Notes from my meeting with Ursalina Ramirez, COO of the DOE
Good morning all. I had a very productive meeting with Ursalina Ramirez, COO of the DOE and Deputy Chancellor. She is very enthusiastic about our work and our platform. That said she had specific feedback on each of our asks.
1. Scratch--cooked foods: To be frank, she feels there is no way that scratch-cooking can be rolled out anytime soon; the infrastructure is not there and there is a budget crisis and money is not being freed up for better food for our kids. The pilot is just that, a pilot and they are trying to integrate some of the Brigaid recipes and use Dan for menu development. Right now they are using his slow-cooked carrots, kale chips and kale salad on the regular menu. They are planning to integrate more from scratch items onto the main menu and eventually eliminate the alternative menu and just have one menu.
That said, thanks to the Green New Deal announced last week they are banned from processed meats (I believe this is happening within the year) and will be reducing beef purchases by 50% by the year 2025. Have to check the actual dates in the EO.
I also suggested that alternative menu be messaged more prominently and that there be better training for cooks. I am going to send over some simple language that they can add to their website. And they are doing more cook trainings to keep skills up to par with more scratch cooked items.
They are bringing back chicken next year which will be antibiotic free.
We spoke about eliminating chocolate milk; they are still discussing but it seems they prefer keeping it but finding a vendor that can serve one with fewer grams of sugar.
They also brought up the new hire, Chief Experience Officer, who will be trying to bring a sense of hospitality and customer service to the lunch lines which I was encouraged by.
Nancy and WITS folks: I wonder if it might make sense for us all to meet with her and help her see that your team can basically roll out your menu right now? Let's discuss whether that would be a fruitful conversation to have.
2. Nutrition Ed: Ursalina was very keen on this idea and seems to really want this to happen. That said she said our proposal for Wellness Coordinator is never going to happen given the budget crisis. I asked about other ideas, like somehow integrating it into the school curriculum, like it used to be. She is going to speak to the Office of School Wellness to find out how Health Ed Works might be used to promote nutrition ed and see if that office has any ideas. TISCH CENTER TEAM: Let's discuss further.
3. Gardens: This is also a funding issue and given the budget crisis she was also skeptical. Edible Schoolyard team. let me know your thoughts here.
4. More time for lunch/recess: She was very blunt and said this was really never going to happen given that it would require a longer school day and they are already packing in so much in terms of curriculum requirements.
She did have some ideas about maybe using the lunch period to integrate some sort of nutrition education? Not sure how that would work...
Water Jets will not be funded by DOE cause of budget crisis. That said, if you are a school that needs one you can ask and get one but they will not be actively closing that gap as we requested. Chris Tricarico is very much in favor of this ask so he will continue to advocate for it.
We left off that she will follow up with regard to her conversation with Office of School Wellness regarding nutrition ed, and that we will keep the lines of communication open.
While a lot of this conversation was around what can't happen there was a lot of willingness to figure out how to do something more for our kids. To be frank, I think that our MARCH FOR HEALTHY SCHOOL FOOD can move the needle here. We have an administration that wants change and that wants to erase inequity. They are hamstrung by budget and an archaic infrastructure, which are two large impediments, but I think as we grow this movement and raise our voices and make it clear that our children's health is a priority we may be able to get the city to put money here despite budgetary issues.
I welcome your thoughts and feedback!