The California Endowment awarded six Californians for incorporating healthy eating options into public school district cafeterias.
Four Southern Californians were among six public school employees to receive an award Thursday for encouraging healthy eating habits at their respective schools.
The California Endowment, a private foundation that works to promote health improvements for California’s underserved, awarded the first six “Health Happens Heroes” awards as a part of National School Lunch Week.
“We're proud to give Health Happens Heroes awards to leaders who ‘walk the walk’ to improve health in our schools (and) neighborhoods,'' said Dr. Robert Ross, the foundation's chief executive officer. "These pioneers are embracing and defending new federal standards for healthier school meals and offering kids great-tasting healthy food that they can't wait to eat."
Dennis Barrett, director of Food Nutrition Services in the Los Angeles Unified School District, was awarded for his work in the highly debated removal of flavored milk from the nation’s second largest school district.
Using local and organic produce, awardee Gary Petill instated a salad bar at San Diego Unified School District campuses. The Nutrition Services director also incorporated more fresh fruits and vegetables into the district’s meal plan.
Food Services Director Robert Schram’s focus on providing comprehensive breakfast options at Clovis Unified School District landed him a spot among the awardees.
“Children who increase their school breakfast participation as a result of a school breakfast program offered free to all students show improvements in math scores, attendance, punctuality, depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity,” reads a research document by the Food Research and Action Center.
Nutrition Director Rodney Taylor of Riverside Unified School District was awarded for his implementation of the Farm to School program. Under the program, students can choose a farmers market salad bar over hot school lunch.
Awardees received a certificate and $500 for their choice health-focused charity. More Health Happens Heroes will be awarded throughout the year.
Promotion of healthy eating habits among young children increased after First Lady Michelle Obama launched her Let’s Move! campaign in February to battle child obesity nationwide.