The hardest part of this work came after the wellness committee completed its draft, calling for a number of important improvements to the nutrition environment, when it became clear we hadn't done enough outreach to principals. What a disappointment! We had made such a disciplined effort to solicit community input and had made tentative efforts to reach principals, and hadn't expected strong opposition from that quarter.
The best zinger in opposition to our proposal, really at my expense, came from my son's much respected no-nonsense principal at Thompson Elementary, who feared additional bureaucratic burdens: "The best wellness policy is a good education."
Yet, with a good deal more work, we all pulled together and reached a final document (see link here) that required compromises on all sides and yet earned every faction's support. Some of the most important planks give the principals more discretion than the first draft did, which means their commitment to the spirit of this effort will be a critical factor going forward.
For me, this experience provided a great education in local politics and was also a rewarding effort, because of the benefit for my children and all the children in the community. You can imagine, in my U.S. Food Policy class this fall, that the lecture and discussion on the "advocacy coalition framework" and other political science theories will be a little less dry.
On the national scene, Jack from Fork & Bottle points out this NYT article on nutrition in school lunch programs, summarizing the bad news and the good news:
By any health measure, today's children are in crisis. Seventeen percent of American children are overweight, and increasing numbers of children are developing high
blood pressure, high cholesteroland Type 2 diabetes, which, until a few years ago, was a condition seen almost only in adults. The obesityrate of adolescents has tripled since 1980 and shows no sign of slowing down. Today's children have the dubious honor of belonging to the first cohort in history that may have a lower life expectancy than their parents. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionhas predicted that 30 to 40 percent of today's children will have diabetes in their lifetimes if current trends continue.
The only good news is that as these stark statistics have piled up, so have the resources being spent to improve school food. Throw a dart at a map and you will find a school district scrambling to fill its students with things that are low fat and high fiber.