Sustainable Food Pathway
More than 30 million children in the United States eat a school lunch five days a week, 180 days a year. Regrettably, many of these school lunches are filled with poor quality, highly processed foods that contribute to childhood obesity, diabetes, reduced attention spans and poor grades. The good news is that progress towards a healthier learning environment has been made under The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act
(HHFKA), with the USDA reporting that two or more vegetables are now being offered at lunch by nearly 80% of schools. With the recent implementation of the four final rules under HHFKA, school nutrition standards will be more consistent, and the Smart Snacks in School final rule will ensure that healthy snacks are available to children.
In addition, most kids today have little to no idea where their food comes from, how it is grown and harvested, how it is processed, and the impacts of its production, processing and transport. Global distribution means we can eat almost whatever we want, whenever we want it. Never before has food been so easy and so cheap to source. But the true costs of this food—not only for our health but also for the environment—are staggering.
The alternative is to produce, purchase and prepare foods in more sustainable ways. This mission has two significant benefits:
1) To reduce our impact on the environment.
2) To provide us with high quality, less processed and more healthful foods.
What can schools do about food?
Schools across the country are exploring and implementing innovative programs focused on food. There are tremendous opportunities for schools to feed their students and staff better, reduce their environmental footprints, support their local economies, and at the same time enhance the curriculum with engaging food-related content.
Sustainable food programs work to bring fresh, local food to a school. They provide healthy meals in school cafeterias, improve student nutrition, offer curricular connections on topics related to health, nutrition and food, and connect schools to their local communities and farms. These programs are comprehensive; they extend beyond farm-fresh salad bars and local foods in the cafeteria to include waste management programs (such as composting) and experiential education opportunities (school gardens, cooking demonstrations, farm tours, etc.). These programs help students understand where their food comes from and how their food choices impact their bodies, the environment and their communities at large. According to the results of the 2015 Farm to School Census
, over 42,000 schools are participating in farm to school activities.
To see a successful food program in action
, visit the website of the Burlington School Food Project
, a collaborative “Farm 2 School” program between the Burlington School District and a group of non-profits and individuals committed to bringing fresh, local foods to schools and helping students to understand and respect the sources of their food.
Nutrition is critically important to good health, but so are physical activity and time outdoors. These topics are addressed in the Eco-Schools USA Healthy Living pathway.
Are you exploring opportunities surrounding sustainable food at your school? If so, please share your ideas on our Facebook page!
Ask a Third Grader...What does 'THINK GLOBAL. EAT LOCAL.' mean to you?
Academy of Global Citizenship - Chicago, IL