A nutrition and public policy expert, Marion Nestle is one of the vibrant mothers of the American food movement. Her 2002 book, Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health is a kind of bible for people interested in the subject. And her ever-growing list of other books (on subjects ranging from pet food to why calories count) continue to win awards and influence many.
She writes a regular column in the San Francisco Chronicle answering readers’ questions about food. I particularly liked a recent column where a reader wrote in to ask her how she can go farther than simply voting with her fork in order to affect change in food policy. It’s a question I think we all need to ask ourselves.
“I particularly like school food as a starter issue for advocacy. Improving school food is nothing less than grassroots democracy in action.
Schools matter because kids are in them all day long and they set a lifetime example. If you have children in school, take a look at what they are eating. Could the food use an upgrade? Start organizing.
All schools are supposed to have wellness policies. Find out what they are and talk to the principal, teachers and parents about how to improve access to healthier food and more physical activity.
Another well-kept secret: The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers technical assistance to help schools meet nutritional standards. The USDA encourages advocacy. It says its work is easier when parents push the schools to do better.
Many groups are devoted to school food issues. Some have published guides to getting started or developing strong wellness policies. They range in focus from hands-on local to national policy.