We need to start paying attention to what we are feeding our children. One out of every three children in the United States is already overweight or obese and this generation may be the first who live sicker and die younger than their parents. This is not acceptable.
But there is good news. We can make a difference.
I’m teaming up with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, who for six years, has been making great strides to work with schools, kids, companies and doctors to reverse this alarming trend.
Together, we’re creating healthy recipes schools can use to serve meals full of vegetables and good proteins, and more importantly – meals that kids like to eat. I’m pleased to contribute my love of cooking and training to fight childhood obesity. All it takes is each one of us doing our part.
Let me tell you about Gayla Moghannam. She spent many enjoyable days volunteering in her daughter’s class at Walt Disney Elementary School in San Ramon, California and sometimes she stayed for lunch. She would see the meals as meals not being aligned with the healthy food she was serving at home. Gayla realized that this might be her opportunity to speak up on behalf of the school’s students. After speaking with the school administration, Gayla is now leading her school wellness council and serves as a driving force for healthy changes across the district.
Gayla had the right idea. Improving the food we serve to our kids during the school is critical in solving the obesity epidemic. Did you know children and teens often consume up to 50 percent of their total daily calories at school? Schools have a big impact on children’s diets. More than 31 million students participate in the National School Lunch Program. These meals are especially important to lower-income families—on a typical day about 20 million children receive free or reduced-price lunches at school.
This school year starts up with new guidance on what should be served for lunch at schools thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2012. The updated regulations for the school lunch program increase fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and low-fat milk while decreasing sodium, trans fat and calories. That means schools are now required to serve healthier meals.
But where do schools begin? What information can parents provide their child’s school to help them make healthy changes? The are many resources available to help schools make healthy changes in the cafeteria. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation provides hundreds of resources—at no cost to the school—for schools to utilize to plan their menus, purchase healthier products and prepare meals that students will enjoy. Using resources from the Alliance, Gayla had a tremendous impact on the food being served at her daughter’s school.
As a restaurant owner, chef and passionate advocate of healthy food—I’m honored to work with organizations like the Alliance to make lasting-positive change in school districts across the country. Later this month, the Alliance and I will be releasing healthy recipes for school lunches (portion size 100) for cafeterias to serve. The recipes will be available for free—to any school who wants to serve them. They provide the perfect opportunity for schools to serve fresh, healthy and tasty menu options.
Here is the bottom line—we can reverse this epidemic. Parents, schools, students and community members can come together and make a difference. Gayla is the perfect example. She saw something she didn’t agree with and not only did she speak up— she was the driving force behind getting things changed.
Thank you to MomsRising.org for allowing me and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation the opportunity to share Gayla’s story and inspire others to be leaders in their schools.
We all have the power to ensure our children live long and healthy lives.
This post is part of the MomsRising "Making the School Day Healthier" Blog Carnival headlined by Top Chef Lorena Garcia."