By Emily Miller, Marketing & Education Manager, Chef Ann Foundation
Chef Ann Foundation is excited to be celebrating National Farm to School Month this October, paying homage to the hard work and dedication of food service professionals, farmers and educators across the country who are connecting their communities with with fresh, healthy and local food. As an organization that also works to spearhead school food reform and transition our nation’s schools to scratch cooking with fresh ingredients, it’s inspiring and invigorating to see how the farm to school movement has exploded over the past decade.
At its core, farm to school is teaching our kids the importance of REAL food. Food that is grown from the earth, not manufactured in a laboratory. Food with names that you can pronounce, food that’s colorful, nutrient dense and delicious. The kind of food that provides the healthy fuel their minds need to learn and their bodies need to grow. The farm to school movement is helping to make real school food a national priority, which is a cause very near and dear to our hearts.
In fact, we’ve launched our own awareness campaign with the same goal in mind: #RealSchoolFood. This month, we are calling on celebrities, chefs, farmers, schools, good food advocates and parents nationwide to bring attention to one key issue: our children deserve and desperately need REAL, unprocessed, healthy school food every day.
Why? Because childhood obesity and diet-related disease are crippling their futures. In America, one out of every three kids is overweight or obese, and at-risk for Type 2 Diabetes. This generation of children is predicted to have shorter life expectancies than their parents, primarily due to their diets. To make matters worse, many schools across the country are serving highly processed, heat-and-serve meals that reinforce the bad eating habits and food trends that have helped contribute to this crisis.
Ensuring kids have access to healthy, fresh school food is a crucial part of the solution. More than 30 million children eat school lunch every day, and over 70% (22 million) of these kids come from impoverished households. The eating habits and food values they learn in childhood will follow them for the rest of their lives. So for now, while our kids are still young, and we’re still filling their lunch trays, we have an opportunity to shape the future.
We need to help schools move away from the highly processed, heat-and-serve food trend and work with them to serve scratch cooked food made with fresh, locally procured ingredients. Instead of treating our children for diet-related diseases, we can make sure their diets prevent these illnesses from ever taking hold. Because when we make sure that our children’s meals are cooked with real food, instead of food additives and chemicals, we set them up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits that help them grow, thrive, and achieve.
The 2016 National Farm to School Month theme, One Small Step, is highlighting the simple ways anyone can get informed, get involved and take action to advance farm to school in their own communities and across the country. We invite you to participate in the #RealSchoolFood campaign as your small step. This is all you have to do:
1. Photograph yourself or your kids holding a “#realschoolfood” sign.
2. Post the photo to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (privacy settings set to public) with this caption: 30 million kids eat school lunch every day. It's time we served them #realschoolfood. Join the campaign now: realschoolfood.org (Or, visit the campaign page for other suggestions).
For every person who posts using “#realschoolfood” in October, the campaign sponsors will donate $1 towards healthy school food programming for kids across the country. This is an incredible opportunity to raise awareness and work together to ensure that school food reform and farm to school keep moving forward.
If we all spread the word, the louder the call-to-action becomes and the more likely that change can and WILL happen. Stand with us and the National Farm to School Network in the fight for real school food and join the campaign today!
Founded in 2009 by Ann Cooper, a pioneer in the fields of school food reform and child nutrition, Chef Ann Foundation is a national non-profit that provides school communities with tools, training, resources and funding to create healthier food and redefine lunchroom environments. To date, we’ve reached over 7,000 schools and 2.6 million children in all 50 states. To learn more about our healthy school food programming, visit www.chefannfoundation.org.