Karen Duncan at Cooking Up Change Briefing in Washington, DC: ‘Now Is the Time to Act’

April 01, 2010 | Written By:

Karen2 On March 2, students from Tilden Career Academy High School in Chicago presented their healthy, student-pleasing school lunch — which won first place in HSC's Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest — to a crowd of supporters at a briefing on school food reform in Washington, DC.

It was a big day for the students and HSC to bring healthy school food to Congress. Cooking Up Change brings student voices together with strong voices in Washington, including Karen Duncan, who is serving as national honorary co-chair of Cooking Up Change 2010 alongside Christie Vilsack. As an educator, a mother, and the wife of the US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Karen is a passionate advocate for healthier school meals. In her remarks at the briefing, she spoke eloquently about the need for ongoing national conversation on school lunches.

I am here with the Healthy Schools Campaign and am proud to join them in their advocacy for improved school nutrition. I applaud their efforts to bring more resources to schools.

As a teacher I have seen a disconnect between what we teach our students about healthy eating and what is on the menu in the cafeteria. Students need to be able to make choices based on what they know is healthy. Cooking up Change gives students the real world task of making healthful school meals that taste delicious. Imagine if schools had the resources to provide great-tasting, healthful food like the student-designed menus every day! The Cooking up Change contest has created the opportunity for these students to visit our nation’s capital city and while I think it’s so important that they’re here to meet you, I think it’s even more important that you have the chance to see them and what they’re capable of.

Your presence shows that you care like we do about school nutrition. There’s a national conversation around healthy eating and the positive benefits for our children. And now is the time to act on what we know – we know that in order for students to learn optimally, they need to be eating healthy meals. Kids can’t learn if they’re not healthy, and eating well is a big part of their preparedness to learn. We know that a third of children in this country are obese, and that without intervention, obese children are more likely to become obese adults, facing chronic lifestyle diseases and reduced life expectancy.

I’m thrilled to be working alongside Christie Vilsack. I know my husband admires the courage and the vision her husband, Secretary Vilsack has on this issue, and they are working along with other federal agencies with a cooperative, comprehensive approach.

There are many people working hard on the issue of improving school lunches. If we teach young people about healthy food and then reinforce that in our cafeterias, just imagine the transformative effect it could have on everyone’s health. 

This is the first in our series of posts with remarks from the Cooking up Change day of action!

You can learn more about Cooking up Change here and raise your voice for healthy school food here.

Karen Duncan with student chefs from Tilden high school. Photos by Stacey Vaeth.

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