To the Editor:
In this season of giving thanks, I would like to express gratitude to the up-Island school committee — and to all of the local school committees, school administrators, school food service staff, town finance committees, and voters who are prioritizing healthy school meals for our Island children (Nov. 19, “Up-Island school committee discusses expanding lunch program”).
It was so encouraging to read about the great progress that has been made in the lunch program at the up-Island schools, with a 408 percent increase in participation in the past seven years. In that time, the West Tisbury and Chilmark schools upgraded their kitchen facilities to be able to serve hot, cooked-from-scratch meals for their students. Now the program serves locally grown foods almost every day of the school year.
They are able to afford this thanks in part to thoughtful school budgeting, and in large part to the dedication of their food service staff, who, like all local school cafeteria employees, spend many hours processing and freezing the local produce they receive from the Island Grown Gleaning program or at discounted rates from generous Island farming families.
Our children need access and exposure to healthy food at school now more than ever. With epidemic rates of childhood obesity and food-related disease among young people, and devastatingly high rates of hunger among families, it is up to us to empower this generation to make healthy food choices, to know how to grow their own food, and to have access to healthy food during the school day.
School lunch has historically been seen as a place to cut school spending costs, with food quality suffering as a result. We now know that we can choose to help children develop healthy eating habits and start on the road to wellness by investing in nutritious food at school, or we can cut school food budgets and pay dearly for the long-term consequences of an unhealthy diet.
We are very fortunate to live in a community where decision makers understand this — where they see that in order to give our kids the best shot at a healthy future, we need to invest in school food.
Noli Taylor, program leader
Island Grown Schools