A new wellness program established by Metro public schools in December now has an enforcer: parents.
Organized by the Healthy School Food Team, a grassroots group of parents promoting wellness initiatives in Nashville, gathered at the Farmer’s Market Thursday morning to discuss healthier food options in the city’s public school cafeterias.
They applauded the initiative shown by Metro and Wellness Coordinator Tina Bozeman but also stressed the need to continue promoting healthy lifestyle and eating habits in schools.
“Our long-term vision includes food coming from regional farmers, to support local farmers, and so we can offer a variety of fresh fruit and produce instead of Fritos and the stuff that’s offered currently,” parent Daynise Couch said. “According to the USDA of the 17 schools that implemented overhauls in their cafeterias, 12 increased their revenue as a result.”
But short-term objectives seem more obtainable.
“First off, we want to make sure all principals are aware of the wellness policy, because I’m not sure if they all are. From there we need to get parents involved and form the wellness teams,” Couch said. Having wellness teams in 50 schools by December would be a positive step, according to the organization.
MNPS cafeteria menus, posted online monthly, offer several meals. Entrees being served next week include pizza, chicken tetrazzini, sweet and sour chicken, and chili bean soup. A vegetarian entree (e.g. cheese pizza, grilled cheese, veggie hot pocket), fresh fruit and sides of vegetables are offered daily. The Healthy School Food Team sees room for improvement.
“For a kindergartener, for example, they get an orange, and yes that is a fruit. But at the end of the [cafeteria] line is candy, Cheetos — what is the child going to pick?” parent Selena Carpenter said. “In the end, we’d like to see all junk food removed, whether or not it makes money.”
The wellness teams will aim to combat childhood obesity in more areas than the cafeteria. The wellness policy will promote exercise and end the use of candy as a reward in class. The group’s cheerleaders for the day, a group of smiling school kids, held signs and chanted, “Good food equals good grades.”
The Health School Food Team meets monthly at the MANNA Food Security Partners  building.