On Wednesday, October 23rd, over 200 members of the Buffalo community came out for the 2nd Buffalo Food Policy Summit. The Food Policy Summit opened at 5:00 PM with Just Lead, an event hosted by the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities Youth Advisors Council (HKHC-YAC). The Just Lead event focused on improving school meals in Buffalo and was MC’ed by a local farmer, Dan Oles. A variety of speakers were on the program including HKHC-YAC youth, a parent activist, and leaders from the Buffalo Public School district. The speakers talked about how students, parents, and teachers can get involved in improving school meals through school wellness teams based at each Buffalo Public School (BPS).
Just Lead was a kick-off for school wellness teams in Buffalo meant to engage youth and community support for health and wellness initiatives in schools. Although any school (public,private,or charter) can benefit from having a school wellness team, each BPS school is mandated by the district to have a team. The school wellness teams will ensure there is a space for students, parents and teachers to get involved in implementing the district’s new Wellness Policy, making changes to things like school meals, and providing overall support for bringing about a healthier school community.
Using a facilitators guide developed by Action for Healthy Communities, HKHC-YAC will support student leaders to participate on their school wellness teams by identifying the needs of their school community and coming up with changes that are suitable for their school. The school wellness teams will not just work to improve school meals, instead each team will help develop an individual wellness plan for their school community through conducting a School Health Index. There may be support from local colleges and universities in conducting the School Health Index, and additionally, HKHC-YAC will support student leaders through a one day training and monthly meeting called Students Taking Charge (funding for a substitute will be provided to cover the faculty advisors absence). The date for the first Students Taking Charge training is scheduled for Thursday, November 21st, 2013.
Youth participating in HKHC-YAC are already recognized in Buffalo for their leadership on issues important to teenagers. This past Spring, HKHC-YAC members succeeded in securing two seats for youth on the newly formed Food Policy Council of Buffalo and Erie County. Two years ago, the HKHC-YAC youth worked with NFTA to expand bus service for students at Tapestry Charter School and increase the flexibility of the bus passes to better serve the needs of students. This year, HKHC-YAC is concerned with improving school meals. In a Buffalo News article dated October 22, one of the HKHC-YAC youth leaders, Bernard Lamar Rice, is quoted about his concerns regarding the current school meal program and his vision for healthier school meals. Click here to read the article.
We hope that the Buffalo community students,parents, and faculty will continue to support the work of HKHC-YAC by signing up to become an active member of the initiative and their School Wellness Team. To sign up or for more information, please contact Rebekah Williams at Rebekah@mass-ave.org or by phone at (716) 882-5327.