Volunteer Committee Gains Voice In PennsylvaniaWed 26 Jan 2011
Story by Jill Florin
Five years ago, I, a parent of two children, was stunned to see funnel cake (deep fried sweet batter) as a lunch entree at the elementary school. I remember clearly thinking, “It must be a mistake, after all funnel cake is a dessert, not a lunch“.
Unfortunately, not much has changed in five years, with schools still serving funnel cake for breakfast or lunch. Although I wanted to start to encourage change back then, I felt that it would go nowhere. Then it happened: “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”. After that show I announced to my family that it was time to do something. In order to educate our kids to make healthy choices with regard to nutrition, we needed to stop feeding them highly processed sugary foods at school. School is supposed to be where kids learn the skills needed to be successful in life; this includes nutrition.
With my family’s support, I thought out a strategy and started with my elementary school’s PTA. “Nutrition in the Schools Committee” was started with 20 people and has now grown to over 100. I then met with the food service director to find out exactly what we were serving, and like many other schools, I was disappointed to learn that it was almost all processed food. After contacting all of the PTA presidents to introduce myself and my cause, I moved on to the superintendent, followed by the school board where I was able to make a presentation. The presentation helped to show the devastating health statistics that our children are facing today and the importance of schools getting involved. This helped to reach the immediate goal: create awareness. Although the school administration seemed to agree, this was going to be a very tough battle because it meant change, and we all know that change is never easy. My biggest challenge has been trying to negotiate the state requirements and financial barriers that have made this endeavor more of a “wish list” item than a reality. I was determined though, and still am, to do this. After all, it is about the future of our kids, and there is nothing more important than that.
I am proud to say that our hard work is starting to pay off! After committee members and I have attended countless school board meetings, Nutrition is now an initiative in our school district, and recently a Nutrition Advisory Committee has been formed. The ultimate goal will be examining ways to make the Upper Dublin School District nutrition- friendly. I am pleased to say that I have been very fortunate to make some connections with amazing people who have inspired me to keep going, even when it seemed like a hopeless battle. One of those people is Chef Ann Cooper, who will be speaking in our school district in February. She is truly an inspiration to us all!
Nutrition in the Schools spread its message through an educational booth at our township Community Day and a district roundtable discussion (including parents, food service personnel, administration and school board members), and has managed to start the following new initiatives within only 6 school months:
• Fruit/vegetable of the month on the school menu accompanied by its nutritional attributes.
• Lifestyle Lunch choice daily determined to be a nutritional option by the Nutrition Advisory Committee.
• Monthly taste testing, by students, of potential items for the Lifestyle Lunch menu.
Of course our goal is to eventually have EVERY item be a nutritional choice, but this is a start to the goal of fresh nutritious meals prepared on site daily.
Today we are a recognized committee in the district with many members volunteering their time to promote the cause. The Nutrition Advisory Committee and the Wellness Committee comprised of school board members, administrative members and parents are working as a team towards reaching the goals of offering freshly prepared meals and implementing nutrition education in every grade. You too can be a part of this endeavor and join our discussion group on Chef Ann Cooper’s site www.thelunchbox.org. The hope is to make this a national endeavor by working as a team to reverse a disturbing health trend. By achieving these goals, we will reach the ultimate goal of helping kids of today have healthy tomorrows.
About the author: Jill Florin is the founder of Nutrition in the Schools based in Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania
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