Hundreds of chefs from all over the country converge on the South Lawn to celebrate the Chefs Move to Schools program with local students. This initiative partners chefs with local schools to help educate kids about food and nutrition. Visit LetsMove.gov. to learn more and join the program
As she spoke, the layers of messaging were clear: the health of our children, as influenced by what they eat, impacts how they learn, whether or not they succeed as adults and how we combat the 150 billion dollar tab to treat chronic diseases that are attributed to poor diet. “We must intervene now with children to make a change so the number doesn’t grow.”
The First Lady spoke of the power of men and women in ‘whites’, (as chef jackets are called, joking that she and her daughters teased Chef Sam calling them blouses) and spoke to the power of food in our lives. The joy of feeding people and the centrality of food at every important event reinforces the connection between chefs and communities – and in this case – children. “What we put into our bodies influences health”, (a simple fact that for some crazy reason, is ignored by our society that allows children and adults to consume vast amounts of unhealthy food and beverage.)
Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move initiative has 4 components:
Getting more information to parents so they can make good choices;
Providing access to quality and affordable food for all; addressing the issue of food deserts;
Incorporating physical movement and activity into every day;
Providing healthy meals at school.
She lauded The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, which is working its way through congress with bi-partisan support (maybe the only bill of its kind) is designed to expand access to food especially in low-income families, provide more nutritious offerings and simplify the administration of food benefits. But change cannot come from Washington, who lacks the authority to tell people what to eat, stated the First Lady. Her vision brings together food manufacturers, chefs, parents, teachers and leaders with the goal of having every chef adopt a school and become part of its community as a prelude to working together with school foodservice workers to improve the quality of what is served to the children. “No one knows more about food, except Grandmothers. Chefs can make a Salad Bar fun and delicious. They share their passion and it’s contagious.” She recalled her mother’s broccoli, which was so overcooked and mushy, “you could eat it with a spoon, which makes it hard to like.” Chefs can teach where food comes from; establish healthy consistent eating habits and – most critically – do it on a school food budget.
It was good to be inspired by the First Lady – and she appealed to the part in us that wants to help. She addressed the basic cooperative and collaborative principles that are essential to the success of this effort:
Don’t take over – learn how to interact with the school food professionals; thank them for their hard work; support what they do; they work long hours.
Learn your community; see what equipment is available; what level of change can be sustained; be patient.
Bring the lessons of cooking and food into the classroom as well: Cooking demonstrations, cooking clubs, plant a garden.
Not unlike a President delivering the State of the Union address, she gave shout-outs to chefs in the audience who have been working successfully with local schools, from Washington to Minnesota to Santa Fe. She read quotes from letters children wrote letters after their visits to her garden, one child saying that since her time in the garden, she will think about the choices of what to put in her mouth; or the boy who will recall the garden and now will be gentle to nature, his body and other people.
In her closing thoughts, she said that kids can change overnight, that together we can change their future and that of our nation. “Every school needs a chef partner to make the children believe you care about how they grow up.”
We’re really excited to start blogging here at Slow Food Orange County so we can start sharing all the great local Slow Food news and the National issues as well, there is a lot more going on than you may know and this is the place to come and learn about all the issues.
I hope to also post about our events, share recipes and to get input from all our members who want to share what they know, what they want to learn about and to help grow our slow food community in Orange County.
Some of you may know that Slow Food USA has been working very hard to get some big changes in the Child Nutrition Act that’s up for Renewal in Congress with their Time for Lunch Campaign. They’ve had over 159,000 people send emails to their congress critters to urge these changes but there is still so much to do.
And it was just this year that Michelle Obama started her Let’s Move campaign to take on the issue of Childhood Obesity, which is just one of the components Slow Food wants addressed in the Child Nutrition Act by updating the nutritional guidelines.
Well, another amazing initiative that Michelle Obama has introduced involves channeling the energy and innovation of America’s chefs and launching Chefs Moves to Schools program. Here is the press release from the White House.
First Lady Michelle Obama Launches “Chefs Move to Schools” Program
THE WHITE HOUSE – As communities and organizations get behind the First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation, one group that could have a tremendous impact on the health and well being of children is the Nation’s chefs. As part of her effort to turn policies into practical solutions for America’s families, Mrs. Obama is calling on chefs to get involved by adopting a school and working with teachers, parents, school nutritionists and administrators to help educate kids about food and nutrition. By creating healthy dishes that taste good, chefs have a unique ability to deliver these messages in a fun and appealing way to the larger audience, particularly children.
The “Chefs Move to Schools” program, run through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will pair chefs with interested schools in their communities so together they can create healthy meals that meet the schools’ dietary guidelines and budgets, while teaching young people about nutrition and making balanced and healthy choices. With more than 31 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program and more than 11 million participating in the National School Breakfast Program, good nutrition at school is more important than ever.
“Many children consume as many as half of their daily calories at school and as families work to ensure that kids eat right and have active play at home, we also need to ensure our kids have access to healthy meals in their schools,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “We are going to need everyone’s time and talent to solve the childhood obesity epidemic and our Nation’s chefs have tremendous power as leaders on this issue because of their deep knowledge of food and nutrition and their standing in the community. I want to thank them for joining the Let’s Move! campaign.”
“Chefs and nutrition experts can play a critical role in addressing the childhood obesity crisis, and they are welcome partners as we work together to improve the overall health and nutrition of America’s children,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By passing a strong reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, Congress can provide important resources to improve school cafeteria equipment and expand training opportunities for chefs, school food service personnel, and nutrition experts in our schools, because they will be on the front lines of improving school meals for our kids.”
“School cafeterias are the frontline for fostering a healthy lifestyle for children,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “This initiative is a creative and vital opportunity for children to learn and practice healthy habits. When partnerships between schools and the broader community are created, everyone wins.”
Chefs interested in signing up can do so by going to www.letsmove.gov and clicking on the “Chefs Move to Schools” button. In coming weeks, chefs will be paired with a school in their community that is interested in using them as a resource.
Jamie Oliver lent his talent this spring in his compelling mini-series Food Revolution. The series dealt with the challenges facing one communities struggle with obesity and health issues by helping the schools try to make over their lunch program.
Jamie focussed on home made lunches with less processed foods, unflavored milks and more fruits and veggies. The idea was to get kids eating their lunches and enjoying them while engaging them with the whole process of where their food comes from.
One of the most disturbing parts of the series is when many of the kids can’t identify a variety of common vegetables that Jamie presents to them. It illustrates just how out of touch some kids are from the food they eat and how much we need to address the school lunch program in our Country.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution brought much needed attention to the School Lunch Program and Michelle Obama’s ambitious new program is attempting to use this momentum to use the talents of local chefs in the community to help make change in our schools. It’s brilliant.
I am hoping to find out how to reach local Chefs in Orange County to see if they might be interested in working with any of our local schools to try out this new program and see what they can do to help make school lunches healthier and tastier for kids.
Welcome to the Slow Food OC blog, I look forward to sharing more news and projects in the future!
Stephanie Georgieff, past events Chair of Slow Food OC, reluctantly left the chapter last Spring when she got a new job in Redlands California as an Acupuncturist at Active Life Chiropractic and the Wellness Loft. Her enthusiasm for Slow Food was not dimmed, in fact, it spread and has now inspired many people in Redlands to form a new Slow Food Chapter, Slow Food Redlands. The paperwork is pending, but a core group consisting of Professors from the University of Redlands, The Bon Appetit Catering Company, Hangar 24 Brewery, The Farm Artisan Food Restaurant, Casa Maya and Three Sisters Farm are pulling together with Stephanie, Dr Dale Andelkovic, Birth Educator Lara Carlos and Nutritionists Natalia Andelkovic and Susan Severonson have committed to start the chapter. We have already launched a Supper Club going to many of the Slow Food Themed Restaurants in the Inland Empire, have booked a BBQ and Brew event with Hangar 24 Brewery, and are working with the University of Redlands, Three Sisters Farm and Bon Appetit Catering Company to create a children’s garden on Campus.It will feature a “Garden to Table” program for families, and work with students at the University who are majoring in sustainable agriculture and food system policies. Our great pumpkin planting is in the works for a fall harvest, complete with cooking classes and a Halloween carving celebration . With all the buzz surrounding Slow Food Redlands, the local KNBC radio affiliate approached Stephanie with an offer to do a radio show. You can hear her weekly on KCAA AM 1050 on Sundays from 9:00 am to 10:00 am. The Show, “Real Food Empire” is a weekly forum on “how to eat for the health of your body, your soul, the land and community.” and features local chefs, farmers, artisan food producers and more. With the core values of Slow Food in mind, Stephanie recently interviewed Ruben Ochoa of Casa Maya, who has for the last 18 years had a restaurant in Mentone dedicated to Yucatan food made with organic and local ingredients. They serve organic eggs for breakfast and do not use sugar, iodized salt or lard in their restaurant. Ruben contracts with local organic farmers, and shops the farmers markets for his produce. Each week a different theme is explored, to show listeners that you can transform culture, improve the environment, support the economy and create health in a delicious manner by eating locally, small scale and home made. You can podcast Real Food Empire at www.kcaaradio.com.