Kudos to President Obama and First Lady Michelle for their efforts aimed at improving the health of Americans. I was honored earlier this month, as a 22 year child nutrition veteran, to be selected as part of Champions of Change for the healthy schools initiative.
White House Executive Chef Sam Kass and USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon led a “how do we empower the children to make healthy choices” discussion. Chef’s and registered dietitians around the table collaborated on ideas to enhance the outreach of the Chef’s Move to School Program, increase culinary training for school nutrition professionals, and educate students in and outside of the classroom through hands on cooking classes, school gardens, and cafeteria promotions.
At the heart of winning the future across America is the health and well-being of our children. Parents, educators, restaurant operators, farmers, and government must work cooperatively to support the changes that are needed to combat the looming health crisis. School meals can’t be the only place young people are exposed to fresh fruits and vegetables, whole wheat breads and pastas, or lower fat and sodium entrées and other foods. In homes and restaurants, foods based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans should be available. Young people should be encouraged to select and consume healthier options in restaurants. In the home, balanced, healthy meals should be the only option. Eating less healthy foods during special occasions makes them much more memorable.
Finally, volunteer to help in your local community schools. You just might be amazed at how rewarding it is to work in the cafeteria or help build raised beds for the school garden. Children have so much to learn from great role models. Be one.
Cyndie Story is a child nutritionist with over 20 years of experience.