New York Coalition for Healthy School Food

Amie Hamlin, New York Coalition for Healthy School Food
New York Coalition for Healthy School Food has been working with the New York City Office of SchoolFood (they spell it as one word) in a formal partnership for the last few years to develop and introduce plant-based entrees to serve as the protein component in school lunches. We are doing this in 18 schools and have a waiting list of 48 schools. All the pieces are in place, what we need to expand is more resources. We have brought Colin Campbell, Ph.D., author of The China Study, and Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception to discuss plant-based diets and GMO’s with the top administrators of the NYC Office of SchoolFood. We have trained the cooks, managers, and supervisors. We have provided presentations for all the school food staff in the schools we are working with, as well as the teachers. We have also had conferences with the UFT for teachers about our project and the issues. So far we have developed and introduced six recipes. Now we are working on creating a multi-media presentation for elementary school children to see before the project starts at their school. We work in partnership with the SchoolFood staff, but also with the help of two restaurants: Candle Cafe/Candle 79 and HENRY’s. Our goals are to offer made from scratch, whole foods entrees that are free of cholesterol, low in total and saturated fat, and high in fiber. We also show the children what ingredients are in the food so they can learn more about what they are eating wherever we have volunteers that can do this. The reason the project is called Cool School Food is because not only is the food delicious, it contributes less to global warming, and is “Cool”. Part of the project is for schools to use our Wellness Wakeup Call program. This is nutrition education in the form of easy to digest sound bites. It comes in K-5 and 6-12 versions, and elementary students take home a copy at the end of the month with a healthy recipe on the back. Other schools use it too; over 100,000 students hear it every day. We are also working with Veggiecation, an educational program to teach children about vegetables. They have created a line of bean posters and materials for us a swell. We also have a Cool School Food project in Ithaca, NY, and in Ithaca it is a farm to school program using local organic beans and grains from a local farm. In Ithaca we partner with Moosewood Restaurant and Cayuga Pure Organics, the farm that grows beans and grains.

How is your project positively impacting your community?
We are exposing students to healthy home made recipes, teaching them about ways to eat healthier, and giving them a chance to vote and give their feedback on the recipes. Students have learned that their input can make a difference. For example in Ithaca the feedback resulted in significantly changed recipes, and students learned that it was because of their feedback. On a broader scale, we have had a significant impact on the largest school food service operation in the country.
(November 2011 update)  We continue our work in the NYC schools. Three of the schools offer only our entrée plus peanut butter and jelly. This is really great because virtually all of the students take our entrée, and eat it too. But in schools where our entrée has to compete against chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, mozzarella sticks, and pizza, it’s a tough choice for children who are used to eating these fast food type of lunches, and so the percentage choosing our entrees is much lower. In NYC, we found a professional food photographer who generously donated a whole day of shooting, and another day of post processing, to photograph all the recipes we make in NYC and Ithaca. This generosity also included 3 chefs who made the food and a food stylist. These photos will be used in many places (they can already be seen in the slideshow on our homepage) including the multi-media presentation we are making for children. In Ithaca, we just finished testing hummus and Sweet Marrakesh Salad.  The hummus is some of the best ever, and the Marrakesh Salad will need some work. Some children loved the flavors of cinnamon, orange juice, and cumin, but for others it seems to be an acquired taste. We have started to create poster/flyers for each recipe in Ithaca, and will do the same for the NYC recipes. Visiting schools and seeing what some children bring for lunch and what some schools offer for lunch continues to be an eye opening experience, even after witnessing it for many years. It’s really no wonder that students are struggling. They are malnourished. Many kids come in with “lunch” from home that consists of 4 different packaged foods, all containing sugar and artificial ingredients. I’ve seen lunches with Cheetos, Hostess Ho-Ho’s, cookies, and a juice “drink”. In Ithaca, we have a student intern working on a curriculum, which, when finished will be offered free to schools. A movie that we are prominently featured in will be coming out soon. It’s called Lunch Hour, and you can see the trailer here:

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