This year, schools all across the country will have access to healthier school meals in their cafeteria. We chatted with Libertad Mendivil, a student chef from Denver, about healthy school meals and eating. The teen is a finalist from Cooking Up Change, a competition in which high school students compete to make healthy school meals that are tasty for students and affordable for school districts.
Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods (KSHF): How did you get involved in the Cooking Up Change Competition?
Libertad Mendivil: Cooking is something I’ve always been interested in, so it was a program that I wanted to get involved in. At first I thought it would be just a one-time opportunity to cook, but it turned out to be this awesome competition, a great trip to DC, and a way to meet other awesome kids.
KSHF: So had you thought about eating healthy before the competition?
Libertad Mendivil: I had considered it; I’d say I need to eat healthier, but never went through with anything. I didn’t have resources or recipes until I joined the competition. I then learned that eating healthy was a bigger part of who I am than I thought.
KSHF: What did you learn?
Libertad Mendivil: That we kids really aren’t that different. Many of us look for something healthy in our lunches and something that’s not just frozen then heated up. We all want the same thing and now, we have a voice because we got involved.
KSHF: If you had any message to give to a policy maker or President Obama, what would it be?
Libertad Mendivil: To put stoves in our kitchens. Without proper equipment, it makes sense why we have frozen food over real cooked food.
March is National Nutrition Month, a time to focus new energy on giving kids healthy food options throughout the school day. Students consume up to half of their daily calories in school, so access to wholesome meals and snacks is important to their overall health. In fact, research shows that students living in states with strong nutrition laws gain less weight than those in states without such policies.More info
Jessica Donze Black, director for the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, calls the modification change a “pragmatic and scientifically sound decision,” and San Francisco-based school food reformer Dana Woldow agrees: “[The calorie caps] will automatically limit the amount of potentially fatty protein and grains going into the meals. I think the days of seeing giant cheeseburgers the size of your head in school cafeterias may be over.”More info
It was food delivery day at Glen Landing Middle School in Blackwood, New Jersey, and the 42-year-old walk-in freezer went kaput. Again.More info
This is the second in a series of reports that summarizes how schools are putting in place updated U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, meal standards and the challenges they must overcome to reach full implementation.More info
infrastructure. More info
Schools would be better able to serve healthy, appealing meals if investments were made in new kitchen equipment and infrastructure.More info
Only 1 in 10 school districts nationwide (12 percent) has all the kitchen equipment needed to serve healthy foods, according to a new report issued by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project. The report makes recommendations for how schools, policymakers, industry, and philanthropic partners can work together to make these investments and provide healthy, appealing foods more efficiently. It is the first national assessment of districts’ kitchen equipment and infrastructure needs.More info