School Board Blocks Food Revolution

Jamie Oliver was making a point when he came to Huntington, WV.  Take the “sickest” city in America and turn it’s citizens on to healthy eating habits.  Overhaul the school lunch program and create lots of happy, healthier citizens.

Well, the local community newspaper, “The Herald Dispatch,” polled the Cabell County school board members about their thoughts on implementing the Food Revolution in all schools.   The article, published today wasn’t that encouraging.  Lots of members hid behind budgets and spoke of gradual changes and working within USDA guidelines.  Here’s a sample.

Mary Alice Freeman:  ”The board has a responsibility to stay within the food service budget and preparing non-processed food is definitely more expensive … implementing the program in all of our schools will take time and additional resources.”

Susan Gillette:  ”Changing our eating habits is difficult because of just that – it’s a habit … you can change the eating habits of the schools a little at a time.  Substitute fresh fruit for a dessert one year.  Change to fresh vegetables the next, etc.”

Kenneth Graybeal:  ”Yes, we should (implement the Oliver program).  If students eat right, they will be healthier, but we must change slowly.”

And it goes on with all nine members of the school board ducking behind regulations and budgets.  It’s an easy cop out.  They’re all taking it.

They have a community charged up to improve the school lunch program.  They have received community donations.  They have a media spotlight that they can use to their advantage.  They have trained staff in place that can help train more staff.  But nope, that’s not enough.

Right now, if the school board has anything to do with it, the Food Revolution is already dead.  Nothing much will change.

So how much will it cost to have the Cabell County Schools running on the Jamie Oliver program?  West Virginia First Lady, Gayle Manchin who also has a seat on the State’s School Board said, it would take an additional$66,000 next school year to make part-time cooks into full-time employees.

Here’s the thing, Cabell Huntington Hospital donated $80,000 to the Cabell County school lunch program.  ”The biggest part of that is money to train every single school cook in Cabell County how to cook healthy meals from scratch, so they’re not just opening a box of frozen chicken nuggets and warming them up,” said Doug Sheils, a representative from the hospital in a recent interview.

Does this mean they have $80,000 to train the staff but they don’t have $66,000 to cover the additional employee costs?  Is that $80,000 a complete waste then? Where is that money going now?

I found the school budget figures for the 2007-2008 school year after quite a bit of hunting.  The total budget for Cabell County is $140,801,000.  Broken down by category, $27,047,000 is for Operations, Food Service, Other.  The $66,000 represents one-quarter of one percent (.25%) of the Operations and Food Service budget.

Is the school board of Cabell County really telling their families that they can’t come up with one-quarter of one percent of their budget to improve school meals?

Shame on them.  I hope some parents see this post and try to do something about it.  I hope there’s some screaming and ranting and minds being changed.

The school board is ready to let the momentum slide on their Food Revolution.  They are ready to go back to the “same old, same old.”  Please don’t let them.

What are your thoughts?