Lunch Lady Challenges Schools, Families To Make Kids' Nutrition A Priority

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Chef Ann Cooper, the renegade lunch lady, is challenging schools and families to transform school lunches across the country into healthful, appetizing meals that teach students about good food and nutrition.

Chef Ann's Web site, www.lunchlessons.org, features resources to help parents and schools meet the challenge. It includes family-friendly recipes and recipes that can be modified to serve thousands of students; a kid-friendly food guide that helps children, their parents and school administrators identify the foods that best meet school-age children'snutritional needs; and information to help schools develop and/or implement wellness policies that emphasize health and nutrition. Those participating in the challenge are invited to share their experiences on Chef Ann's blog on her site and learn from people across the country.

"Teaching kids to make healthy food choices is our responsibility," said Chef Ann. "Right now, parents and students rely on schools to provide healthy food choices, but the National School Lunch Program often makes it difficult for schools to provide this food. We need to challenge ourselves and our schools to make real changes to the way we feed our kids and to help students learn more about health and nutrition."

Chef Ann is calling on schools and families to take a close look at what children are eating during the one week dedicated to raising awareness about school food service and nutrition programs. She hopes that parents will eat lunch at their children's school to see and taste what students are being served. Further, she is urging schools and families to see National School Lunch Week as a time to feed kids based on guidelines and strategies that put children's nutritional needs first, rather than the needs of U.S. Department of Agriculture programs driven by the commodity marketplace.

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Chef Ann is the director of nutrition services for the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), improving meals at 16 public schools with a population of more than 9,000 students. She is the author of several books, including Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, which was released in paperback in September 2007.Research!America today presented its 2007 Eugene Garfield Economic Impact of Medical and Health Research Award to two University of Chicago economists. Tomas Philipson, Ph.D., and Anupam Jena, Ph.D., were honored for their study "Who Benefits from New Medical Technologies?" published in Forum for Health Economics and Policy.

Using a novel approach, Philipson and Jena measure the value of HIV/AIDS drugs developed from 1980 to 2000. They calculate nearly $1.4 trillion in total value -- past and future -- to consumers from these drugs, based on the resulting gains in survival. They also estimate past and future profits for producers of the drugs to be nearly $63 billion -- or 5% of the total value. The authors conclude that such relatively low profits could reduce the incentive for producers to develop future HIV/AIDS treatments. They recommend exploring ways to raise the value to producers of new medical technologies in order to encourage further innovation.

Mark McClellan, MD, Ph.D., former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator, and Eugene Garfield, Ph.D., the award benefactor, presented the award to Philipson and Jena today in Washington, DC. The award is named for Garfield, president and founding editor of The Scientist and creator of the Science Citation Index. McClellan headed the award selection committee. Both are Research!America board members.

Presenting the award, McClellan noted the contributions of past recipients and the need to build on their work.

"While the opportunity to understand and prevent disease and its complications has never been greater, the challenge for promoting effective, efficient use of increasingly diverse and sophisticated treatments has also never been greater," he said. "Expanding our knowledge of the economic impact of medical and health research will help overcome the challenges on the path to better health that we all know lies ahead."

Citing the importance of the Garfield Award in encouraging further study in this area, Mary Woolley, Research!America's president, said, "We need much more work like that of Dr. Philipson and Dr. Jena to show how important health-related research is for our nation's economy as well as our length and quality of life."

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