The participation of Chatham County Schools in the 2011 Chef Challenge is an exciting opportunity for our students to be treated to food prepared in partnership with outstanding local chefs. In addition to having a “tasty treat,” students will also be able to learn about a potential career path through the experience.
A Historical Perspective
During World War II the military encountered recruits experiencing problems associated with inadequate nutrition that made them unfit for service. Because of this, the National School Lunch Program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946. Since then the program has provided low-cost or free meals to students across the nation.
The Challenges of School Lunch Programs
Unfortunately, over the years school cafeteria food often reflected the trends of society, which, in addition to healthy fruit and vegetable offerings, also included fast food favorites and fried foods. Across the nation concern has arisen as obesity levels in our children and young people increase. Medical issues, overall health and activity level of today’s youth is something we, as parents and educators, must do our part to address. A MSNBC article in April of 2010 focused on concerns retired military officers have at the obesity level of today’s recruits, the opposite problem officers encountered in the 1940’s: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36664612/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/.
At the district and school levels, Chatham County Schools has put initiatives in place to model healthful living. These include staff and student wellness programs, district food and wellness policies, and changes in school cafeteria procedures. Strong efforts over the past few years have led to foods being baked instead of fried, salt removed from food, and little, if any, beverages with sugar being available in cafeterias. Fresh fruits and vegetables, purchased from local vendors whenever possible, are used frequently. Students are encouraged to try new foods, even just a taste initially, to promote choices above the favorite pizza and French fries.
One of our current challenges is balancing healthy food that contains less preservatives and fats with food that appeals to the palates of our students. Through the partnership with successful local chefs, we can tap into their expertise using spices and flavor combinations that find that balance. We look forward to this spring’s Chatham County Chef Challenge and appreciate the opportunity to be one of the many partners in this endeavor.
Superintendent Robert Logan