Clearly, I am not a writer or journalist or I would know how to come up with catchy headline to highlight the real champions for change in school food from 25 big cities that met in Chicago over this past weekend. (My friends and colleagues have asked me to start a blog, and I have resisted because it doesn’t matter what I think -- what is important is to get the word out about the really exciting work you all are doing out there!)
This gathering was hosted by the School Food FOCUS initiative (www.schoolfoodfocus.org). which is transforming Food Options for Children in Urban Schools (thus named FOCUS) . FOCUS cities include Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Milwaukee, New York, Oakland, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Portland, Saint Paul, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC. – among others.
I want to congratulate School Food FOCUS for bringing together these champion food service managers, community partners with local food industry folks and the key staff from the U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) who are committed to improving school meals. – that is providing healthy food in ways that build on the local and regional food economies, without providing more harm to the environment. (USDA has recently put tog ether a food environments atlas to help communities understand food choices with community characteristics: www.ers.usda.gov/FoodAtlas/ )
The event reinforces First Lady Michelle Obama’s program to fight childhood obesity, Let’s Move (http://letsmove.gov) which also focuses also on healthier food in schools. Gail Christopher, of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation also made an impassioned statement about the health disparities and young children – particularly African-American and Hispanic – who are particularly vulnerable to the influences of the neighborhoods and environments they are raised in.
Coincidently, the TV reality chef Jamie Oliver – who also had his camera rolling at this meeting — debuted’s his Food Revolution program Friday highlighting the epidemic of childhood obesity. While this TV is clearly aimed a ratings and perhaps a little shock value, Oliver’s more thoughtful ideas of school food can be seen in his TED presentation from this past February:www.ted.com/talks/jamie_oliver.html .
Also, Deb Eschmeyer of the National Farm to School Network (www.farmtoSchool.org) reports that, the One Tray policy team’s initiatives (http://onetray.org/) on Child Nutrition (Http://www.schoolmealsmatter.org/ ) and many other groups are highlighted on Oliver’s website in the School Food section. In addition, Chef Ann Cooper is featured along with her LunchBox Project. In addition, there is a separate section for Food Heroes.
As Hank Herrara points out ”Jamie Oliver is “is very late to the battle. He rides into it far behind the army that has done the fighting”. Writer, and Food and Society Fellow Andrea King Collier thinks it may be unfair to call Jamie late to the party without saying that he has the potential to do what folks in the field cannot. She says he should be considered a worthy partner and “ bravo” to who anyone who can communicate outside food activists’ lane!
The episodes are all available online: http://abc.go.com/watch/jamie-olivers-food-revolution/250784/255823/episode-102
C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems
Dept of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies (CARRS)
Michigan State University
309 Natural Resources Building
East Lansing, MI. 48824-1222
Phone: (517) 432-0309 * Cell: (313)492-3496
Fax: (517) 353-3834