Efforts have begun to bear fruit. “Overall in the nation,
figures show that childhood obesity, which has continued
to climb over a 20-year period, is now leveling off,” notes
Moppert; she’s referring to studies, including one from
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
showing that obesity has stabilized at about 17 percent
for 2- to 19-year-olds. “We still have a way to go to get it
to be declining. But that’s a more positive trend.”
It’s not just kids who reap the rewards. The effects are
rippling throughout communities, especially from farm-to-school programs. “Schools are the hubs, and kids take
information from school into the community,” contends
Joshi. “Farmers are benefiting from these initiatives as
well. And communities benefit because there’s a multiplier
effect. Each dollar invested in farm-to-school programs
creates an additional $2.16 of local economic activity.
For every job created by school districts purchasing local
foods, an additional 1.67 jobs are created.”
The best news? These programs are just getting cooking.
Proponents expect an even bigger bounty when more
schools get a taste of the benefits.
Lunch program grows up
Today’s healthier school menus have been brewing for
a long time. The story begins with a federal mandate
way back in 1946. “The federal government signed into
law the National School Lunch Act in part as a national
defense program because when the Americans went into
World War II, a lot of young men were rejected for service
because of nutritional deficiencies,” explains Moppert.
“Then when we won, we began producing more food
than we needed as a nation. The national school lunch
program made lunch available to students based on need.”
The program has been updated in the decades since,
including in 2004, when it required each school district
to have a wellness policy and committee to address issues
resulting from childhood obesity. “It was due to a recognition that children might not have the same life expectancy
as their parents,” says Moppert.
Each dollar invested in
farm-to-school programs creates
an additional $2.16 of local
economic activity. Feed My School for a Week event in Augusta, Ga., area public schools.
Photos courtesy of Burke County Public Schools