Schools dish up locally grown grains and legumes

A growing number of school are looking beyond fruits and vegetables and including healthy, regionally grown grains and legumes in their farm to school programs. A new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy explores the opportunities and challenges for sourcing grains and legumes on a larger scale.

I had the opportunity to interview food service staff, vendors and their partners as a part of the case studies included in the report. The passion and dedicated of all of the partners involved in implementing farm to school programs was inspiring – each person I interviewed was clearly committed to making local purchasing work for the schools, the farmers and the students. I was also struck by the complexity of changing eating habits. Each of the profiled schools is a leader in the field – implementing changes in their school food service that swim against the tide of a food culture that places a premium on convenience, in every sense of the word. I found it particularly satisfying to hear the story of places like Grand Rapids Michigan, where the food service director demonstrated that she had been paying a premium for canned beans from a national distributor when she switched to dry beans, grown on local farms. And  I was inspired by the creativity of the schools in changing the students’ minds about what constitutes good food. You can read a summary and download the individual case studies here.

Healthy fast food takeaways: an oxymoron or a viable goal?

A team of researchers and practitioners from London Metropolitan University, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Alehm, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the London Food Board have just released a new toolkit to encourage healthier takeaways in low-income communities. The toolkit focuses on the business case for adopting healthier cooking practices and seeks to identify healthier business models.

The findings, which were presented at London City Hall yesterday, highlighted the need for local and national policy change to shift the tide. Continue reading

Understanding the Role of Community Development Finance in Improving Access to Healthy Food

It was CDFI_Reporta pleasure to work with ChangeLab Solutions and The Food Trust on this new report Understanding the Role of Community Development Finance in Improving Public Health. When the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative launched in 2004, I worked closely with colleagues The Reinvestment Fund to design a financing program that brought financial and social returns to underserved communities. We worked hard to develop a common set of values and operating principles. Since that time, The Food Trust and TRF have blazed new ground for collaboration between public health advocates and financial institutions. Both organizations are now leaders in this work nationally. It’s my hope that this fact sheet will make it easier for community-based organizations and public health department staff to build relationships with CDFIs in their community. Best way to get started? Pick up the phone and ask a CDFI staff person to coffee!