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  • Writer's pictureNatalya Murakhver

Notes from February 12th Parent Action Meeting with Helen Rosenthal/Dan Giuisti/Bill Telepan

We had a great meeting today at BP Adams office with Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, Brigaid's Dan Giusti, Wellness in the School's Bill Telepan and Nancy Easton, and Pam Koch and staff of the Tisch Food Center. If you missed it, you can watch most of it on my facebook live video:

Notes from Helen Rosenthal's talk: 

- Helen Rosenthal will push for a school food task force which will include parents, wellness nonprofits, leaders of school food, MDs. nutritionists, City Council members, Tisch Food Center, DOH and DOE staff to begin to create a strategy for what school food should look like and how to get there. 

- In the meantime, Helen asks us to flood your council members with letters and calls (I will be adding more sample letters in the coming days that reflect our more current asks but there are some good ones on there to start:

But you can write your own letter that: - Ask City Council to support the health of our kids by making school food a priority for them and by: 

and to support the creation of a Wellness Coordinator Role to erase inequity and ensure every school has a full suite of Wellness Programming that includes nutrition, PE, gardens, and mental health resources.

We spoke a lot about a new position of Wellness Coordinator that would oversee nutrition ed, gardening and Helen suggested also mental health and to align that with First Lady's NYC Thrive initiative which is a great idea. We need to make sure that we beef up the role so it's not something that can be folded into parent coordinator role. Next steps are for us to work with the Food Ed Steering Committee to create a job description and work on selling this to City Council/DOE. It will be easier to sell to City Council if they get lots of calls and letters from parents supporting this role so I will draft one and put it up on the Resources section of the website. 

-  Brigaid Update: Dan reported lots of great news about scratch program and he is really excited by the progress that's been made. 

- The Tisch Center's evaluation of scratch cooking pilot will be complete in August and it will review the systems that had to be put into place to allow this scratch cooking pilot to happen and summarize the triumphs and challenges and advise how and when it can go to scale.

- Diversity: we need to represent more parents of color in our group; this is a goal of ours and that's why we would like everyone to share this movement as much as possible on social media and in parent groups so that more and more parents can work on this with us. We will continue to speak at CECs and PTAs and more to ensure we are representing as many parents from across the city as possible. Equity and diversity in our group is very important.

- Messaging about Menus and Advocacy: We want to be sure our messaging is reading accurately; we are not a health organization or promoting a vegan menu; we are a volunteer parent advocacy group and whose main goal is to fight the obesity and chronic disease plaguing our kids but also ensure that food insecure hungry children are well fed.

So let me be clear: We are not pushing for kale bowls and chia seed shakes (and if we were I imagine Office of School Food would not be giving us the time of day). We are pushing for home-cooking, real food, not highly processed. We are hoping to see omnivorous meals with a strong selection of plant-based options too, so things like spaghetti and turkey meatballs in a fresh tomato sauce, roasted chicken and potatoes with garlicky greens, veggie-loaded unfried rice and vegetable dumplings, arroz con pollo, lasagna, veggie burgers with avocado and slaw on whole grain buns, lo mein with chicken and vegetables, miso salmon and carrots and quinoa, barbecue chicken and cornbread with sauteed greens, veggie chili with brown rice and salsa; rice bowls and the like. But again, we are not writing the menus, we leave that to Brigaid and WITS, but this is what we are advocating for, less bag to oven, more real food!

I have updated our messaging on our website to ensure that we don't come across as some angry mob of moms that wants to convert school food to a vegan kale farm. That's not it at all; we want real food. Not highly processed foods. Let me know what you think of the new language: Real food made by real people (not factories) on every plate. Nourishing minimally-processed meals that appeal to the diversity of our city.   

And to reiterate, we want to speak at your PTA meeting -- please invite us! Add us to your parent groups, help get the word out.

Our next get together is March 2nd from 5-7pm at Dynamite Shop in Brooklyn. There will be veggie chili, wine and beer and BP Adams too!

Our next parent action meeting is Tuesday April 16th at 9:30am at Borough Hall's main conference room. Hopefully no snow!

Bring one friend who is not in the Alliance from a different neighborhood!

Thanks gang!


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