(HOST) As kids return to school after the holidays, commentator Ron Krupp has the story of an innovative food program in the Burlington school system.
(KRUPP) When Burlington residents were asked to create a legacy for the future of their city, one of their top choices was to provide Vermont-grown food in schools to improve student nutrition and invest in the local economy. From this came the Burlington Food Council made up of parents, farmers, food service managers and agricultural groups, such as Shelburne Farms, Food Works of Montpelier and the Natural Organic Farmers Association. The council recently came up with a report entitled, Burlington Community Food Assessment.
It was found that 27 percent of young people were overweight or at risk of being overweight. Dr. Barbara Frankowski is a Burlington pediatrician and professor who serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics and is a health consultant to the Burlington schools. She is an evangelist when it comes to promoting nutrition and fitness. She says, “There are kids that are not just chubby, but are quite a bit overweight in just about every class that I go into.” When she talks about the federal No Child Left Behind Program, she’s really referring to the kids behinds.
Bonnie Acker, parent of an eighth-grader at Edmunds Middle School, is an active participant with the Burlington Food Council. She volunteers with students inventing recipes and test-cooking healthy foods that might eventually be incorporated into their own school menu. They perform taste tests and survey other students, and if the recipe is a success, it is included in the school menu. Acker worked with the kids to find the perfect muffin. After trying 50 recipe’s, the winner was a moist, tasty muffin that included whole wheat flour, Vermont carrots, maple syrup and apple sauce. Sounds yummy to me.
Bonnie Acker and other community members work closely with Doug Davis, Burlington’s Food Service Director, to change menus and improve nutrition in the schools, as well as to recycle food wastes to the local Intervale compost site. Doug said, “This year there are fewer hot dogs and hamburgers and more veggies and fruits. Employees are slicing apples and oranges rather than serving them whole because students tend to eat more fruit that way.”
Cukes, sprouts, tomatoes and hummus are regulars in the new middle school sandwich bars, and sugary juices in vending machines are being replaced with less caloric versions. The school district is also working in partnership with organic farmers in the city’s Intervale agricultural district and elsewhere.
The kids do eat pizza once a week. By the way, the pizza comes with salad and fruit.
This is Ron Krupp, the Northern Gardener.
Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay.