- Op-Ed by Betti Wiggins of Detroit Public Schools emphasizes now is “not the time to waver from our national pursuit of improved nutrition in public schools”
- Improved eating habits in children “have direct implications for our national defense. By some estimates, 75% of 18-24 year olds are ineligible for military service.”
- Feeding children more fruits and vegetables generates economic growth as “each month local farmers deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to our schools. Buying locally supports Michigan farm families and increases student exposure to fresh foods.”
- The positive outcomes from better school meals are thoroughly studied and strongly documented. ... A nutrient-dense school meal also helps to establish lifelong eating patterns that contribute to better health as adults.
- As congressional deliberations of federal school nutrition appropriations continue, the non-partisan tone established by Michigan’s own Senator Debbie Stabenow should endure.
Read the full story in Detroit News. Excerpt below.
Don't waver on school nutrition
By Betti Wiggins
The Detroit News
Now is most certainly not the time to waiver from our national pursuit of improved nutrition in public school meals. As someone one responsible for feeding more than 49,000 school children multiple times a day in Detroit Public Schools, I am dismayed by the politicization of new federal guidelines for school nutrition programs.
The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is about far more than the simplistic partisan framing offered by news outlets. The school lunch reforms represent a solid value proposition for the nation. As leaders responsible for the well-being of children, whether we are parents, in Congress, school nutrition officers, in food business or at USDA, we must steal our focus away from the process of change to instead emphasize the positive outcomes enabled by the new policies.
Some 87 percent of Detroit Public Schools students come from households below the federal poverty line. Many of our students consume half their meals at school, while some eat breakfast, lunch and supper with us. We spend more than $20 million a year fulfilling our obligations to these up and coming citizens, and we believe it’s our calling to help them reach their full potential.
The positive outcomes from better school meals are thoroughly studied and strongly documented. According to a 2004 study in the Journal of Health Economics, children who eat nutrient-dense meals that include whole grains, lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables are shown to be better students. Their attention spans are longer, they are better able to concentrate and they are less likely to be absent from school. A nutrient-dense school meal also helps to establish lifelong eating patterns that contribute to better health as adults, returning dividends to taxpayers for decades to come.
In Detroit Public Schools, we are offering our students more whole grains, fresh greens harvested from our own gardens, and Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables, like blueberries and asparagus, which many of our children and families might otherwise not be able to access or afford. Last year, 22 percent of produce purchased by Detroit Public Schools was purchased in Michigan …
***Read the rest of the column in the Detroit News.
Betti Wiggins is executive director of the Detroit Public Schools Office of School Nutrition and vice chair of the Local Food Association.