Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. Today's contributor, Emilie Dayan, writes a weekly SFA blog series called "Sustainable South" about food and the environment, nutrition, food access, food justice, agricultural issues and food politics.
By Southern Foodways Alliance
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about urban agriculture and the solution it provides for sustainable and healthy living. The Jones Valley Teaching Farm (JVTF) in Birmingham, Alabama, however, is much more than an urban farm. Their vision is to educate 10,000 Birmingham children annually.
The project started in 2007 as the Jones Valley Urban Farm, when the organization transformed three and a half acres of vacant downtown property into an agricultural oasis. The mission was to make the downtown Birmingham community a healthier place. Soon, the farm’s educational programs proved to be the most relevant of all the organization’s initiatives. As a result, the leadership shifted the focus of the farm and changed the name.
Today, it is the Jones Valley Teaching Farm, and it is a place where young minds blossom. By connecting young people to their food, and helping them understand where it comes from, the JVTF believes that future generations will be empowered to eat smarter, think healthier, and live better.
By Brittany Brady, CNN
(CNN) - Asked which school meals were their favorites, students at a public school in the New York borough of Queens don't say chicken fingers or meatballs. Instead, they name rice and kidney beans, black bean quesadillas or tofu with Chinese noodles.
"Whoever thought they would hear a third-grader saying that they liked tofu and Chinese noodles?" asked Dennis Walcott, New York City schools chancellor.
Walcott was at the Active Learning Elementary School this week to celebrate its move to all-vegetarian meals five days a week. The school of nearly 400 students, from pre-kindergarten to third grade, was founded five years ago on the principle that a healthy lifestyle leads to strong academic achievement.
"We decided on a vision where health and nutrition would be a part of educating the whole child," school principal Bob Groff said.
The school's focus on healthier meals began three years ago when Groff noticed a majority of students were bringing their own vegetarian meals. The school went meatless three days a week about a year and a half ago. It also tested meals on a small group of students, gathering feedback and changing the menu accordingly.
Active Learning's student body may be more accustomed to vegetarian diets than most, with 85% of the students being Asian and another 10% Hispanic, said Margie Feinberg, spokeswoman for the New York Department of Education.
"Rice was a staple of many of their home foods," Groff said of the students.
In Los Angeles, a program is trying to stop school violence by addressing teens' mental health. There's no predicting violent outbursts, the team says, and it's tough to watch out for L.A.'s nearly 700,000 students - but they feel like they've reached kids who probably wouldn't have gotten help, otherwise.
By Ben Brumfield, CNN
(CNN) - Sorry, kid. No money, no lunch.
Students at an Attleboro, Massachusetts, middle school went hungry this week, if they had a negative balance on their pre-paid lunch cards.
Five cents of debt was enough for cafeteria employees at the Coehlo Middle School to instruct kids at least one day this week to dump out the food they would have normally eaten, CNN affiliate WJAR in Rhode Island reported.
About 25 children left the lunchroom with empty stomachs, said Whitson's Culinary Group in a statement. The company runs the school's cafeteria.
Parents were appalled. So was the principal. So was Whitson's.
"I told them this is bullying; that's neglect, child abuse," said parent Jo-An Blanchard.
Principal Andrew Boles apologized and blamed the culinary company. "My expectation is that every child, every adult, every parent, every student, every teacher is respected in this building, and that didn't happen yesterday because of Whitson's," he told WJAR.
(CNN) - The letter is signed "cordially" but students who received the instruction to stop handing out condoms on campus say they were taken aback by demands they feel could go as far as threatening their rights.
Various dorm rooms at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, have a "Safe Site" symbol on their door. That signifies that inside are male and female condoms, personal lubricant and safer sex information, according to BC Students for Sexual Health. "If you are in need of condoms, you may knock (on) one of these doors and just ask!" the group's website says.
Lizzie Jekanowski, chair of BCSSH, told CNN that the college has always been aware of the group's activities. "We've had a positive and open relationship with the administration up to this point," she said.
But earlier this month, college administrators sent letters to students whose dorm room doors have the logo saying that distributing condoms on campus "is not in concert with the mission of Boston College as a Catholic and Jesuit university."
"Should we receive any reports that you are, in fact, distributing condoms on campus, the matter would be referred to the student conduct office for disciplinary action by the University," concluded the letter sent by dean of students Paul J. Chebator and director of residence life George Arey.
(CNN) - One of Wendy Killian's young students was ill. Eight-year-old Nicole Miller was born with a genetic disorder and in need of a kidney transplant. The girl was exhausted and often missed class, although her parents did their best to keep her up to speed.
During a parent-teacher conference, Killian asked Nicole's mom, what does your daughter need in a donor?
As she listed off the requirements for a match, "I just kept thinking, 'Huh. That's me,'" said Killian, a teacher at Mansfield Christian School in Ohio.
Now, she's preparing her students to work with a substitute teacher, and preparing her own sons to face her recuperation.
When the hospital calls, Killian will be giving Nicole a kidney.
By Kat Kinsman, CNN
(CNN) - Breakfast might not just be the most important meal of a child's day – it might be one of most important meals of their life. A new study released Wednesday by non-profit group Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign shows the positive effect that school breakfast can have on a child's performance in class and on standardized tests, and what this can mean for their future.
Eleven million low-income students eat a school-provided breakfast. Share Our Strength partnered with professional services firm Deloitte to analyze third party studies and publicly available data to assess the impact of existing school breakfast plans on students' academic performance. They found some rather eye-opening statistics.
Students who ate school breakfast attended an average of 1.5 more days of school than their meal-skipping peers, and their math scores averaged 17.5% higher. The report, which was funded in part by Kellogg's, went on to share that these students with increased attendance and scores were 20% more likely to continue on and graduate high school. High school graduates earn on average $10,090 more annually that their non-diploma-holding counterparts and are significantly less likely to experience hunger in adulthood.
By Jen Christensen, CNN
(CNN) - A couple of weeks ago, Micha Rahder got a disturbing letter. It said that she no longer had health insurance - and was required to as a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz.The problem was - it was her own school's insurance policy that was dropping her.
Rahder, 30, was losing insurance because she had reached the lifetime limit of coverage under the University of California's student health insurance plan. She suffers from a rare disorder that requires her to get regular and expensive IV treatments every four weeks.
Without treatment for her chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy - a disease that attacks her nervous system - she has lost the ability to walk and has had to have a guest lecturer come in to teach her class. She said she can't understand why she's in this predicament.
Micha Rahder can't walk at the moment because she can't afford treatment for her illness without insurance.
"I initially thought Obamacare would take care of this, but somehow these schools have slipped out of it. I'm extremely frustrated," Rahder said. "Most people didn't know I was sick until this happened, and when I tell them why I'm sick, they can't believe it."
Had she been insured elsewhere, she might have been protected from losing her health care coverage.
Under the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act, or ACA, lifetime limits are supposed to be a thing of the past. But there are about 30 schools in the country, mostly in California and the Ivy League system, that offer students what is called self-funded student health insurance.
Instead of using an insurance company, a university runs the program, and student premiums directly pay for it. Experts say it's a complicated system to run, but it's ultimately a lot cheaper for a school, because it eliminates the middleman of an insurance company.
By Dani Carver, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Dani Carver is a senior at the University of New Mexico majoring in elementary education. She plays intramural volleyball at the university. She is also a member of the National PTA's Youth Involvement Committee.
(CNN) - As a former high school athlete, the recent rumblings surrounding new school lunches have resonated with me, but perhaps not for the reasons one may think. Decades of research show a direct link between healthy eating and performance in sports. For too long, we have accepted that student-athletes just need calories – any calories. That is simply not true. Athletes need nutritious offerings to do their best, whether that is in the classroom or on the field.
That’s why I support the changes and updates to the school lunch program made this year as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. A provision of the law, which took effect this year, requires schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to serve meals with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk, and portion sizes appropriate for age groups.
One of the criticisms of the new meals is that they are not meeting the needs of student-athletes. That’s a real concern for some students. But when we look deeper at the issue, the facts may be surprising.
By Ruchi Gupta, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Children should not die in schools. Children should not die from eating common foods. A minuscule speck of a peanut, not even visible, should not take a young child's life in minutes.
And yet this has happened in the past two years - to 13-year-old Kaitlyn in Chicago and to 7-year-old Ammaria in Virginia. As the holidays approach and celebratory treats are brought into schools from home, we must ensure children with food allergies are safe.
Congress can contribute to that by rapidly passing the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. This bill would provide states with incentives to require elementary schools and secondary schools to maintain, and permit school personnel to administer, epinephrine - a form of adrenaline that eases hives and breathing difficulties and when injected, prevents rapid death.FULL STORY