Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to join 5 chefs from across the country, all of us being recognized as a Champion of Change. Working together as a team the six of us joined in a discussion with Under Secretary Kevin Concannon and Chef Sam Kass to discuss opportunities and challenges of the Chefs Move to Schools, a program of the Let's Move Initiative.
The true spirit of Chefs Move to Schools (CMTS) is to engage children in their classroom through food. The program has morphed into a fun and educational program benefitting both school children and school nutrition professionals. One practice that is becoming popular is to have the program benefit both these groups; first by getting kids excited by a chef demo then having the chef step into the school kitchen, not to comment about the food, rather to work hands on with the kitchen staff to help re-educate them on basic kitchen skills. This quick educational lesson is often welcomed by the staff who see it as an opportunity to network with a local chef. Engaging organizations is important to seeing through with the success of CMTS. The American Culinary Federation, School Nutrition Association and Share Our Strength are the top three organizations involved to see through with the success of CMTS.
Feeding children healthy school meals is important for several reasons but most importantly 32 million children participate in the National School Lunch Program and two thirds, yes two thirds of them qualify for free and reduced meals.
At a time when one in four kids lacks access to nutritious foods every day, now is the time for everyone to step up to the plate, take baby steps and see to it that every meal that a child receives in school is a good one. Green and orange veggies, whole grains, minimally processed foods along with salad bars are a great start.
The Healthier US School Challenge and Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools coupled with Fuel up to Play 60 and CMTS are a good way to increase both excitement and healthy choices in schools, not to mention opening us funding opportunities.
Thank you to President and Mrs. Obama and the Administration to putting Healthy Kids First on top of the agenda.
Timothy Cipriano is the Executive Director of Food Services for New Haven Public Schools. Follow him on Twitter @LocalFoodDude.