Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gov. Martin O'Malley Convenes School Principals To Tackle Child Hunger // P.S. Sweetlife Festival Returns to Merriweather

BACKGROUND: Every once in awhile, Maryland Juice is prodded into ranting about food policy issues. Granted these are not the sexiest stories, but let's be honest -- our growing hunger and nutrition problems are a collective tragedy of the commons. Moreover, these problems are solvable. Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit that is trying to end childhood hunger in America today highlighted progress in Maryland.

Last year, they note that Maryland missed out on over $8.5 million in federal assistance, due to low participation in the national School Breakfast Program. Their research suggests that large numbers of hungry students are not being connected with the breakfasts they are eligible to receive. But before you start pointing fingers, Share the Strength notes that the causes for this may be complicated:
When Share Our Strength polled U.S. middle school teachers in 2011, two-thirds said they taught children who regularly came to school hungry. Despite the availability of breakfast in school, there are several barriers to participation, including late school buses or incompatible transportation, tight morning schedules, a fear of being stigmatized for receiving a breakfast at school, and a preference to socialize instead of eat in the cafeteria.
Gov. Martin O'Malley has pledged to END CHILDHOOD HUNGER in Maryland by 2015.

These explanations for why students are continuing to underutilize available assistance suggest that solutions need to be implemented at the micro-level. That's why it is great to see Gov. Martin O'Malley getting into the nitty-gritty by convening principals to focus on the issue of child hunger. In fact, he's also trying to facilitate solutions to the problem through targeted funding:
SHARE OUR STRENGTH: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley hosted school principals and a diverse group of partners including the Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland, Share Our Strength, Maryland Hunger Solutions, the Maryland State Department of Education, corporate leaders,  and others at a breakfast today at the Maryland State House to encourage principals to improve their school breakfast programs as part of the First Class Breakfast Initiative and announce new resources and tools available to make breakfast more accessible to students.
GOVERNOR O'MALLEY: “I am pleased to announce that in its second year, the First Class Breakfast Initiative has significantly expanded outreach efforts to help schools improve breakfast programs by increasing the number of targeted schools from 21 to 150,” Governor O’Malley said. “Each school will receive up to $5,000 to implement new methods of serving school breakfast, such as Breakfast in the Classroom and Grab N’ Go, which make breakfast a part of students’ instructional time and have been shown to increase participation.”
Share Our Strength notes that Governor O’Malley was the first governor to commit to ending childhood hunger in his state by 2015. As a result of his leadership on this issue, he is being featured prominently in the upcoming Food Network documentary, “Hunger Hits Home,” which airs on April 14.

POINT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE - WTF CON AGRA: Maryland Juice would like to point out one irritating detail in the midst of this discussion. One of the contributors to Share Our Strength’s national No Kid Hungry effort is the ConAgra Foods Foundation. According to the New York Times, ConAgra is one of the entities that blocked efforts to make school meals more nutritious:
NEW YORK TIMES: In a victory for the makers of frozen pizzas, tomato paste and French fries, Congress on Monday blocked rules proposed by the Agriculture Department that would have overhauled the nation’s school lunch program.

The proposed changes — the first in 15 years to the $11 billion school lunch program — were meant to reduce childhood obesity by adding more fruits and green vegetables to lunch menus, Agriculture Department officials said....
Food companies including ConAgra ... argued that the proposed rules would raise the cost of meals and require food that many children would throw away....

Nutrition experts called the action by Congress a setback for improving the nutritional standards in school lunches and addressing childhood obesity.
Kudos to Share Our Strength and Governor Martin O'Malley for working to eliminate childhood hunger in Maryland by 2015. And let's also hope they can give ConAgra a big smack upside the head for their efforts to undermine nutritious meals for public school students!

P.S. Speaking of nutritious foods, the now annual Sweetlife Festival is returning to the Merriweather Post Pavilion on April 28th, and one of my favorite bands is one of the headliners. Check out Explosions in the Sky and other acts (see line-up below), plus sample tasty concoctions from top chefs and food experts:
“Sweetlife is a celebration of living your best life and food is a big part of that,” said sweetgreen and Sweetlife Festival co-founder Nicolas Jammet. “Being healthy shouldn't have to stop at a music festival. We want to reinvent the idea of festival food by bringing together our favorite chefs, farmers and food brands to build local and organic food concessions.”

Participants Include: Sweetgreen  | Serious Eats  | José Andrés’ Pepe Truck  |   FreshFarm  |  Taim Mobile  |  Bev Eggleston  | Smucker Farms  |  Jim Lahey  |   Keany Produce | Momofuku Milk Bar |  Pleasant Pops  | The Big Cheese  |  Sweetflow Mobile  |  Roberta’s Pizza  |  Luke’s Lobster  |  Shake Shack  |  DC Central Kitchen  |  Toki Underground |    Baked + Wired  |  Honest Tea |  Applegate |  Stonyfield  |  KIND Snacks  |  Bakery de France  |  Gordy’s Pickle Jar  |   Snikkidy Snacks  |  Sir Kensington Ketchup  | TaDah! Foods | Peak Organic Brewery


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