This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Getting students to eat and enjoy food that’s different from the fast food and out-of-a-can offerings they often consume away from school is not just a matter of changing the recipes or publicizing the menu. It takes an education campaign as well.
The District’s Division of Food Services has few resources for that task, but an associated District program called Eat.Right.Now is taking up the challenge. It’s a nutrition and wellness education program that works to affect children’s diet and exercise choices.
Eat.Right.Now has a budget of about $3 million, paid for by U.S. Department of Agriculture SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) funds, said director Muffin Friedman. It has 19 employees plus Friedman, and they organize classroom nutrition and health promotion activities in close to 50 schools.
Eat.Right.Now also reaches parents through activities like cooking classes and workshops. And it brings in individuals and groups for assemblies that use rapping, magic, theater, rock and roll, and storytelling to popularize healthy eating and exercise.
All in all, it reaches about 18,000 children a month, Friedman said.
Half a dozen other organizations, including the Drexel University Nutrition Center, Albert Einstein Medical Center, the Food Trust, and the Health Promotion Council, also use SNAP funding to run similar programs in the District and the community, Friedman said.
Eat.Right.Now is also working with the District’s Office of Research and Evaluation to figure out how to create a healthier school environment at recess, in the lunchroom, and through education about healthy classroom snacks and Home and School fundraisers.
“We see ourselves as a public health program, not just a nutrition program,” Friedman said. “That’s our future.”
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