This Year in School Food

This Year In School Food

Mon 26 Dec 2011

Story by The Food Revolution Team

School Food Policy in 2011

This year, more people were talking about school food than ever before. With childhood obesity finally accepted as a scary national epidemic, politicians, the press, and a whole lot of parents were examining how and what we feed our kids. The Food Revolution has been in the mix all year long.

Last December a divided Congress managed to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which defines the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and all aspects school food. It brought an historic $0.06 increase in school lunch funding, plus new requirements for transparency and community involvement.

As mandated by law, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed new standards forthe food on the lunch tray. Grounded in science-based recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, they included important new provisions like adding whole grains, reducing salt
and saturated fat, and specifying a diversity of fruit and veg. When the proposed USDA rule was opened for public comment, 25,000 Food Revolutionaries shared their thoughts with the government. In total, more than 150,000 letters were sent to Washington from people all across the country.

Despite this support, in recent weeks we cringed at “business as usual” meddling when Congress intervened in the USDA process to famously declared “pizza is a vegetable”. While we are outraged that politicians have endorsed French fries and pizza every day in the lunch room, all has not
been lost! There were still big policy wins for school food on top of profound local changes.

Flavored Milk in 2011

One of the big topics for the Food Revolution this year was the unnecessary sugar and additives in flavored milk. It’s representative of the changes we want to see in school food, and a decision that can be made locally. We were thrilled when LAUSD announced its elimination of flavored milk back in July.

So we pushed the campaign out into our ranks. More than 50,000 people signed our flavored milk petition. In June we held our first “Flavored Milk Day of Action” and nearly 300 local leaders signed up, so we followed up with a “Milk Week of Action” in November. We developed a great set of resources on flavored milk and a special Facebook group for people to talk to each other. We now of 44 districts serving only plain white milk, and many more working on the change!

To learn more about the year in Flavored Milk, read this article.

The Food Revolution School Lunch Photo Wall

Upon returning to school, the Food Revolution unveiled our “Best and Worst School Lunch” photo wall. We are inviting people to upload photos of real lunch and then everyone can rank them. It’s a snapshot of where school lunch is today.

Knowing what’s really on the tray at your schools is a big first step to making change, a message reinforced by National School Lunch week. With the USDA standards just being finalized and a debate on “competitive” junk foods coming next year, the photo wall takes on new importance – in lots of places, pizza, French fries and flavored milks are served every day. AS 2012 begins, visit your school, snap a picture, and add it to the wall.

See the 2011 Photo Wall Round Up here.

Fortunately, many communities are already way ahead of the rules in providing delicious, fresh, healthy food for kids. We documented those stories in our newsletters all year long, celebrating local Food Revolution “Heroes”, reporting on super-active Food Revolution groups and introducing “Professionals” in our schools and communities who lead the way.

Onward and upward

Thanks to summer survey that 18,000 Food Revolutionaries filled out, we know about the issues that interest you most. As we enter 2012, we will continue to promote fresh food in schools and cooking education for kids. We will take on junk food in schools and help you understand how the Farm Bill can support fresh fruits and vegetables for everyone. And we will definitely keep telling stories of the Food Revolution from around the country!

Thank you for all your support in 2011!

The Food Revolution Team


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