Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Parents and Students – vote with your fork and ACT NOW

Photos (Lexi Van de Walle): Bridgehampton Eat-in, 2009 -- Learning, Advocating, Growing, Eating, Cooking

On Labor Day, over 20,000 people across the country participated in Slow Food Eat-ins to build awareness of the National School Lunch Program, the 2009 Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization, and Slow Food's (and many other organizations) urgent goal to get more REAL FOOD into cafeterias.

I joined in on the fun at the Bridgehampton Potluck Lunch organized by Emily Herrick of the East End Slow Food USA chapter. And, spoke to the over 100 students, parents, teachers, administrators, food service mavens and local food advocates about the Child Nutrition Act and Slow Foods Goal's Platform.
"Slow Food has taken on the fight to get real food in schools because Congress is getting ready to re-authorize the Child Nutrition Act in the fall which includes the National School Lunch program.This legislation is renewed every 5 years so now is our chance to make school food better for the next five years -- until 2014.

How many of you want better school food?

Slow Food joins many organizations that are concerned about the quality of school food and wants to ask Congress to update the legislation to make cafeterias more nutritious and children healthier.

Slow Food's platform is straight forward:

1. Invest in Children’s Health. An important part of being healthy is eating nutritious food. Today, School Lunch is under funded and children do not have access to as much healthy food as they could have if there was more money. Currently, the federal government reimburses schools up to $2.57 per meal – less than a dollar is for food and the rest is for labor and overhead. Slow Food proposes increasing the federal reimbursement rate for the food portion of lunch by ONE DOLLAR to bring the amount to $3.57 and double the allocation for food.The proposed extra dollar will cover the costs of bringing in healthier foods – such as fruit and vegetables and whole grains – and higher food prices. Currently the reimbursements are $2.57 for the free lunch; $2.17 reduced priced and $0.24 for the fully paid lunches.

2. Slow Food aims to protect against foods that put children at risk. And, proposing more real food and less junk food. Today, there is too much high calorie and low nutrition food available in our schools – in the cafeteria and in vending machines. These junk foods undermine the nutrition standards of school lunch and moreover are training kids at a young age to prefer the taste of sugar, fat and salt over the naturally delicious flavors of fruit and vegetables. Many children are overweight or have diabetes due to the lack of healthy food choices in school and at often at home.

3. Teach Children Healthy Habits that Will Lass A Lifetime. How many of you have a vegetable garden at home or shop at a farm stand? I know if you go to school in Bridgehampton you have a gorgeous garden right here. Slow Food and school food advocates wants our children to know where their food comes from and how to cook it. Today, the US Dept of Agriculture is authorized to provide grants to schools and technical assistance with buying locally grown food and to teach children about growing and cooking food, However that program was never funded. Slow Food wants $50 million of the budget to be mandated for Farm-to-School programs.

Slow Food also wants Congress to:

1. Give Schools Incentives to Buy Local Food. How many of you are farmers or know a farmer who you’d like to have your school buy from? Wouldn’t you like to eat the delicious food that they grow?

2. Help workers to learn how to cook in fully equipped kitchens and train new farmers.

This is an historic opportunity for all of us to get involved NOW in determining how much healthy and nutritious food is available for children so they feel better, have energy and do well in school.

As taxpayers, we have a right to ask our repreprestatives for better school food. I urge you to contact Tim Bishop in Congress, or if you live in another district find out who your representative in Congress is. And, Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand in the Senate (by the way Senator Gillibrand is on the Child Nutriton Committee and has many of the same goals around school food as Slow Food).

The children in the room – tell your parents you want better food, tell your teachers you want better food, tell the principal at your school, tell the superintendent - they are all here today.

Parents – vote with your fork and ACT NOW!"


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