Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Munchable Soapbox: Growing a New Generation of Eaters

Do you remember your favorite food as a child? During elementary school, I recall counting down the hours until lunch; the hours until I could whip out my bright red squeeze-it, a nutty-chocolatey Little Debbie bar, or perhaps a Lunchables mini pizza. Junior high school was not much better, with the freedom to buy lunch resulting too often in milk shakes and fries being my vegetarian version of a complete meal. The cool food to eat is that which is the worst for our health, particularly for young, growing bodies.

Well, this October marks the first year of Farm to School Month. A resolution enacted by congress (I know, holy cow!) last November, this month shines a spotlight on those farm to school programs meant to improve childhood nutrition by education on the origins of food and support local farmers. The goal in mind is getting kids out in the garden, connecting them on a whole new level to their food, and cultivating an appreciation for those fruits and veggies produced from the soil.

At the same time, school lunch programs are starting to get a much needed makeover. The reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act last December tightened the health requirements on federally-funded school lunches. But it's not as easy as removing the strawberry pink milk or the pizza slices, said a New York Times blog article this week. School lunches need a champion, someone to make "the salads and the sweet potatoes" fun and enticing, and increase awareness around these healthier options. 

Looks like there is a long way to go before young eaters pick peas and carrots over chips and candy, but these small tremors will eventually add up to a large wave! Find out about farm to school programs in your State here.

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