Maybe no other food celebrity (who also has a magazine) takes up the challenge of fighting the childhood obesity epidemic like Rachael Ray. And in the back-to-school edition of Every Day With Rachael Ray magazine, she extols the virtues of healthy eating all the way to Washington, D.C., as well as in the pages of the September 2010 issue.
As she mentions in her letter, which is titled “Rach’s Notebook,” the chef made popular by her 30-minute meals is working with legislators to pass the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act, which would provide more funding for schools to buy fresh, healthy ingredients to serve.
This is not a new subject for Ray. Since 2006, she has been using her Yum-o! nonprofit organization to encourage kids and families to get involved in the kitchen to help the younger generation make smarter eating choices. Troubled by childhood obesity statistics–one in three children is overweight or obese–Ray is using her magazine to expand her healthy eating crusade into the schools.
The four-page spread in the September issue is overall an impressive synopsis of what six school cafeterias around the country are doing to address one of the country’s most serious health problems. Changing kids’ eating habits seems a daunting task, but most of the tactics the education districts are using have made a big difference.
For example, the New York City Department of Education slowly introduced whole wheat bread into the sandwiches it served. Once students got used to the half-whole wheat, half-white sandwiches, the switch to full whole wheat was made.
The Southwest Independent School District in San Antonio studied kids’ behaviors in the cafeteria and found they paid less attention to their side choices than the entrées. So out went the sugary desserts and in came the fruits and veggies, and no one even flinched.
New Jersey’s West New York School District invites students to help make their own menus, and a recent in-demand dish was Omar’s ratatouille with lemon chicken and quinoa.
Even Mississippi, which by some accounts has one of the highest rates of obesity in the nation, is making some positive changes, as noted in the magazine. Elementary school teachers in its Jackson Public School District are required to eat with their students. Seeing the adults set healthy examples has led to increased fruit and veggie consumption among the younger set.
The spread, titled “Let’s Get America’s Kids Healthy!,” also includes a couple of kid-friendly (but good-for-them) recipes, how to implement smart habits at home, and how to get involved in the nutrition decisions at your child’s school.