Svelte, Healthy & Very Alive

I was skeptical and sighing heavily when I pressed play to view Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead. I immediately thought, “With such a negative title, this documentary will be a) depressing and b) preachy.”

I’m an optimistic person though–hence my dislike for the title–so I tried to toss out the judgmental thoughts and, as it turns out, my initial impression was pleasantly proven wrong. Read more

Happy Anniversary Let’s Move! FoodCorps Recruiting First Class of Service Members

One year ago this week, the Obama administration launched Let’s Move, an initiative to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.  It’s an ambitious–but critically important–goal.

In the last 30 years, the percentage of American children who are overweight or obese has tripled. Diet-related disease, diminished academic performance and a shortened life expectancy threaten the future of our kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three American children born in the year 2000 is on a path toward Type II diabetes. Among children of color, the figure approaches one in two. Retired Generals describe a coming crisis of national security: already, 27 percent of 17-24 year olds are ineligible for military service because of excess body fat.

This administration has placed a strong emphasis on healthy futures for our children, and rightly so: America’s sweeping epidemic of childhood obesity requires us to martial a national response. Read more

FoodCorps Call for Host Sites

A new service program promises to recruit an army of volunteers to help transform school food and, perhaps, groom a new generation of farmers.

Over the last three years, I have received thousands of emails, calls, letters, and in person requests from around the country reiterating the same query: “I love the concept of Farm to School programs, but how do I get started in my community’s school? Our budgets are tight and we just don’t have the sweat equity and the labor to pull it off.”

Normally, I answer by walking through the steps of starting a program and briefly assessing the situation in the school environment: do they have a working kitchen? Are there local farmers interested in selling to the school? Is the Food Service Director on board with incorporating fresh, local product? And so on.

But this time, I can excitedly add to my answer, “Have you heard of FoodCorps?” Read more

Gardening for the Next Generation

Gardening is hot, and I don’t mean just sweaty work in July while you hoe the purslane and harvest beans, squash, and zucchini.  Working the land is a trendy topic from web-rooted FarmVille to the White House to the written word.

Part of the reason for the new interest in the simple but yet so intensely complex act of growing food is that we have a clear problem and myriad solutions. The problem: obesity rates increased in 28 states in the past year. As recently reported in “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2010,” obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges our country has faced. With 1 in 3 US children age 2-19 overweight or obese, we need to end this trend and fortunately, many organizations, initiatives, and resources aim to solve child obesity in a generation.

Part of the solution starts with students and a seed. Read more

Let’s Move Child Nutrition

Can you show the Mom-in-Chief how motivated we are to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act?

Back in April I attended the White House Childhood Obesity Summit on behalf of the National Farm to School Network as reported here. The purpose of the summit was to gather input from experts to create a roadmap leading to children reaching adulthood at a healthy weight.

On Tuesday, the White House Childhood Obesity Report [PDF] was released. One particular challenge of the taskforce was to create benchmarks of success, leading to the focused goal of returning to a childhood obesity rate of 5% by 2030. Read more

What I Learned at Michelle Obama’s Historic Obesity Summit

When President Obama established a “Presidential task force on childhood obesity” in February, Grist’s Tom Laskawy wondered whether our nation’s first federal food policy council had quietly sprung into being. In a food policy council, the key stakeholders of a region’s food system come together to assess the current food situation and envision ways it might be improved. Food policy councils are a growing phenomenon at the state and municipal level, but such a thing had never existed before at the national level. Does it now?

Well, last week I had the honor of attending the new task force’s White House Childhood Obesity Summit,  and it certainly had the flavors of a food policy council: an array of food-policy players across agencies gathered to discuss a key symptom of a food system gone off the rails: childhood obesity. Read more

Jamie Oliver: Stirring Up a Food Fight

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution is cooking up more than home made meals from fresh ingredients. The show has already stirred up deeply seeded emotions about school food feeding systems…all before the first episode airs tonight!

Conversations and critiques over Jamie Oliver’s 6-part U.S. reality TV show has created quite a cacophony on listservs and talk shows, including Letterman and Oprah. The Washington Post already gave a negative review. So I can’t help but chime in, as should you. (teaser, there will be an opportunity below for possible ABC air time if you want to voice your opinion) Read more

It Takes a Rocket Scientist?

For years I have been saying that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to support Farm to School because of its common sense solution to serving local high quality food in schools and connecting children to where food comes from, but lo and behold, it does!

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12), an actual rocket scientist and five-time Jeopardy winner, has introduced legislation that would create a Farm to School grant program to fight childhood obesity and support local farmers.

“Farm to school programs exemplify the best use of federal school lunch dollars,” Holt said. “This is a rare opportunity for a win-win solution– a program to ensure our children get the best quality food at school, help foster local farm job growth, and create local economic growth.” Read more

Blowin’ In The Wind: The True Meaning Of ‘Ag Unity’

Of the 50 or so food and farm conferences I’ve attended in the last several years, the Drake Forum for America’s New Farmers: Policy Innovations & Opportunities held March 4-5 in Washington, D.C., rises to the top. Actual farmers — not just commodity crop growers but innovative “agripreneurs” like Xe Susane Moua from Minnesota and Rosanna Bauman from Kansas — got to tell the USDA what they needed to survive.

But were policymakers listening? Many of the invited speakers with a political row to hoe seemed to be concerned about one segment of farmers in particular. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack kicked off the conference with the message that to preserve and grow rural America, which is the heart and soul of this country, we need to stop thinking about big versus small and start thinking more inclusively. He shared the usual dismal statistics — the increased unemployment in these areas, the lower per-capita income, and how more than 57% of rural counties have shrunk. All to say, what we’ve been doing to conserve and grow rural America isn’t working. Read more

State of the Union on School Lunch: Nutrition as National Defense and Fiscal Health

Don’t make us tighten our belts on child nutrition programs while the girth of the nation grows. The government spends $1 million per soldier in Afghanistan, yet barely spends $1 on the food in a school lunch.

When President Obama addresses the nation in his State of the Union, he will outline his priorities for 2010: jobs, the deficit, and health care reform. The President will then call for a three-year freeze on domestic programs. Will a program created to “promote the health and well-being of the nation’s children” survive the freeze? Read more