We Need A School Food Revolution!

By Chantal Kwade

There needs to be a food revolution in K-12 public schools.  The effects of children not having a healthy diet can take a toll on the body, leading to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more.  Healthier kids learn and function better in school.  If children are exposed to fresh healthy produce at an early age, they will learn to love it as they grow.  When students go away for college, they will know what’s best for their bodies, and they will enjoy more healthy food.  Even though kids need a healthier alternative for lunch, the cost of healthy food is expensive.  Despite the cost, it is better to have quality food in our system then foods that make us sick.

Food in college has been a good experience besides the fact that it needs more salt, pepper and flavor.  They have different varieties for those who eat meat and those who are vegetarian or vegan.  Many colleges, such as the school I attend (Buffalo State College), considers those who have common food allergies and they will not put certain foods or additives in the school meals.  Colleges have salad bars with mixed vegetables and a fruit section.  College food has a mixture of all types of food as well as having healthy food and produce. The situation of produce not being locally grown is another issue that should be dealt with.  A student at Hampshire College in Massachusetts stated “local food has opened our eyes, our hearts, and our wallets, all at the same time.”  It would be better if all colleges also used locally grown produce, but at least there are healthier food options for college students.

K-12 schools will benefit from following what colleges are doing and serving children healthier food.  I recently read an article, “How One Visionary Changed School Food in Detroit”, about how in the Detroit school system they serve produce from gardens and local farmers.  The budget for food for the Detroit school system increased by 28% because they decided to implement healthier alternatives in their meals.  Changing the food in the school lunches may take a lot of money, especially if you are going the local route.  Everything requires money; and for kids to have healthy, local foods, it's going to take more money.  Money has to be spent, so that our children won't get the alternative: cheap, fatty, sugary, and oily foods, that make them sicker faster, and at earlier ages.  By starting to change the foods we eat at an early age, we can save many lives and decrease the time we spend going to hospitals for poor eating habits.

Parents, friends, educators, and families need to come together to help children get adapted to eating healthy foods and produce. This years' 2015 Farm-to-School Act will help because it could include support for farm to school for preschools, summer and after-school programs.  With our encouragement, legislators could agree to support an increase in annual funding from $5 million to $15 million dollars.  Changes to the act could also improve tribal schools’ access to farm-fresh and traditional foods, especially from tribal producers.  The program could also help increase participation in farm to school from beginning, veteran, and socially-disadvantage farmers.  The Farm-to-School Act can continue and even increase federal grant funding that can help lift the financial burden that many schools experience when trying to include farm to school in their districts.

So, consider reaching out to your legislators to encourage them to support the Farm to School Act.  Eating healthy is a great investment in our children’s lives; it will be beneficial for them today, and when they start having kids of their own.

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