Food advocates came together in January to support a bill introduced in the New York City Council to mandate reporting on food and nutrition education in public schools. This bill is a rare opportunity to fight for strong nutrition education for all city children. If you are not familiar with how our elected officials shape what our kids learn about in schools, please read on.
Teachers, elected officials, and advocates are speaking out about why nutrition education is important to them. Ms. Capello, a physical education teacher at PS 294, shared that her students do not get enough physical activity, despite her best efforts, compared to wealthier districts. “Since they’re not moving, 80% of the battle is in what they eat.” Council Member and Education Chair Mark Treyger, who sponsored the bill, indignantly argued that when the President is serving hamburgers and fast food pizza to football champions, we must show our children that we have higher expectations for them.
Community Food Action believes that the best food education transcends any one outcome. Teaching through food can ground us in our ancestral traditions, illuminate how to protect our climate for the next generation, and engage children in tough math concepts through more accessible real-world applications. We are joining this fight because we want to make sure that the Department of Education ultimately endorses our cross-disciplinary vision of food education.
Quite a few Bronx District 9 schools are going above and beyond to connect students to real food. However, other schools do not have the resources or connections. Unfortunately, we do not know who is and who is not doing this work on the district or city level, because the Department of Education does not track this information. Given that District 9 is historically under resourced and under performing in terms of education and health outcomes, we can only guess that the same is true for food education. As one rally goer put it, “We Measure What We Value & We Value What We Measure.” Knowing where we’re at is the first step before we can demand better for our kids.
Community Food Action is grateful to follow the lead of researchers at the Tisch Center for Food, Education, & Policy at Teachers College, as well as other advocates. Bronx Health REACH is doing a fantastic job at getting the word out to the Bronx. On Wednesday, January 16th Community Food Action joined a boisterous rally and the Education Committee’s hearing on the bill. The more we learn, the more we can engage our parents and partners about this issue.
We thank Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Member Mark Treyger for sponsoring this effort. We are hopeful that the New York City Council will pass this legislation.
By Taisy Conk, Program Director