Wellness in the Schools | Rachel Begun, MS, RD

Not every post I write will be about gluten-free.  I am first and foremost a registered dietitian and there will be times when a conversation around larger food and nutrition issues is important for me to share, and important for you to pay attention to.  This is one of those conversations.

I had the wonderful opportunity of attending a seminar last Friday sponsored by Wellness in the Schools (which was part of a larger program called New Taste of the Upper West Side), which was a conversation with an accomplished group of panelists about how to achieve wellness in NYC schools and the larger community. The session, moderated by NY1 Anchor Elizabeth Kaledin, was a conversation with:  Chef John Fraser of the Dovetail restaurant, nutrition medicine expert Dr. Joel Fuhrman, The Food Network’s Ellie Krieger, Food and Wine Magazine Editor Kate Krader, Steve Cuozzo of The New York Post, Bill Telepan of Telepan restaurant, and Eric Goldstein of NYC School Food Support Services. 

The conversation that ensued is exactly what needs to happen in every large city and small town across the United States in order to address the childhood obesity phenomenon that is devastating this country. 

Each panel member brought excellent points to the table for how to address childhood obesity.  Here are some of the salient points raised in the conversation that I recommend you bring to your community:

  • Hire professionally-trained chefs for school food programs
  • Educate parents about nutrition, just like we do for kids
  • Teach moderation to and be a positive example for our kids…this is the responsibility of the parent, not the teacher
  • Turn off the TV and get into the kitchen as a family.  We manage to set aside 2 hours a night of television watching, but yet we “don’t have time to cook” during the week.  If you can’t find time during the week, pick a weekend night or afternoon.  Just like you do for soccer games and dance class, set a schedule for doing this…one night a week, two times a month, etc.
  • Celebrate healthy foods by talking about their textures, colors, aromas and flavors rather than focusing on their nutrient values
  • Teach kids about where food comes from–the earth–and how it gets to the dinner table
  • Encourage your school to take on the Healthier US School Challenge - a program that recognizes schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity.  First Lady Michelle Obama incorporated the Challenge into her Let’s Move campaign

While all of the panelists were engaging, Bill Telepan was quite inspiring due to his relationship with WITS.  Bill heads up the Cook for Kids program, which sends culinary school graduates into public school kitchens to prepare fresh meals from scratch and educate families about the importance of eating whole, unprocessed food.  I can’t think of a better use of time for our nation’s culinary school graduates!

WITS’ Cook for Kids, Green for Kids and Coach for Kids programs were developed for nationawide replication.  Consider taking them to your community.

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3 Responses to Wellness in the Schools

  1. Really great article. Really..

  2. Jessica says:

    Sounds like a great event! I really wanted to go, but couldn’t make it. Thanks for the summary!

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