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Childhood Obesity: Turning the Ship Around

Three days ago I met Tae-Young Nam. He’s a recent University of Wisconsin grad, who studied pre-medicine in college, and spent last year serving in Chicago public schools as a teaching assistant with City Year. He’s headed off this coming week to Anthony, New Mexico to become a FoodCorps service member. He’ll be teaching kids about healthy food, building and tending school gardens with them, and collaborating with school food staff to get high quality local food onto school lunch trays. Read more

New Agtivist: Fixing School Lunch in the Nation’s Capital

Andrea Northup grew up with cows in her backyard. But it wasn’t until she visited France, and caught a glimpse of how a whole country can revolve around a robust food culture, that she found her calling.

Northup went on to launch the D.C. Farm to School Network, a nonprofit dedicated to providing healthier school food in 200 public schools and 90 charter schools in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2008. Since then, she’s been on a mission to transform school lunch menus one piece of fresh, locally grown produce at a time. And Northup has her hands full: The first orange food most D.C. kids can think of isn’t carrots, she says, it’s Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Her greatest accomplishment to date: playing a principal role in the passage and implementation of the landmark Healthy Schools Act of 2010, which makes D.C. one of the first jurisdictions in the country to provide financial incentives to schools that serve local food and offer nutrition education in the classroom.

Northup, 25, was recently honored with a Natural Resources Defense Council Growing Green Award in the Young Food Leader category. Read more

The Child Nutrition Bill: A Litmus Test for Future Food Policy

When the House returns to work this week they will likely be considering the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, twice extended as legislators struggled over the details. According to The Hill 80 percent of Americans support expansion of the act to “provide healthier food and cover more kids.” Yet in the current climate of economic crisis, finding the funding for this expansion has been a nearly insurmountable challenge. If this bill is not passed within the current lame-duck session, the new session of Congress will have to start over, perhaps with a diminished commitment to its expansion. In fact, there is reason to believe that there will be no work done the week after Thanksgiving, which means this week is make-or-break week for the bill. Read more

Child Nutrition Bill Passes the Senate, Food Stamp Funding Takes Cut

In a surprise move yesterday before heading out for five weeks of recess, the Senate passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act with unanimous consent, which means all 100 senators agreed to pass the bill without an individual vote. The bill allots an additional $4.5 billion dollars over ten years to fund federal child nutrition programs including school lunch.

First Lady Michelle Obama supported the bill as part of her Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity, writing in an op-ed in The Washington Post last week,”This groundbreaking legislation will bring fundamental change to schools and improve the food options available to our children.”

Though providing less than the requested $10 billion suggested by Let’s Move, this marks the first major step towards the most significant increase in funding on the child nutrition programs in 30 years. In a statement yesterday, the First Lady said, “While childhood obesity cannot be solved overnight, with everyone working together, there’s no question that it can be solved. And today’s vote moves us one step closer to reaching that goal.” 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

Feeding Our Kids Better School Lunch

In 1946, when President Truman signed the School Lunch Act, he said, “In the long view, no nation is healthier than its children, or more prosperous than its farmers.” If that was a statement of purpose rather than merely a rhetorical flourish, then the School Lunch Act has failed.

Today in America we have steadily rising rates of childhood obesity, and if you were born after 2000, you have a startling one-in-three chance of developing early-onset diabetes. Meanwhile America now has more prisoners than farmers, and among those few remaining farmers the average age is 57.1 and rising. The equation becomes quite simple to understand: No farmers equals no food. Read more

Dear Mom-In-Chief,

As First Lady you have the ability to set the table for what our nation’s children eat by adding a plank of food justice to your platform. Many ideas have already been sent your way, including starting an organic garden on the White House lawn and appointing a First Farmer. But where should you start?

I request that you make the health of our nation’s children your platform priority. Especially with two growing girls to nurture and nourish, you must understand that we will only be successful as a nation when all children in our country are healthy and well-fed. Read more