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Mom Congress Day Two - Food For Schools

Kathryn Thompson

So, if yesterday had me fired up, today has my synapses buzzing from overuse.  Can you overuse a brain?  At the very least, mine is approaching its threshold.  This is a good thing.  I think it’s a measure of success for Mom Congress.  But, wow.  Where do I begin?

Greg Schumann, Vice President and Group Publisher for The Parenting Group started things off with some opening remarks.  He really is a lovely and gracious man and we’re lucky to have him as one of the heads of this venture.  Everyone I’ve met from Parenting and Georgetown University has been wonderful and I don’t need to say that.  In fact, they’d probably prefer that I don’t call them out but I can’t help it.  They are just good people and really good at what they do.

Among other things he talked about Parenting joining forces with Jumpstart to put their money where their mouths are and adopt a school in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx.  I’m going to need to ask for more details but it sounds like their efforts are both financial and hands-on.  That was wonderful to hear about.

Jamie Oliver gave a video keynote presentation.  There’s a reason that he’s known around the world and I don’t think it’s his pasta sauce, although he is a wizard with tomatoes.  He is passionate, warm, sincere and funny.  Watching a pre-recorded message, every person in the room was hanging on his every word.  The British accent doesn’t hurt of course and there’s something so hopeful and determined about him that he makes you believe you can make a difference, even when he’s faced so many obstacles in his efforts to fight obesity in Los Angeles over the past several months.  His new season of Food Revolution starts tonight on ABC. 

In his keynote, he talked about the power of women, saying that the Food Revolution is driven by women.  “Everything worth talking about in the Food Revolution is all about mums.”  Yes, he called us “mums” and “girls” and Greg Schumann pointed out that he’s probably one of the only people who could get away with doing that.  He may be right.

He also referred to school as the “golden bullet” for children and talked about how important health and proper nutrition are for our kids.  He then planned our noon meal, executed by his team, a delicious and nutritious school lunch that could be created in schools at 78 cents per plate.  Awesome!  Jamie Oliver said that the way we’re feeding our children is close to child abuse, stating, “We know we’re doing our children harm and we’re doing nothing about it.”  This caused my little guilt alarm to ring just a bit because it’s all well and good to talk about school lunches but I know better and don’t feed my children as well as I should at home.  I find myself half-way through the conference with a massive list of things I need to work on in my own family before I can even get started pushing for change without feeling like a massive hypocrite.

In the panel discussion on nutrition that followed, we heard from Seth Nickinson, the U.S. Field Director for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Margo Wootan, the Director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Kelly Chapman Meyer, Founder of The Teaching Garden, and Mrs. Q, author of the blog Fed Up With Lunch.  She’s a teacher who spent a year eating school lunch every day with the kids.  It’s sort of like Supersize Me, the blog, only about school food.  Her experiences were remarkable.  You should check out her blog.

A couple of action items from this panel came from Seth Nickinson.  If you have five minutes to do something to help the cause, go and leave a comment on the new Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and let your legislators know that you are pleased with the new standards.  If you have 50 minutes, have a conversation with your principal about chocolate milk, a common drink in school cafeterias that has almost as much sugar as a soda.  He argues that this should be considered a sweet or a treat, not a beverage to be eaten with every meal.  I agree with him. 

You can also go to the Food Revolution community page and join or organize your own group.  He says – get the facts, support the school lunch staff, mobilize a team to help and then start with the basics.

Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public interest talked about her efforts to lead a coalition to pass the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and she says it contains more reforms for healthy food than ever before.  It includes provisions to cap calorie amounts, increase fruits and vegetables, make grains whole, allow only low and non-fat milk, use only transfat-free products, and limit sodium.  You can read more about it here.

Kathryn Thompson is a mom to two school-aged kids, a toddler, and a deceased betta fish. She can also be found at The Parenting Post, and occasionally the gym.