Addiction Sameness

Alcohol, Opiates, Fat and Sugar are all Addictive Substances: this blog is about that "addiction sameness".

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Declare War on Sugar


by Dana Woldow

Miguel Villarreal, head of school food service for Novato Unified School District, about 30 miles north of San Francisco in 2002 learning that 35% of their students were deemed overweight based on the California Healthy Kids Survey, decided to take immediate action to address this problem.

He decided to get rid of processed food and beverages that were high in sugar; telling the NUSD that we would be removing them, knowing this would end a $70,000 revenue stream.

His plan was to increase breakfast participation to help make up for the lost soda revenue. By making breakfast part of the school day, he was able to get over 1,400 NUSD students a day to eat breakfast, where previously only 200 had done so. The extra revenue more than made up for the loss of soda money.

Next, Villarreal phased out high sugar foods like pastries, cookies and cereals, and in 2006 he eliminated flavored milk in all elementary schools, and eventually from all NUSD schools. After hearing Dr. Robert Lustig of UCSF speak on the toxicities of refined sugars, he eliminated all juice products served with meals (a limited number of 100% juices are available a la-carte at the middle and high schools.)

To date, he estimates that he has eliminated a total of 400 pounds of sugar per day from the NUSD school meal program, the equivalent of 36 tons of sugar, every year since 2006.

...what makes a school meal program successful,
- how to get high school students to eat in the cafeteria,
- why he does not support lobbying Congress to roll back new healthy school food regulations, and
- his belief that the job of Director of School Food Service should be changed to Director of Wellness.

A. – In the end, a successful school food service program is one that meets the financial and wellness goals of the school district.

Success is not necessarily measured by the number of students eating, nor by the healthiness of the food, if the kids are not eating it. 

Schools with lots of students eating may still be serving highly processed “kid” friendly meals. Is this more “successful” than a school district that is attempting to promote healthier, less processed food?

I do not subscribe to the theory that having students eat highly processed food is better than not having anything to eat. School food service programs must figure out how to overcome this way of thinking if they are going be part of the wellness solution.

Q. – What one piece of advice do you have for school districts about how they could better serve their students?

A. – We need to redefine the role of the traditional Director of Food Services to that of the Director of Wellness. The current food service director positions are primarily responsible for operations; extremely important, but it is difficult to change the overall culture of wellness of a school district or community just by improving school food. Students, parents, school staff and the community at large must embrace wellness as a comprehensive approach.

The Director of Wellness would be responsible for overseeing and helping coordinate all food, nutrition and wellness programs in the schools and community. Helping to connect the 3 C’s – Cafeteria, Classroom and Community – through coalition building with all vested individuals and organizations, as discussed in the book Food Justice by Robert Gottlieb and Anapuma Joshi.

The Director of Wellness would collaborate with numerous allied organizations in their communities, county, city and around the state, and serve as committee, advisory or board member for many of those same organizations, ensuring that the school food service program served as a hub for wellness both in schools and in the community. The Director of Wellness should also sit on the school district’s Cabinet and work closely with all internal educational departments.

If we want to see real, sustainable improvements in our children’s health, wellness and academic achievement, then it’s time for a major shift in how we view school food service programs. Sustainable change works when inside and outside forces come together for a common good.

Dana Woldow has been a school food advocate since 2002 and shares what she has learned at Follow her on Twitter @nestwife, or read more than 140 characters of her writing in her complete archive.

Dana Woldow

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