Today we have a guest blog from Christie Vilsack, National Honorary Co-chair of Cooking up Change 2010 and wife of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Today, March 2, Christie will speak at a Capitol Hill briefing on the future of school food along with Cooking up Change National Honorary Co-Chair Karen Duncan, HSC founding executive director Rochelle Davis and the student chefs of Tilden Career Community High School, winners of the Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest. Attendees at the briefing will have the chance to try the healthy, tasty school lunch that the students created. The meal will also be served in the House of Representatives cafeteria that same day. You can send a letter urging your Congressional leaders to try the healthy school lunch and attend the briefing!I'm thrilled to serve as the National Honorary Co-Chair of Cooking up Change. As a lifelong educator who served as a teacher in public schools for more than twenty years, I know firsthand what healthy meals and good nutrition can mean for children's learning. I also know how important it is for students to be actively involved in their own education. I'm especially excited to be part of this effort because, during this time of increased attention to child nutrition and school meal quality, Cooking up Change gives students the opportunity to play a key role in school food reform.
President and Mrs. Obama have challenged all of us to work hard toward solutions to the problems of childhood obesity and childhood hunger. My husband, Secretary Tom Vilsack, and his entire team at the Department of Agriculture are going to have a leading role in meeting these challenges. But beyond what the Department is doing, we all have a role in changing the future of school food. As a teacher, I'm honored to take on a role that empowers students to craft solutions to the school food challenges our country faces.
The reality is that no matter how hard our leaders work, changes to school food can't just be about the grown-ups. Education happens when kids are actively involved in solving problems, and Cooking up Change is a perfect example of that involvement: it's about doing something, being active and tackling real-life problems.
Cooking up Change has implications across the board for learning. The task of designing a healthy school meal that meets nutrition and budget requirements engages students in problem-solving, math, nutrition and communication. It's very interesting. Creative problem solving is one of the most important skills that kids can learn, and it's one of the most difficult skills to teach. This effort gives students the opportunity to develop that skill. School is also an important place to teach lessons about healthy eating and provide students with knowledge about food and the impact it has on their health. I can't think of a better way for students to learn those lessons than to design great school meals and then see good nutrition modeled in the food they're served at school.
Cooking up Change also has implications for the food our nation's children eat in school. Though it's something we don't often talk about, we know that every day children come to school hungry. And we know that childhood obesity and childhood hunger are both serious problems that come from the same root. Serving healthy school food with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is an important step in addressing both of these problems. Who better to speak up for these changes than the students whose health and learning will be affected so directly?
As an educator, I've seen the benefits of good nutrition for kids' health and well-being. Now I'm excited to support our nation's students in Cooking up Change. I hope you will join me.