Movements converge to support healthy school food and increased physical activity

Healthy School Meals: Mission {Nearly} Accomplished

After years of advocacy and collaborative work led by Santa Cruz City Schools trustee Cynthia Hawthorne and the district Wellness committee, students in all of the district’s elementary,

Food Services Manager & Chef, Jamie Smith

middle school and high schools will have access to healthy scratch-cooked meals beginning Tuesday. Under the guidance of chef turned Food Services manager Jamie Smith, cafeteria staff will be serving up home-cooked hot and cold entrees; the result of a policy shift driven by the community and delivered by the Wellness Committee. Elementary students will see the much anticipated return of salad bars and vegetarian options daily. Pasta, burritos, sandwiches and pizza offer kid-pleasing yet healthy choices. Meals are packed with “stealth-health” goodness, like low fat yogurt, whole grains and local produce, inspired by national school food reform guidelines like those from the Institute of Health.

Families can see what’s cooking on the Food Service department’s new website.  Staff indicates that middle school and high school menus will also be available to students and their families in the coming weeks. The website, powered by the School Nutrition Network, also provides a one-stop location to pay for meals online, view news from Jamie Smith and access general information about nutrition and fitness.

Now that kids will be eating freshly prepared healthy meals, the next challenge will be to ensure that all hungry kids have access to the tasty new offerings and for the district to take steps toward the long-held goal of offering universal breakfast in the classroom. Second Harvest Food Bank has recently joined the movement to bring healthy food and universal meals to County students, kicking off with a leadership luncheon on February 5th.  Video highlights may be found here.

Let’s Move

In December, the district’s Wellness Committee turned its vision and energy to increasing physical activity and fitness for all students.  A revealing presentation by parent and research expert Rebecca London, showed that our students’ fitness improves as they enter high school, but with distinct discrepancies by school. Data also show significant relationships between increased student achievement and physical fitness. Using the successful model that brought healthy food to our schools, the Wellness Committee has plans to engage community partners to bring focus and funds to this issue.

Just last week, First Lady Michelle Obama introduced “Let’s Move”, a nationwide effort to address childhood obesity. Linking the departments of Education, Agriculture and Health and Human Services, she aims to lead a coordinated movement that will end childhood obesity within a single generation. Enlisting parents, schools and communities, the goal is to provide access to healthy food, support for parents to offer healthy choices and increased opportunities for physical activity.  The Department of Health and Human Services has pledged $1 billion to the program and the USDA will channel $10 billion over ten years into the National School Lunch Program.

Stay tuned to more news about how Santa Cruz City Schools continues to address the link between student achievement and student health.