Tuesday, April 27, 2010

School Food for Thought

It’s Tuesday which means Nathan has been out all morning making deliveries in the Local Food Hub truck: today, it’s box after box of delicious local apples going to school after school after school.  In fact, we now provide food to forty-five schools in the Charlottesville-Albemarle region.

That’s right. Despite the challenges we face when it comes to school lunch programs – I mean, have you seen Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution?? -- kids in our area are getting at least some fresh, local food at school. The purchase of this food is mostly funded by the USDA’s Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program, which provides healthy snacks during school. We think fruits and veggies make great snacks, and we’re excited to see so many schools making a commitment to healthy food and completing the farm to school connection.

But, we want to see more. Local Food Hub thinks kids deserve fresh fruit and vegetables in their meals, too, not just at snack time. There are plenty of obstacles – ill-equipped kitchens, lack of money, lack of training, nutty nutritional guidelines, to name a few – but there are also plenty of ways we can work together to start fixing this situation. Here are a few:

  1. Support the Local Food Hub. As a nonprofit, we rely on your support to keep our programs running.  Our distribution service makes it easy for schools to access a wide range of fresh food grown right here in our community, just by calling a single phone number. Ordering is easy and efficient, and we deliver in our refrigerated truck, a requirement by the school system.

    We also understand the tight budgets that schools must work within and we do our best to provide as much nutritious food as within those constraints, while still securing fair prices for our farmers. It can be done! We’ve even worked with some public schools to secure grants and other funding to increase fresh fruit and vegetable purchases.

  2. Learn more about the Child Nutrition Act (CNA), and consider taking action. I found this Q&A useful and interesting. CNA is a federal law that governs the school meal programs, which feed more than 31 million children every school day. Right now, school lunch programs have about $1 per meal to pay for food. Schools do their best to stretch that dollar, but it's simply not enough to provide kids with the food they need to stay healthy and to perform well in the classroom.

    Luckily, this bill is up for reauthorization this year, so there’s still a chance for your voice to be heard.  Send a letter to your elected official and let them know how you feel. Get involved!

  3. Spread the word.  Think healthy school lunches are important?  Believe in our local economy and farm-to-school connections?  Tell your friends and family. Write a post on your blog or Facebook profile.  These third graders staged a letter writing campaign.  These Charlottesville ladies started the C'ville School Food Initiative.  
There are so many ways to be a part of this -- do you have other ideas?

image credit: bookgrl/Creative Commons

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