th in obesity in the country parents saw no alternative but to get involved in a big way to help reverse the trend by finding better ways to communicate a healthy diet and daily exercise to both students and parents.
The Summit Drive PTA began to tackle this by forming a Health and Wellness committee. I am the chair and together we - the concerned parents, teachers and students - brainstorm ways to promote a healthy diet and to encourage increased physical fitness for the schools 369 students in grades 4k-5th grade.
The committee has formed a number of great initiatives. First we formed the Summit Stars Marathon Club. Students meet in the morning before school and record the number of laps they run. Over the course of the semester students’ track the amount of miles they run and then celebrate at a “Breakfast of Champions”.
Next an organic school garden was started. With the help of a local grant the Summit Drive “Roots Garden” was built and is now in its second year of growing organic vegetables. Students have the opportunity to have a hands-on experience of growing fresh vegetables and later tasting what they’ve grown.
This past year the Health and Wellness committee hosted a day long event titled “I’ve Got the Power” and focused on healthy eating and physical fitness. State and local organizations participated in presentations geared toward educating students, parents and teachers about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.
The PTA Health and Wellness committee continues to work by participating in school health programs and Summit Drive is fortunate to have a wonderful faculty, the P.E. teacher, school nurse, Principal and a dedicated administration enthusiastically help and support these programs.
Although many are involved to make things better, the biggest change is yet to be seen. Even though the school’s food service manager is very cooperative and does her best to bring fresh foods to the students her hands are tied when in comes to the final decision of what the students are served.
As the new school year began, students were told that the school had been selected to be part of a new meals pilot program. All were very excited that this could mean the beginning of healthier meals for the students. However, when we learned of the change, it was not to be the one that we had hoped for and expected.
Prepacked, frozen meals that some students and teachers have deemed “Space food” was served instead of a fresh alternative. If it were possible, they were of even lower quality than what they had grown accustomed to in a meal program that already allows up to 30% of calories to come from fat and 35% from sugar.
After protests by parents a letter was sent out by the District Food Services Manager that the pilot program would cease, which was great news. However the students were forced to undergo a full month of these meals and beginning in October the same old menu will be served once again to those that purchase lunch at school as well as 50% of the students that receive free and reduced meals.
Nonetheless, Summit Drive PTA will continue to enhance the overall health education of its students, parents and teachers and work hard to get the 369 amazing and bright students the breakfast and lunches they deserve to be served.
About the author: Lisa Conner is the PTA Health and Wellness Chair at Summit Drive Elementary in Greenville, South Carolina
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