While nutrition should be on everyone's minds, it is especially important for children because it directly links to their growth and development. Poor nutrition in children may lead to poor grades and failing, ultimately resulting in more severe social and health risks. Currently the school menus don't reflect much effort toward change: food colors range from red to brown, with little greens or fresh produce in sight. When they are supplied they are commonly wrapped in cellophane, over-prepared as to not resemble a fruit or vegetable in its natural state. Furthermore, due to the rapid rise in childhood obesity, for the first time in modern history, today's youth may live shorter lives than their parents.
Local communities in Los Angeles recognize these risks and are taking matters into their own hands. At Washington Elementary School in Compton, the school garden is maintained by students in an after-school program called The Gentlemen's Scholars Club. Run by campus security Roosevelt Long, the program stresses the importance of healthier food for kids and changes toward better school food.
In 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act into law. The bill, which funds child nutrition programs and free lunch programs in schools for the next five years, employs a progressive set of new standards as part of a reauthorization of the decades-old Child Nutrition Act. The revisions include giving USDA the authority to set new standards for food sold at schools, including vending machines; authorizes funds for the new standards for federally-subsidized school lunches; and provides resources for schools and communities to utilize local farms and gardens to provide fresh produce. Food activists like Tamara Braun of Revolution Foods are employing these new standards with innovative gardening and local food production to supply L.A.'s youth with the best nutrition possible.
Outside school gardening and revised lunch menus, farm-to-school programs like the 4H Club are building a healthier future for our youth. Nico Anduze, Executive Director of L.A. Food Heroes, as well as Yvonne Arceneaux, Council District Representative for the Richland Farms area, both tout such programs for building important skill sets in students; many in the 4H program for instance have moved on to work in the agricultural industry.
More resources for educating youth and improving childhood nutrition:
New School Food
Tamar Tamler, Director of Partnership Development at Revolution Foods, describes her company's process and mission for providing access to healthy food for students.
Autonomy Through Farming
Nicholas Anduze, Executive Director for L.A. Food Heroes, explains the skillset and ownership students build from farming.
Farm Life & 4H Club
"The 4H club is an agricultural program where children can come in and raise animals."
Exercising Classroom Concepts in the Garden
Julia Cotts, Executive Director of the Garden School Foundation, describes how gardening in school can enhance student's learning.