NOTE: The organizations mentioned below (with the exception of Slow Food) have not yet taken a position against GM foods, but they share common concerns about improving nutrition standards, agricultural sustainability and increasing federal funding for child nutrition, in particular through school meals. A few school districts have successfully passed ordinances to improve school meals and even serve organic meals—for example, Berkeley and Santa Cruz, CA—thanks to the work of food pioneers such as Chef Alice Waters and Ann Cooper (see below), and other activist organizations.
One of the main difficulties so far in improving the food quality in schools has been the extremely low funding allocation for school meals which induced many schools to rely on the cheap processed foods that are fueling the obesity epidemic. Until now, schools received $2.68 for each lunch served – of which only about $1 goes towards ingredients. With the recent passage by President Obama of the Child Nutrition bill, the situation has improved. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will expand the number of children in school lunch programs, increase the reimbursement rate to school districts for meals by six cents and replace the junk food available outside the cafeteria, such as in vending machines, with more healthful options. The $4.5 billion expansion of the school lunch program, which feeds 16 million children, gained bipartisan support in the Senate, yet initially stalled in the House before passing mostly along party lines. Republicans balked at the cost and constraints of the bill.
National Farm to School Program Website – www.farmtoschool.org – These federally funded programs connect schools and local farms with the goal of serving healthy meals in schools, improving nutrition, and support local small farmers. The site allows you to locate where these programs are, and gives technical assistance on how to start a program, as well as information on the farm to school policy that is part of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization.
Slow Food in Schools is a network of community-based food education projects for youth, such as schoolyard gardens, cooking classes, and farm to school initiatives. Each Slow Food in Schools project works closely with a local SF chapter to teach students where their food comes from, who grows it, how to prepare it, and the importance of sharing it with friends and family. Examples of some Slow Food in Schools project initiatives include: a mobile healthy food cooking cart; after-school farmer’s markets; farmer visits to the classroom; parent and child cooking classes; tracing foods from seed to plate by growing, harvesting, preparing and eating; reintroducing Native Foods to Reservation school children.
Action for Healthy Kids – A public-private partnership of more than 40 national organizations and government agencies set up to address the “epidemic of overweight, sedentary, and undernourished youth” by focusing on changes in schools.
School Nutrition Association (SNA) http://www.schoolnutrition.org/content.aspx?id=2402
Here you can find information on the different pieces of legislation that cover the spectrum of child nutrition, including the National School Lunch Program.
Food Corps http://foodcorps.org – Food Corps responds to the needs of the current “obesity generation.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three children born in the year 2000 is on track to develop Type II diabetes. For minorities, the prediction worsens to one in two. The vision for Food Corps is to recruit young adults for a yearlong term of public service in school food systems. Once stationed, Food Corps members will build Farm to School supply chains, expand food system and nutrition education programs, and build and tend school food gardens.
The Edible Schoolyard http://www.edibleschoolyard.org/ The Edible Schoolyard (ESY), a program of the Chez Panisse Foundation, is a one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom for urban public school students at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California. At ESY, students participate in all aspects of growing, harvesting, and preparing nutritious, seasonal produce.
Classroom teachers and Edible Schoolyard educators integrate food systems concepts into the core curriculum. Students’ hands-on experience in the kitchen and garden fosters a deeper appreciation of how the natural world sustains us and promotes the environmental and social well-being of our school community. Check under resources on their website for instructional publications.
The Real Food Challenge www.rfc.org is the primary organization to bring into college campuses education and activism around the issue of healthy, sustainable food. They host frequent on-campus events, open to people willing to teach workshops, a great opportunity for our non-GMO speakers.
The Nourish Middle School Curriculum Guide, developed by the Center For Ecoliteracy, offers a set of resources to open a meaningful conversation about food and sustainability. The materials contain a viewing guide, six learning activities, action projects, student handouts, suggested resources, and a glossary.
Community Food Security Coalition – Information on Farm to School, Farm to College, Technical Assistance, Federal Policy, Food Policy Councils, and Conferences.
Food Policy Councils (FPCs) are an interesting tool for increasing public participation: they bring together stakeholders from diverse food-related sectors to examine how the food system is operating and to develop recommendations on how to improve it. FPCs may take many forms, but are typically either commissioned by state or local government, or operate as a grassroots effort. Food policy councils have been successful at educating officials and the public, shaping public policy, improving coordination between existing programs, and starting new programs. Examples include mapping and publicizing local food resources; creating new transit routes to connect underserved areas with full-service grocery stores; persuading government agencies to purchase from local farmers; and organizing community gardens and farmers’ markets.
Organic School Project www.organicschoolproject.org is a Chicago-based non-profit seeking to combat childhood obesity and related illnesses through wellness programming in schools. Through their Grow.Teach.Feed program, they assist schools in installing organic school gardens, involving kids in every step of the process from installing raised beds to growing and harvesting vegetables, teaching nutrition and wellness in the classroom, and encouraging healthier food to be served in the cafeteria that includes meals from fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. They publish Grow Teach Feed: A Complete Curriculum to Inspire Healthy Lifestyles in Schools, to serve as a tool box for schools to implement this program.
Other Organizations active in improving school meals