School food professionals are facing difficulties like never before. Challenges with supply chain interruptions and labor shortages have made it extremely difficult to serve students fresh and nutritious meals. However, we cannot lose sight of the many years of healthy school food momentum - and how healthy food can create tangible and long-term change.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only further exacerbated issues of racial equity and justice, the U.S. workforce, student academics and health, and environmental challenges. In fact, the pandemic is now tied to an increase in obesity in US children and teenagers. This data unfortunately continues the trend of the past several decades: processed and unhealthy food has led to higher obesity rates and diet-related conditions in children and teenagers - disproportionately affecting students of color.
School food is much more than filling bellies. In today's world, healthy school food is a multifaceted solution that can directly benefit current and future generations. As Chef Ann says, by cooking school meals from scratch, "we're changing kids' palettes, we're changing how kids think about food, and we're changing the food they want to eat. And that can save their lives and change the world." Healthy school food holds a recipe for the future: the ability to fuel positive change.
Scratch cooking has always been at the center of our work; although scratch cooking may be a difficult feat right now, we hope that once districts regain capacity and bandwidth, our resources and core programs can serve as helpful tools on the path to healthier school food. With over 30 million children participating in the National School Lunch Program, we have an enormous opportunity to positively change the health of future generations, as well as move the needle in large societal issues.
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