Receiving the Friend of Child Nutrition Silver FAME Award from SNA is one of the greatest honors of my professional career. As is the case with any honor, I believe that this one comes with serious responsibility.
Ever since I found out about this FAME award last fall, I‘ve been thinking about how to be the best possible friend of Child Nutrition Programs moving into 2012 . It’s sure to be an intense year – with the new USDA meal patterns, more rule proposals in the pipeline, and continued scrutiny from all sides of the childhood health debate.
To be perfectly honest, I toyed with the idea of giving up my work in child nutrition to reinvent myself as a yoga teacher or dog whisperer. By the end of 2011, I was really worn down by the pizza-as-vegetable food fight, the ongoing debate over flavored milk, and the whole war on childhood obesity.
So, I have taken a few weeks to thoughtfully consider the issues, as well as my own beliefs and actions. I asked myself tough questions about my work with the food industry, my laser focus on the positives in school meals, and – frankly – my own deaf ear to some foods reformers. Although I didn’t always like the answers that I found, I did find my own, independent way through this very divisive – and very important – issue.
First, while I firmly believe that reasonable people can disagree, IMHO the current battle mentality and war analogies are not in the best interest of our children’s future. I believe that our children deserve our best efforts to work together – as school nutrition professionals, school food reformers, school food manufacturers, and school food regulators. Only by reaching across the divides among us can we find solutions for School Meals That Rock – in all districts across the US – given the realistic limitations on resources of money, time, and space.
So, here is my simple manifesto for 2012 – to be the BFF for Child Nutrition that I can. I promise to:
Consider all the evidence.
- I promise to look carefully at the science as well as the passion for change. I will share my own views and potential conflicts of interest as honestly as possible.
- While vigorously supporting outstanding programs, I will also document ways to implement changes in those districts where school meals definitely don’t rock.
Search for common ground.
- Both the letter and spirit of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and new USDA regulations for meal patterns and competitive foods are critical for kids.
- Given the realities of federal, state, and local budgets, it is going to take creative collaboration to implement changes in school food programs.
Celebrate every success.
- School Meals That Rock started as a way to showcase the amazing everyday things that school nutrition heroes are already doing – that will continue.
- With additional School Meals That Rock formats like this blog and Twitter, I will be able to share more in-depth information with more diverse audiences.
So, thanks for your likes and follows, but most of all, thanks for everything you do for kids. The most important reason for expanding School Meals That Rock is to offer even more ways for you to share the wonderful things that are happening in your school.