Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Free Dinners for D.C. Public School Children

Photo source: LA Times

We at the Organic School Project see that there are two main defects in the current system of feeding our nation’s kids: one being that far too many children consume processed, sugary, and generally unhealthy foods when they’re at school for lunch, and the other being that this may be the only meal that some children get all day. Needless to say, the two are very related, and both play a leading role in the childhood obesity epidemic that our country is currently facing.

One program implemented by the Washington D.C. public school system is taking a step to combat this epidemic. As reported by the Washington Post, some of the schools in our nation’s capital have begun offering free, healthy, locally sourced dinners to as many as 10,000 students.

The program was started for two main reasons: 1. Many kids staying after school for programs or activities remained at school well into the evening, missing what would normally be considered “dinnertime,” and 2. some children were simply not eating dinner at home. Due in part to the most recent recession, many families are unable to provide dinner, forcing many kids to eat their one and only meal of the day while at school.

Though the program does cost the school district an additional $5.7 million dollars, we must keep in mind that this is not money going down the drain; it is an investment in our nation’s future. And to us, the dollar amount becomes a minor detail when it means the difference between promoting nourishing versus detrimental eating habits, don’t you think?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The “Great American Salad Bar Project”

Photo source: Food Share

A recent article from environmental news source, Grist, discussed the launching of the “Great American Salad Bar Project,” and we at the Organic School Project like what we’re reading!

Along with many political and social other factors weighing on them, many public schools cannot afford the maintenance that school kitchens require, forcing them to shut down fully-equipped kitchens to replace them with heat-and-serve style facilities. This, as we are well aware, leads the to processed, poor-nutritional quality lunches for our nation’s kids, fostering anything but a healthy lifestyle and approach to food.

The project, launched by Ann Cooper, seeks to raise this money with help from partnering companies, the first of which is Whole Foods. By raising money donated from its customers at the checkout line, Whole Foods has raised $1.4 million, which will translate into 300 salad bars being set up in schools nationwide by the Salad Bar Project.

But the job does not end there: schools awarded these salad bars will not be given the funds to fill them with fresh produce. Instead, the program will provide the actual salad bar, as well as training for administrators and cafeteria staff, so that they can be better prepared to apply for grants and learn how to successfully run a salad bar, respectively.

Take a look at the full story from Grist here, the program’s website, and be sure to look out for the “Great American Salad Bar Project” next time you’re at the store—helping to bring better food to our schools is getting more convenient by the day!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Get the Scoop on Stuff

Have you heard about or watched the “Story of Stuff?”

If not, you’re about to.

The Story of Stuff project was created by Annie Leonard, an author that supports sustainability and is against excessive consumerism because of the effects. “Annie is fiercely dedicated to reclaiming and transforming our industrial and economic systems so they serve, rather than undermine, ecological sustainability and social equity,” says her bio.

The “Story of Stuff” video addresses and explains the life cycle of the materials we acquire in our lives. It’s eye opening because we don’t see how things are made or what happens to those things after we throw them in the trash; we just see them in the store, in our homes, and then out the door. There is way more to know about our things!

In a collaboration with Leonard and WGBH, the Boston division of PBS, they have created similar videos, Loop Scoops, for kids! Now kids can learn about the things they have and the impacts on the environment.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

In the News: Banning Soda Purchases From NY Food Stamp Program

As many of you have most likely been reading, a hot topic in the news this month has been surrounding NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to exclude soda and sugary drinks from the state’s list of food stamp-eligible purchases. There are plenty of opinions both for and against the ban as it relates to barring an individual’s purchasing power, the right of the individual to make decisions, etc., but what does this proposal really imply in regards to the future of our nation’s health initiatives?

We at The Organic School Project see this proposal as a great step in the right direction toward promoting better health among our citizens, especially for our children. While sodas and sugary drinks used to be reserved for only certain occasions, these beverages are now being consumed by our nation’s kids in alarming amounts, bringing with it ever-increasing cases of childhood obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.

Currently, the nation’s food stamp program bans the use of its funds from a number of purchases, such as cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, and certain prepared foods items. By the looks of this list, it’s clear that the program seeks to prevent its participants from making unhealthy purchases, of which sodas and sugary drinks most definitely qualify.

Recognized as a major contributor to both adult and childhood cases of obesity and diabetes, should the purchase and consumption of these drinks (oftentimes cheaper to buy than water!) be regulated similarly to the purchase of tobacco and alcoholic beverages? What do you think?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

National School Lunches Week

As some of you may have been aware, the week before last was national school lunches week! While there were many great events promoting healthy food in schools all last week, there are tons of great resources available to learn about, promote, and support healthy lunches in schools, every week of the year!

A great website by the School Nutrition Association where kids can learn healthy eating tips, and ways to ensure they’re eating a balanced meal:

Check out Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign website, as it is a great source for news and updates on the campaign’s progress:

Read up on the USDA’s program to promote physical activities in schools, healthy foods, and overall wellness in children:

Healthy Schools Campaign has a program of their own where they do the same promotion of healthy activities, food, and wellness for children in the Chicago Public School system:

Again, we thank HSC for putting together this great list of resources, and we love being reminded of what great company we’re in to combat childhood obesity!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Real World Marketing In the Cafeteria

The USDA is giving $2 million to food behavior scientists to find ways to use psychology in hopes of battling obesity and improve kids’ use of the school lunch program, says CBS News.

Small changes borrowed from the food and restaurant marketing world will be used. Some tweaks will be: hiding the chocolate milk behind the plain milk, moving fruits into pretty baskets, keeping ice cream desserts in freezers without glass displays, and putting the salad bars next to the checkout registers.

This new initiative by the USDA will also include the formation of a child nutrition center at Cornell University. Their focus will be in developing “smart lunchrooms” that would guide kids to choose better options even when bad options are around.

This initiative isn’t to take away options and to put healthier counterparts in their places. It’s not forcing them take the better option. It’s to help the kids choose better options on their own.

I think the incorporation of real world marketing in the cafeterias is so clever. One thing I know is I am definitely one of those customers whose eyes happen to investigate the items scattered around the checkout counter and make unneeded impulsive buys. Imagine if kids’ eyes fell upon veggies such as baby carrots or grape tomatoes…

Read more about the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service and Economic Research Service.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

HSC’s Chef in the Classroom Day

We at The Organic School project love the idea of bringing food—real, healthy food—into the hands and mouths of today’s school children. And that’s exactly what Healthy Schools Campaign’s Chef in the Classroom Day is doing!

October 4, 2010 was HSC’s official Chef in the Classroom Day, bringing over 60 chefs into the classrooms of elementary schools all over Chicago. HSC gave a breakdown of what the day consisted of:

  • 67 chefs
  • 67 schools
  • 4000+ students
  • 300+ pounds of fresh vegetables (my rough estimate)
  • 1 coordinated nutrition education curriculum
  • Dozens of supportive partners

The day was put on in partnership with the Go for the Gold campaign, a campaign dedicated to supporting Chicago schools in their efforts to bring healthy food, physical and nutrition education to students. This effort goes hand in hand with the Healthier US School Challenge set by First Lady Michelle Obama.

Check out HSC’s more comprehensive report on the day, including a video, photos, and a map of the participating Chicago schools. What a cool event!

Friday, October 8, 2010


On Halloween from 6 to close, you can get a discounted burrito, bowl, salad or tacos for $2 at Chipotle if you dress up as a processed food!

It’s to help raise a million dollars to go towards Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

Think of all the possibilities…it’s almost scary.

DC School Implements a School Garden

Check out this video from CNN’s Eatocracy that profiles a Washington D.C. Elementary school embracing the benefits of school gardens! Taking the classroom outside to learn about growing, eating, and composting food, these kids are getting a real-world math, science, and health lesson all at once.
As this case shows us, when kids grow, learn, and eat in the garden, their interest in all kinds of foods peaks, showing them that there’s more to eating than taking it out of the freezer and popping it in the microwave.
And after you check out the video, be sure to take a look at the school’s blog at:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tom Colicchio Addresses Food in Schools

Photo Credit:

Tom Colicchio, restaurateur and head judge of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, sat down for an interview with CNN’s Eatocracy to discuss food in schools and children’s access to food. As the son of a school cafeteria manager, Colicchio understands the importance of school food, as it may be the only meal of the day for many children.

Prior to sitting down for this interview, Colicchio spoke out in support of the Child Nutrition Act as it came up in the House.

In the interview, Colicchio emphasizes the importance of ensuring access to meals at school for all children, and to making those meals healthy. We at The Organic School Project feel the same way. Check out the interview, and peruse Eatocracy’s website for more food news.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Big Step

The U.S. isn’t the only one trying to fight obesity; Mexico is too. Felipe Calderon, Mexico’s president, said, "Unfortunately, we are the country with the biggest problem of childhood obesity in the entire world,” with about 26% of all Mexican children being overweight, reports Fox News.

Experts say soft drinks and prepackaged snacks play a big role in the obesity rate.

Mexico wants to ban the sale of junk food in schools, including traditional treats. The Health department wants the ban to go into effect next school year, but first experts will have to approve of the change. The ban can help about 25 million kids!

There are a few things to consider though. One potential problem is that junk food vendors can set up right outside of school gates. Another is only a few schools offer their students hot meals and the students could be ravenous by the end of the day. Imagine very hungry children pouring out of the schools only to be swarmed with junk food.

I am not sure how the ban will play out, but at least Mexico is trying to tackle this.