Most of us are aware of the obesity rates that our country faces. It’s a national crisis that is often brushed under the carpet. With mega-food companies pushing for the cheapest ingredients in food, and a financially struggling public school system, it’s no wonder that we have seen unhealthy meals being served to unsuspecting students who are having enough problems retaining their course information, let alone worrying about how many calories they are ingesting.
The best way to fight the national obesity epidemic is through education… and our schools.
While some 2012 USDA food quality measures are beginning to take hold, there needs to be additional input from parents and anyone else that is concerned with not only obesity rates, but the high rate of diet-related diseases that affect our entire population.
For the first time, Youth leaders with Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities – Youth Advisors Council (HKHC-YAC) – are speaking out, asking that food sources include healthier options and local organic farm products in school diets. To that end, there is an upcoming opportunity to present these requests directly to the Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) Food Service Department, in conjunction with parents, students, teachers, and administrators. The event is being called “Just Lead… the way to better school meals”, and is part of the 2nd Buffalo Food Policy Summit.
Regarding the student-led effort, Assunta Ventresca, Director of BPS Health Related Services said “We are very enthusiastic about having students lead the charge in creating a healthier school community, creating healthier options and healthier meals in schools. We need students to be leaders in making change.”
Bridget O’Brien Wood*, Director of the BPS Food Service Department said, “With the 2012 USDA requirements in place for school lunch and now entering our second year following the BPS wellness policy, we are excited to start focusing our efforts on meeting the needs of our students. Working with each school’s wellness team we hope to create a lunch menu that specifically meets the taste preference of their students.”
In April 2012, the Buffalo Public Schools Board of Education unanimously passed a District Wellness Policy which put in place district-mandated School Wellness Teams that were tasked with making sure that the health-related needs of the schools are addressed. In May of last year, Massachusetts Avenue Project (along with the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC), Buffalo Partnership and others) succeeded in an effort to get a Food Policy Council put in place for Buffalo and Erie County. That effort has helped to contribute to a grassroots movement that has led to support from the district-wide BPS Nutrition Committee. The results from those efforts include “plate waste studies, surveys, and assessments of school meal programs, and training for adults and students who participate in their School Wellness Teams.”
The “Just Lead” event will include training for policy-makers in hopes that the results from the research will be able to find in-roads into the public school lunch program. At the same time, national and local food policy experts will be coming to town be part of the discussions and to share their own findings with attendees that will include members of District Parent Coordinating Council Buffalo (DPCC).
Food Policy Summit | Wednesday, October 23rd from 5-7:30pm | Burchfield-Penney Arts Center
*O’Brien Wood is on the speaking program for Just Lead. Other speakers include HKHC-YAC youth leaders Dillon Hill and Bernard Rice, the BPS District Wellness Coordinator Dr. Sue Baldwin, and Jessica Bauer Walker, Chair of the District Parent Coordinating Council Health Committee. Dan Oles of Promiseland CSA and Oles Family Farm will be Master of Ceremonies and will facilitate a discussion on what changes Buffalo families would like to see for school meals.
This free event is open to the public and presented by HKHC-YAC, the Buffalo Public Schools Health Related Services Department, the Buffalo Public Schools Food Service Department, and more.
Just Lead will center around engaging the community in an effort to improve school meals. It will be a festive event with food, activities, a raffle, information about school meals, local businesses and food advocacy organizations, and a short speaking program.
Learn more at https://mapgrowinggreen.wufoo.com/forms/just-lead/.