Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Advocates Taking a Bite out of Malnutrition

While being interviewed by CNN’s Eatocracy about speaking before the House of Representatives to advocate for H.R. 5504, Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio said, “They say there are two things you never want to see made - sausage and law. And I know how to make sausage, so now I'm just making law. It was pretty cool.”

This bill, also known as the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act, hopes to increase nutritional value in school meals. It would also establish nutritional standards for foods sold outside of the cafeteria, such as the food sold in vending machines.

Similarly, in First Lady Michelle Obama's Let’s Move” program, she is focusing on new standards for food found in cafeterias and vending machines, and the overall improvement of nourishment in children.

Colicchio discusses how his mother worked in a school cafeteria tirelessly, because she knew that oftentimes her meal would be the only meal that many children would get for the day. Thus, she fought for fresh produce and other healthy foods to be offered to students.

“This is what people don’t understand: obesity is a symptom of poverty. It’s not a lifestyle choice where people are just eating and not exercising. It’s because kids—and this is the problem with school lunch right now—are getting sugar, fat, empty calories-lots of calories—but no nutrition,” Colicchio states.

Chef Colicchio and the First Lady are not the only advocates for healthier food choices, service projects have made headway even in higher education institutions such as at California State University Fresno. There, the Student Dietetic Association (SDA) is responsible for the creation of weekly farmers markets. This project, found on the projects webpage, promotes healthy eating within higher education institutions, which demonstrates that the need for service in the health sector exists in higher education institutions as well.

Now, the weekly farmers market hopes to bring Fresno State attendees together in the name of healthier eating. SDA urges others to get involved within their own communities by starting their own farmers markets to continue the promotion of healthy eating.

ICP's publication, Transforming Communities Through Service (June 2010), is another example of recent literature that has a section focused on health in young people. In Ohio for example, AmeriCorps has a program called "Healthy Kids Healthy Communities," that works to instate after-school programs focused on diet, nutrition, and exercise. The program's curriculum is directly implemented by Coordinated Approach to Child Health-Physical Education (CATCH-PE) and Food Folks. Through service, young people are taking steps to combat health issues in their communities, while advocates like Tom Colicchio fry bigger fish in the House of Representatives.

What can be seen is that there are multiple service-based initiatives that allow for positive change through service now, in hopes of ending malnutrition and childhood obesity, while legislation is pending on Capitol Hill.

There are plenty of other programs currently being run through AmeriCorps, and you can check them out here.

Are you involved in improving your school or community’s well-being and health? Tell us about it in the comment below!

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