The majority of diseases in this country are diseases of diet and lifestyle. The Standard American Diet of highly processed and animal-based foods is having a devastating impact on adults and children. The Standard American Diet is truly SAD. The U.S. food consumption as a percentage of calories shakes out to 63% of calories coming from processed foods, 25% from animal based foods and only 12% coming from plant-based foods. Diseases typically found only in adults are now showing up in children.
The New York Coalition for Healthy School Food (NYCHSF) is working to do something about reversing this trend starting with kids early on. NYCHSF is a statewide nonprofit that is working to improve the health and well-being of New York’s students by advocating for and providing healthy plant based food alternatives in New York schools. In addition, they provide nutrition education and resources with the goal to create a new generation of food- and health-literate students.
I had a chance to speak with Amie Hamlin, the Coalition’s Executive Director to learn more about the program and its mission.
Tell me a little more about the work your organization is doing.
Amie: First of all there’s a whole unhealthy school food environment so it’s not just the food in the cafeteria. There are the vending machines,
birthday and holiday parties, fund raising sales using candy and cookie dough and things like that so there’s a lot of other food in schools besides the food in the cafeteria that needs to be addressed. We’re concerned about the whole school food environment.
We have two major pilot programs going. One is in New York City and one is in Ithaca, NY. Everybody knows that we need more fruits and vegetables and whole grains and all schools who are working on the issue of school food are addressing that by offering more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Our program really addresses the entrée [being offered in the cafeteria]. That has the greatest potential to improve health and that is a plant based entrée which in the national school lunch program would mostly mean legumes, so beans or lentils or split peas. Unfortunately, tofu doesn’t count as a protein in this system.
So how does your program work?
Amie: Our entree is on the menu in 18 schools out of 1200. In the schools where our entree is on the menu, it’s on the menu twice a week. Three of the 18 schools will have it so there is only our entree plus a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In these 3 schools, virtually all the students will take our entree.
In the schools where the kids have a lot of choices, when our entree comes up against chicken nuggets or mozzarella sticks or cheeseburgers, most of the kids take those standard things and a few will take ours. This is still a success.
What about nutrition myths about plant-based diets? Do you find yourself having a lot of discussions with the school staff or administrators
Amie: Not too much. I think the bigger issue is that sometimes there are adults who don’t think kids will be willing to eat this way and it is true that part of the challenge is that some of these children are eating fast food every day. That’s the way they eat so they’re not really used to homemade meals or they’re not really used to different ingredients. So it’s just something really different from the food that we’re serving which is good because we’re exposing them to new things.
So tell me about your annual Gala coming up October 12th.
Amie: We’re very excited that our fall gala this year is moving to a much larger space so we’re very excited. In the past it’s been at the Peter Max Studio. This year it’s going to be at the New York Academy of Medicine and they are Co-Sponsors of the event. We will be honoring Mary and Peter Max because they’ve hosted us all these years and they’ve done so many other things to support our group. Also, we will be honoring the staff at the Max Studio and we’ll also be honoring our volunteer of the year, Rebecca Johnson.
What about the food?
Amie: There are going to be 24 restaurants or caterers each with their own six foot long table offering their food so people will get to try that many different things. Then there’s going to be organic wine, organic beer, organic juice and organic ice tea. So there will be lots of food and
beverages. The idea of going around and tasting all these different foods is really one of the big features of the event. The other big feature of the event is the fashion show.
What’s the fashion show going to be like?
Amie: The fashion show is called Healthy Food in Fashion. You can see our design, it’s the vegetable couture design which is the Lockhart Stamp Company design. They so generously allowed us to use their design and Joshua Katcher so generously offered to coordinate the show. He got us models and designers and all these different things so that’s really exciting. It’s not a traditional fashion show, it’s more interactive instead of a runway show.
To attend the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food’s Fall Gala and support this great organization visit their website Healthy School Food for more info and tickets.
Healthy Food in Fashion Fall Gala is Wednesday, October 12th, from 6:30 to 9:30pm at the New York Academy of Medicine in NYC.
The event will be hosted by Robin Quivers with many special guests including Russell Simmons, and Majora Carter.
There will be a silent auction, gift bags, and a book raffle. Come on out for the cause, the people, the food, the drinks, the fashion (many vegan designer faves), and the chance to win a coat from Vaute Couture among other raffle prizes or enter in the silent auction for the chance at a dress from Heather Mills’ line of clothing. All the food served at the event will be 100% plant-based vegan goodness.
There are different levels of support starting at $100 for one ticket. There’s the opportunity to give more and receive recognition as a supporter, Peter Max artwork, and more. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets for New York Coalition for Healthy School Food’s Fall Gala.
I hope to see you there!