By Debra Eschmeyer
The carrots with which we entice our children to perform well have morphed into colossal sugary carrot cupcakes, as highlighted in the Los Angeles Daily News this morning. The article portrays the debate over the appropriate incentives to get children to read as pitting one responsible party against another. Whose job is it to keep our children healthy — government, parents, or public/private institutions such as libraries?
The answer is D: All of the above. We are responsible as a society to give the best possible future to our children. I'm involved with two organizations that work toward that goal. With 30% of our school children overweight, we need programs such as Farm to School to plant lifelong eating habits in our kids, to help them appreciate real food that will nourish their minds and bodies. And as Moira Beery, the California farm-to-school coordinator at Occidental College's Center for Food & Justice, says, "Pizza parties in and of themselves aren't bad, but we have to be deliberate about examples we set for kids."
While the Olympics race on in China, the USDA is holding its own tryouts of sorts right now with listening sessions to discuss the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which affects school lunch programs, WIC, and much more. Groups ranging from children’s health advocates to sustainable agriculture nonprofits are speaking up for universal access to healthy food, higher reimbursement rates tied to meal quality, and mandatory funds to support farm-to-school programs. Sessions in Georgia, Illinois, and Colorado are coming up (see schedule). You can also submit comments on the Act electronically up until October 15.
The greatest return on investment we can make as a nation is feeding our children nourishing, good, fair, and clean food that will fuel the best bodies and create an environment for better learning, which will in turn build a healthier community and stronger nation.
Go for the gold, America!
Debra Eschmeyer is the marketing & media manager of the National Farm to School Network and the Center for Food & Justice; she also works a fifth-generation family farm in Ohio, where she raises organic heirloom fruits, vegetables, and chickens.