Philadelphia's 'food revolutionaries'
PHILADELPHIA - April 12, 2011 (WPVI) -- Around the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys, the drive is on for healthier food for kids, in and out of schools.
Jill Florin, whose children attend school in Montgomery County's Upper Dublin district, remembers the moment she became a "food revolutionary."
"I stood up after the last Jamie Oliver episode and I said to my family I'm going to do something about this," Florin told Action News during a meeting of the regional Nutrition In The Schools initiative.
Florin, inspired by the British chef and his full-on food war, organized a committee within her own school district.
Now, mothers on a mission from elsewhere in Montgomery and Bucks counties have also signed on.
Christine Garner, who lives in the North Penn district, choked back tears as she said, "I just could not sit by and continue to look at these menus and see that these are the things that these kids that need it the most were being fed."
Like Oliver, they're looking to pluck processed, high sugar, high sodium meals from school cafeterias.
A look at the list of meals our kids are being served, and you can see why local parents are heated - fueled by fears of rising childhood obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Florin says, "A kid can go into lunch and pick up a French toast stick, chocolate milk and walk down the line and that's a reimbursable lunch, it's all sugar, that's considered okay by the government. But it's not okay."
Like Oliver, they're campaigning in their school districts to make menu changes, one burger and nacho platter at a time. On April 25, they will host healthy lunch advocate Ann Cooper at the Upper Dublin High School. The meeting is open to anyone from any school district.
Kathleen Geer, who lives in the Jenkintown district, says, "We took out some other processed things like chicken patty and hot dogs, but they were later put back because they needed to increase their revenues."
With a slight sigh, she adds, "So we took one step forward and two steps back."
Garner noted the happenings in her district, "They took away the funnel cake and replaced it with donuts."
The other mothers gasped, "Funnel cake??! This isn't a carnival, it's school!"
Healthy eating can be fun, fresh and delicious. Just ask the 6th grade chefs at Baldi Middle School in Northeast Philadelphia.
Isabella Carfagno, a 6th grader, said, "I think this is important. Most kids should come here to learn healthy foods."
Joan Nachmani, the school food chief for the Philadelphia public schools, spearheaded an Oliver-like approach long before Food Revolution fame.
Twelve years ago she cooked up Eat Right Now, a federally funded, nationally celebrated healthy youth initiative.
The program has rolled out in almost every one of Philadelphia's public and charter schools. The offering range from cooking clubs like at the Baldi school or a creative and yummy ways to get the youngest students to start eating healthy - early.
Nachmani says, "We have a program in kindergarten called eat the alphabet. They try new foods - because so many of them don't even know basic fruits or vegetables."
And the kids are not only paying attention. They are taking those lessons home!
We asked Aliaksei Kavalchuk, a 6th grader, "You are the family cook?"What do you make?"
"Salads, mostly, a lot of salads - I am a veggie person," he told us.
His 6th grade classmate, Alexus Apokorin, added, "Healthy decisions do not always taste bad. Most of them don't."
To get more information, see the Nutrition In The Schools program website.
pennsylvania, philadelphia, school, diet, healthcheck, alicia vitarelli
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