April 30, 2012
The Department of Education has done an admirable job of adding more healthy school lunch options. But more changes — and faster ones — are needed to keep children healthy, according to two City Council members who are sponsoring a resolution to improve school food.
In the last few years, the Office of SchoolFood has added more vegetarian options and swapped out some ingredients for healthier alternatives.
But Brad Lander and Gale Brewer, City Council members from Park Slope and the Upper West Side, think more could be done. “Despite these improvements, critics note that school meals still contain too many “processed” food items, such as breaded chicken nuggets, as well as foods that contain less healthy ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring and saturated fats, such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” says their resolution, which they are formally proposing today.
Lander and Brewer want the city to adopt recommendations made recently by the Brooklyn Food Coalition, a group of food and food justice organizations. Among other things, they want 10 percent of food served in schools to be produced locally and schools to go meatless at least one day a week.
They also want the city to be required to publish ingredient lists for food served in schools — something that the department has not always done. When nutrition facts were inadvertently published in 2010, they showed that some food served in cafeterias did not meet the city’s own nutrition guidelines for school bake sale snacks.
Lander and Brewer’s resolution is below, followed by the Brooklyn Food Coalition’s “Roadmap for Healthy, Sustainable School Food.”
Resolution calling upon the New York City Department of Education’s Office of School Food to increase the health of food options in school lunches and breakfasts by implementing the recommendations of the Brooklyn Food Coalition’s “Roadmap for Healthy, Sustainable School Food.”
By Council Members Lander and Brewer
Whereas, The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is the largest public school system in the United States serving approximately 1.1 million students; and
Whereas, DOE’s Office of School Food, known as “SchoolFood,” is the largest school food service provider in the United States, providing over 860,000 total meals each day to students in over 1,600 locations including City public elementary, middle, special education, high schools, charter and some non-public schools; and
Whereas, In recent years, SchoolFood has taken a number of steps to improve the health and nutrition of school meals and to expand access to more students; and
Whereas, SchoolFood serves breakfast free of charge to all students and has instituted breakfast-in-the-classroom programs in 271 schools; and
Whereas, In 2004, SchoolFood hired an executive chef to introduce new recipes and to reformulate popular menu items to make them healthier and more enticing to students; and
Whereas, DOE has also made significant investments in kitchen and cafeteria infrastructure in recent years, including the installation of more than 600 salad bars in schools throughout the City; and
Whereas, Additionally, SchoolFood has piloted several programs, such as the State-funded Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, in a small number of City schools; and
Whereas, Another initiative, “Garden to Café” was started by SchoolFood and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension, GreenThumb, and more than 20 community-based organizations; and
Whereas, The goals of “Garden to Café” are to promote vegetarian options, connect students to local food and farming, increase awareness of school gardening, and provide opportunities to integrate school gardening and school lunch; and
Whereas, According to the DOE, SchoolFood has also reduced sodium, fat and cholesterol content in meals served; and
Whereas, In addition, SchoolFood has replaced white flour pasta with whole grain pasta, replaced whole milk with fat free and low fat milk varieties and has included more fresh fruits and vegetables in school meals; and
Whereas, Despite these improvements, critics note that school meals still contain too many “processed” food items, such as breaded chicken nuggets, as well as foods that contain less healthy ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring and saturated fats, such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; and,
Whereas, In December 2010, a new federal law, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (“the Act”), was passed which would improve the nutrition of school meals; and
Whereas, Among other things, the Act provides additional funding to schools that meet updated nutritional standards for federally-subsidized lunches, helps communities establish local farm to school networks and builds on efforts by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to improve the nutritional quality of commodity foods that schools receive from USDA and use in their breakfast and lunch programs; and
Whereas, A number of the Act’s provisions, such as the development of new nutritional standards and the increase in federal meal reimbursement, will not go into effect before the 2012-2013 school year at the earliest; and
Whereas, New York City’s 1.1 million public school students should not have to wait for those federal changes to take effect before having access to healthier food options in school meals; and
Whereas, The Brooklyn Food Coalition recently issued its “Roadmap for Healthy, Sustainable School Food;” and
Whereas, The Roadmap calls for progressive measures to increase the local sourcing of school food, such as purchasing 10 percent of food locally, expansion of the “Garden to Café” program, and increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks; and
Whereas, The Roadmap calls for improving the wholesomeness of foods served by improving access to salad bars, offering at least one fresh fruit daily, ensuring that vegetables served are fresh and that 60 percent of meals offered are from unprocessed ingredients, offering only whole grain products, ensuring access to pure water and eliminating sweetened milk, and adopting meatless meals at least once a week; and
Whereas, The Roadmap calls for integrating this food program into school curricula and building on the work of existing school wellness committees to help guide this initiative and make it work in each participating school; and
Whereas, The Roadmap also calls for reducing the food and packaging waste stream through more effective recycling, composting, and by working towards the elimination of polystyrene foam trays; and
Whereas, The Roadmap calls for mandating public access to ingredient lists and items purchased; and
Whereas, The Roadmap calls for removing vending machines and all “competitive” foods in elementary and middle schools, and for providing only healthy choices in any vending machines in high schools; now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Council of the City of New York calls upon the New York City Department of Education’s Office of School Food to increase the health of food options in school lunches and breakfasts by implementing the recommendations of the Brooklyn Food Coalition’s “Roadmap for Healthy, Sustainable School Food.”