If you’ve seen Food Inc., no doubt you’ll recognize this no-B.S. farmer. I left the theater wanting to hear more from him. And now I can:
“The new nutrition standards would be written by the Agriculture Department, which would decide which kinds of foods may be sold and what ingredients can be used on school lunch lines and in vending machines. The new standards would likely keep popular foods like hamburgers and pizza in school cafeterias but make them healthier, using leaner meat or whole wheat crust, for example. Vending machines could be stocked with less candy and fewer high-calorie drinks.”
A few questions:
Why are school menus determined by the Agriculture Department? Is that a conflict of interest?
Where is the nutrition education (and taste education) that will help kids prefer healthy whole foods over the fast-food menu items offered on most school menus?
Let’s make whole grains, fruits and vegetables — in their whole state, not in a whole-grain corn dog coating — accessible and appealing so kids prefer them over junk food.
Experts agree healthy kids learn better. That’s why next month, Bistro Kids is sponsoring a Food Educator training with Dr. Antonia Demas, creator of the Food is Elementary curriculum. In this informative and inspiring two-day training, participants will learn how to implement the award-winning curriculum, which provides a framework for improving students’ health by teaching them about food, nutrition and cooking through dynamic multi-cultural lessons that fully engage their senses. Here are the details. Seating is limited so don’t wait!
August 11-12, 2010
9 a.m. – 4 p.m. daily
Crossroads Church, 7917 Main St, KCMO 64114
Registration Fee: $165 (Includes a copy of Food is Elementary by Antonia Demas)
College and Continuing Education credit information available at training
Lunch Provided On Thursday Only
To register, send this form with your payment to the address on the form: Food Educator Training Registration Form
How is Food is Elementary different from other nutrition education programs?
Food is Elementary does more than teach children about healthy eating – it improves their eating behaviors. Students learn basic food preparation and cooking skills in a way that engages their natural curiosity. It empowers them to make good food choices by providing accurate information about the link between food and disease prevention.
Food is Elementary is accessible and inclusive. Recipes use healthy commodity foods such as beans and whole grains, which are inexpensive for families and school nutrition providers. The program is designed to involve families and community partners through classroom teaching, school meals, community dinners, gardens, and collaborative mural projects. Respect, tolerance, compassion and other values are reinforced in each lesson.
Food is Elementary has demonstrated remarkable success in improving the physical and mental health of children. Documented results from research-based studies include:
- The development of preference for fruits, vegetables and whole foods over processed foods
- Reduced Body Mass Index and improved general health within weeks of educational intervention
- A welcomed introduction of plant-based entrees into school lunch programs
- Parents choosing healthier foods due to the influence of their children
- Dramatic improvement in the behavior, mind set and academic performance of troubled teens
Food is Elementary is being taught in 2,000 across the country. Here are some real-life stories:
School Food Reform, One No-Bake Tart at a Time, The Atlantic, June 24, 2010
Food For Life Engages Senses in Baltimore Students, Baltimore Volunteerism Examiner, June 2, 2010
Teaching Young Students to Enjoy Nutritious School Meals, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 8, 2010
Food Education in Action, T. Colin Campbell Foundation Interviews on Plant-based Nutrition
Notes from the Field: Food Is Elementary, Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Pubic Health, Johns Hopkins University
The Lunchroom Chronicles: Can an irrepressible new Orleans chef put the food back into Baltimore school lunch? Urbanite Magazine, November 1, 2008
I’m that mom. You know, the one quizzing her kid at the grocery store, reading labels, translating our complicated food system so a 4 year old can relate. That’s me. (At least it is on the days when we have a little extra time. Otherwise, it’s “No…” and “Because I said so.”)
To the people trying to squeeze past us in the narrow aisles, I’m annoying. (And to be honest, I’m annoying to myself at these moments.) But I have to do this now, while she’ll still listen to me, while I’m still her favorite person (on most days). After all, it’s me against the junk food giants with their billion dollar marketing budgets. They want her to listen to them when they tell her it’s “healthy.” They want to be her favorite people (cartoon characters, I mean). They want her to give them our money and they don’t care what happens to her body or her brain. That’s my job.
The only way I know how to do my job is to lift the curtain on the Wizard and help her learn to think critically about the food she’s eating. Our conversations go something like this:
- I ask her to pick out fruits and vegetables in all the colors of the rainbow. Not only do we have a beautiful selection of vegetables to cook with when we get home, at the register, when she complains she didn’t get anything “special,” I tell her “Oh but you did. Look, you got the purple cabbage, the cherry tomatoes,” and so on. (It seems like a trick, but she really was excited about those things when we started.)
- She wants Froot Loops. I read the label to her and ask her to give a thumbs up for food that can be found in a kitchen, a thumbs down for anything else. “That’s weird,” I say, “how come there wasn’t any fruit listed?!?” “Ewwww!” she says, with a double thumbs down. (Now we know why it’s not spelled F-r-u-i-t Loops.)
- At the natural food store (there is no rest for the weary) she wants the canned pasta Arthur is hawking. “Wow, I didn’t know Arthur could cook,” I say. What follows goes sort of like this:
- Me: Did Arthur help make that?
- Her: No! (What a silly mommy!)
- Me: Does it taste better because he’s on the package?
- Her: No!
- Me: Look at this one without Arthur. Same food, but it costs less. Do we want to pay more for Arthur on the package?
- Her: No!
- Me: (Silent WooHoo!)
I don’t know if this is best, but it’s the best I can do right now. Hopefully these teachable moments will lead to a healthy awareness of our food system and a lifetime of healthy choices.
For more information on food marketing, check out these resources from The Center for Science in the Public Interest:
I just downloaded Healthy Snacks to Go, an e-cookbook from Katie Kimball at Kitchen Stewardship. The book is full of real-food recipes that will give us a break from the boiled eggs and pbj sandwiches I pack on every day trip so we can avoid the fast food drive-through. Thank you, THANK YOU Katie!
This Wednesday, Kansas City’s Planning and Zoning Committee will have a hearing on proposed urban ag code changes. At the last meeting, the committee finally began to wrestle with the specifics of the ordinance, so we are hopeful that we have a chance at getting them to vote on an ordinance that makes sense and is workable.
City Ordinances Can Help Increase Access to Healthy, Locally Grown Foods
Did you know…?
- In Jackson County, nearly 37,000 low-income people don’t have a car and live more than a mile from the nearest full service grocery store.
- In bi-state KC, 63% of adults are overweight or obese.
- In the states of KS and MO, 31% of kids are overweight and obese.
- In 43 low-income schools in KCK and KCMO, 34% of kindergarteners are overweight or obese. By fifth grade, that number jumps to 41%.
- According to the Missouri Hunger Atlas, 16% of kids in Jackson County are food insecure, 28% are eligible for food stamps, and 47% are eligible free and reduced lunches.
There are too many neighborhoods in Kansas City where:
- Liquor stores and fast food joints are easier to find than a fresh carrot, head of lettuce, or home-grown tomato.
- The people who suffer disproportionately from diabetes, hypertension, and other diet-related diseases can’t easily follow the doctor’s orders to “eat more fruits and vegetables.”
In communities like these, the city ordinance that we have proposed which would allow a home gardener or someone running a garden micro-enterprise to sell fresh-grown produce to their neighbors could be an effective strategy to help people get access to healthy food.
If you think that Kansas City, MO needs to support this small step to increasing access to healthy foods, please:
1. Show up at the Planning & Zoning Committee Hearing on Wednesday, 1:30pm, at City Hall, 414. E 12th Street. The hearing will be either on the 10th floor in City Council Chambers, or on the 26th floor, in the Hearing Room. (Stop in at the info desk in the lobby to ask.)
2. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them that you want them to support the ordinance because our city needs to support neighborhood-based access to healthy foods!
Kansas City needs to support healthy, lively communities where residents can grow food and feed their neighbors!
I brought the ingredients for this healthy soda to a recent SHNAK meeting. The student LOVED it! They said it was the best soda they’ve ever had. They said they would want their moms to make it for their birthday parties. Then one said “It’s good because you can’t taste the blueberries!” Oh well, two-outta-three, right?!?
This blueberry soda doesn’t just taste great, it helps kids learn to enjoy the real flavors of fruit. It’s also easy enough for very young children to make. You can vary the amounts depending on the size of your cup or pitcher. In smaller cups, the blueberries can replace ice, in bigger cups or pitchers, add ice before adding the other ingredients.
Cranberry juice made with 100% juice
1. Put blueberries in bottom of cup or pitcher.
2. Fill cup or pitcher half full with cranberry juice
3. Top off with sparkling water.
You can find more healthy tips in this guide I created for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and KC Healthy Kids: “Healthy Alternatives to School Celebrations, Rewards, Fundraisers and Snacks.”