Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Feature On School Menus

Here at Growing Tables, we're all involved in the Building Healthy Communities work in our community. Part of the work is building resident power and bringing people together who have similar interests and passions to create community change. Sometimes, people get discouraged in working toward change because change can be hard. It can be uncomfortable and people in power can feel threatened and close themselves off to new possibilities.

But sometimes, everything works. Here's an example:

Several weeks ago, my husband was frustrated when looking at the monthly menu of school lunches. We eat a mostly vegetarian diet, with a little fish thrown in occasionally, and there were some school meals that were ambiguous: is a piazza pizza vegetarian or does it have sausage or pepperoni on it? Are the beans in the bean and cheese burrito vegetarian or are they made with lard?

Our kindergartener desperately wanted to check off hot lunch on her sign-in sheet some mornings, but all we could safely allow was the mac-and-cheese once a month. So my husband searched the school district's website and sent off an email asking for more information and ended up having a fairly lengthy and positive exchange with Judy Wangerin, the head of food services at the district. She agreed to try to find some solutions.

And she and her team did! This month's menu includes a single box explaining a new feature of the school menus: meatless meals are marked with an asterisk.

Note the message in the first Monday of the lunch menu!

This is community change at its easiest and best. One resident saw a problem that affected something he really cared about: his (our) daughter's lunches. He figured out who had the power to fix the problem, communicated with them and explained the problem, and the problem was fixed, the system was changed.

Now this particular system change might not affect very many people, but the lesson does:

If you see something in our community that you feel should be changed, say something! Figure out who can make that change happen and talk to them. Let them know you think a change is needed. If nobody speaks up, nothing will change. Be a part of the solution!

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