Guest editorial | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial

Ann Bloomquist, President/Co-Founder EATS Park City

School food has been a national topic in recent years, citing the importance of nutrition, quality ingredients and appeal for children. This research-based conversation has resulted in major reforms in schools where communities value clean eating. Park City is one of those communities; our school food needs to follow suit and be raised to the highest standards.

In a recent PCSD survey to Park City parents, 78 percent of respondents reported they serve homemade meals outside of school. The majority of parents placed value on fresh fruits and vegetables being served at school. Parents also preferred their children to be served food with low sugar and salt content. Only 12percent of parents believe healthy options are offered at school. An additional school food survey was given to students by the Leadership Class at Treasure Mountain Junior High. The message was clear: the perception of school food in Park City is poor and kids do not want to eat it. Participation numbers reflect this conclusion as only 38percent of students currently eat school lunch districtwide. (A decrease from 65 percent in previous years.)

The good news is there are food offerings at our schools like bread products, made locally without preservatives and contain at least 51percent whole grains. Milk is free of hormones and antibiotics. Fruits and vegetables are offered daily at all schools, often fresh and sometimes local. Scratch cooking is being tested and options to increase training and equipment are being considered by the Child Nutrition Department. In addition, we have a staff of dedicated and experienced people at our schools who care about feeding our children nutritious and good-tasting food.

The bad news is the quality of ingredients being used in school food is a health concern for our children. Research shows ingredients such as artificial preservatives, colors and sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, trans-fats, hormones, antibiotics and bleached flour are harmful to our health. These "Sinister Seven" ingredients can be linked to hyperactivity, weight gain, cancer, digestive problems and other preventable diseases. Furthermore, these ingredients do not nourish children’s minds and bodies to perform their best academically, emotionally or physically. Foods with these ingredients should not be served to our children.

Many of us live in Park City because of the quality education in our public schools and the desire for excellence set forth for all of our students. Even though school food participation is low, many children who regularly eat at school often eat breakfast, lunch and a snack, consuming over 60 percent of their meals at school. We need to send a clear message to our school board that Park City families value nutritious school food for healthy children.

Join us to make school food healthier for Park City’s children. To help: 1. Sign the "Hungry for Healthy" petition at (http://www.eatsparkcity.org). 2. Contact your school board representative (http://www.pcschools.us/boardmembers). 3. Attend the School Board meeting on January 19th at 4pm to learn more about the school food program.

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