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Fixin' Healthcare

Friday, January 06, 2006

Learning the Basics

"Local agriculture" and "sustainable environment" are terms that everybody needs to know. They are about how food is grown, how food gets to the table, a cleaner environment and conservation of energy. And, they are about healthy lifestyle and health.

Chef Alice Waters founded her resturant, Chez Panisse, in Brekeley, California more than 30 years ago and she has been a champion of these principles. In 1995, she established the Edible Schoolyard as a one acre graden at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley. At the garden students help to plant and harvest fruits and vegetables, then cook and eat meals using their own produce.

The program has expanded into all 16 public schools in Berkeley, providing nutritious lunches for more than 9,000 students from kindergarten through high school. She believes the project will succeed if all the students in a school take part and they will take part if the food is delicious, as well as healthy. Also, she believes the project must be incorporated into the classroom studies of geography, history and the sciences. Where does food come from? How is it grown? What happens when you cook it?

The Promise Academy is a charter school in Harlem. Almost 90% of the students come from families poor enough to qualify for frse government lunches, and 44% are overweight. School officials regularly measure the children's weight and fitness along with their academic progress. Eating at the Promise Academy is more than just the food. Children learn to respect where food comes from and who serves it, as well as whom they eat with.

From Middlebury College and the University of Montana to public schools in Tallahassee, Florida, officials at more than 200 universities and 400 school districts are supporting a farm-to-cafeteria movement to build their menus around fresh local ingredients. The Department of agriculture has provided very little money for farm-to-cafertia programs but individual administrators are using sustainable agriculture as part of the new federal wellness initiative which requires school districts in consultation with parents, students and schools, to create a comprehensive wellness program with nutrition guidelines.

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