Trimming Maine waistlines starts with kids
By Deidre Fulton Reporter for the Portland Phoenix
Published on October 7, 2011 Read Full Article
Foods that have shown up on my lunch plate recently: spiced and roasted potatoes from Green Thumb Farm in Fryeburg, hearty chili with beans from Exeter and local veggies, sweet and juicy corn-on-the-cob from Belanger''s Farm in Lewiston, and local leafy greens from Snell and Jordan farms in Buxton and Cape Elizabeth, still crunchy with bits of earth. For dessert: strawberry shortcake with berries from Fair Winds Farm in Bowdoin, and a crisp and tangy apple from Pie Tree Orchard in Sweden (Maine).
I haven''t been dining at local farm-to-table establishments, at least not the kind you may be thinking of. Nope, these meals came on compartmentalized school-lunch trays, one at the East End Community School on Munjoy Hill, and the other at Songo Locks Elementary School in Naples.
The farm-fresh component of these particular lunches was amped up due to the fact that Maine Harvest Lunch Week took place from September 26 to 30, when schools across the state highlighted local ingredients in their cafeterias. To different degrees, these locally procured feasts were representative of a systemic change. This year, Portland public schools are spending 22 percent of their $1.4 million food budget on local foods, says Ron Adams, food-service director for the district. That''s up from about zero just a few years ago. Meanwhile, Naples has implemented an across-the-board shift to brown rice and whole-grain bread and pizza doughs, says school health coordinator Courtney Kennedy. As of this year, Hood Milk offers low-fat chocolate milk, and many districts are switching to skim or one-percent white milks.
"The cafeteria is the biggest classroom in the entire school," says Walter Beesley, child nutrition specialist with the state Department of Education. "We want that to be a healthy environment."
To that end, Maine is receiving tons of money to instill healthy eating habits and healthy living habits in schools, towns, and families. We''re talking millions of dollars, to increase the availability and affordability of fresh foods and boost physical activity — while decreasing our waistlines.