Today, Slow Food USA launches it’s first-ever national policy campaign for school lunch reform. With chapters across the country, we will join together to declare that it’s Time for Lunch, and time for our country to prioritize the overhaul of the Childhood Nutrition Act. Revitalized legislation will address low-income food insecurity and childhood obesity, but its impact could also extend far beyond the meals kids eat in the cafeteria. Because of the sheer volume of meals served in schools country-wide, school lunch reform has the potential to create numerous jobs in made-from-scratch kitchens, and to aid regional agricultural economies through local purchasing. Given the unprecedented support we’ve heard from the President and the First Lady on the issues of health care reform and ending childhood obesity, the time to act is now. To this end, Slow Food has put forth five simple requests to benefit American schoolchildren:
Raise the federal reimbursement for school lunches by $1 to $3.57, to better cover the costs of quality food.
Create greater oversight of all food sold on school campuses, including vending machines and “a la carte” options from school stores.
Provide funding for farm-to-school and school garden learning initiatives, to teach children a lifetime of healthy habits.
Establish incentives for school districts to purchase locally, thereby supporting their regional economies.
Initiate a “School Lunch Corps” that would train community members to work towards improving our school lunch system.
Throughout the summer, Slow Food Portland will be running events, petition drives, and letter-writing campaigns to raise awareness of this issue and build the public momentum necessary to show our legislators that it is time for a change. These efforts will culminate in a nationwide day of community-organized Eat-In picnics on Labor Day, September 7. If you’re looking for a reason to stay in Portland this Labor Day, we’ll be hosting our own massive picnic at the old Washington High School with the help of the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art and their Time-Based Art Festival. Expect a giant, checkered picnic blanket; wood-fired breads; mobile, edible gardens; and conversations about food and community. Stay tuned to our blog for more details as the big day approaches.
The organizing is just beginning, but here in Portland, we’re hitting the ground running, thanks to the exceptional work that organizations like Ecotrust and Growing Gardens have been doing for years to support better school lunch and garden programs. As we’ve mentioned before, Oregon has it’s own celebrity-chef Farm-to-School coordinator, Portland has already hosted this year’s National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, and the Oregon legislature has been reviewing a House Bill this session to raise the state school lunch reimbursement. While no one would argue that our work is anywhere near complete, these efforts have laid a strong foundation for the adoption of wider school lunch reforms.
For the next few months, this blog (and our Twitter and Facebook pages) will serve as your hub for updates on school lunch legislation and announcements about our summer events. There is a wealth of information out there on farm-to-school programs and the Childhood Nutrition Act, so to get you started, here’s a collection of some of the best resources for learning more:
Of course, you should make sure to check in with Slow Food USA’s official Time For Lunch campaign site
In Oregon, Ecotrust Food & Farms has advocated for improvements to state law and purchasing guidelines, while also connecting lunch programs with the resources and support needed to eat locally.
Growing Gardens assists schools in creating educational and nutritional gardens throughout Portland.
The eat.think.grow initiative is a coalition of Oregon-based organizations and school administrators who are working to develop the Portland Public Schools’ cafeteria and garden programs
The Slow Food USA Blog has plenty of stories about school food advocacy.
School Lunch Talk keeps a running report going on cafeteria offerings and the latest school lunch policy.
Chef Ann Cooper (The Renegade Lunch Lady) keeps a blog with news updates and stories of her experience working for the Berkeley Unified School District (and beyond).
Dr. Susan Rubin of Better School Food runs an excellent blog on school food health and legislation.
Heritage Radio Network show Urban Foragers interviewed Ed Yowell of Slow Food New York and Kristen Mancinelli on the re-authorization of the Childhood Nutrition Act.