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Soul at Work cafe: Amy Kalafa

  • Parent Category: What's New
  • Published on Tuesday, 05 August 2008 11:54
  • Written by Michelle Gonzalez
  • Hits: 2321
On March 5th we invited Amy Kalafa to our cafe to show here film and talk about the movement and her leadership practices. (see my earlier entry about the movie) The film shows not only the problems with our school lunches–don’t serve real food anymore, food is now a “commodity”, a product and significantly vendors are competing with real food–and the increasing child health, obesity, and learning problems have been building over the past 30 years, to the point that the CDC is now forewarning: “for the first time in history, our nation’s children will live shorter lives than their parents.” I just wanted to shout “stop the madness” and Amy’s film shows us how we can make simple small changes (like add a salad bar with fresh vegetables). But it takes willingness to say yes to all the other “nos” and well, offer up a multiple bottom line perspective.
Fortunately, Rhode Island mandate of Title 16 (signed in 2005) is doing its part to help school districts to meet a new provision in the Federal Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004. What that means is all school districts start a Wellness Committee to make positive changes through a nutrition & physical activity policy and get our schools to be healthier learning communities! Wow, first there is the data, now there is legislation, and plenty of public health organizations working on this, but it just isn’t happening.

The issue is implementation: it is difficult to change a system that depends on school lunches, candy/ cookie drives, for revenue. It is challenging to change our American culture and people who are brought up eating products rather than real food. And it is tough to get rid of the companies that supply “products” for profit out of the schools. And that is where Amy’s film comes in- to showcase the battle and that we are not alone in wanting this change to occur soon…it will take two million angry moms before systemic change is made, but we can do this locally one at a time! That is what her film demonstrates though facts, following another woman’s campaign to get her school to change, and the determined teachers, parents, administrators and food providers who get on board to offer real solutions.

Back to our Soul at Work cafe: The movie inspired an intense conversation among the diverse women in the audience, who included mothers, teachers, nutritionist, school wellness committee members, entrepreneurs, and other “self-starters”, as Amy observed. The topics discussed uncovered so many important issues that mattered to these women:

  • How to make change within a resistant school system
  • How branding yourself as “Angry” can really make a splash and gain attention
  • Why food is thy medicine and how connecting with food source can lead to a renewal in our lifes
  • What resources are available to parents and those within the school system to help facilitate change to a healthier menu
  • When you combine your talents and your passion, you can find your life purpose.

A feature of the Soul at Work Cafe is to highlight women leading in their own way, as Amy did by making her film. A benefit is that the women who attend leave inspired, educated, and connected with a few more women who can help them along their unique paths.

Soul at Work cafe attendees wanted to continue the conversation here! Regardless, if you attended the cafe or missed it, give us your comments, recommendations, insights and aspirations to the following:

  • Upon seeing the film or listening to Amy’s story what were your A-ha! moments?
  • What are your next action steps?
  • Link other books, films or sites that you resonant with this topic?
  • How did Amy’s persistence and approach in showing solutions inspire you in your work? What are you talents or capabilities and if linked with your passion what purpose would unfold?
  • Tell us about an important food memory for you?

If you missed the event, go to Amy’s website for viewing and resources on the movement to make our schools healthier learning communities.


Comments from migrated blog:

  • Frymaster // Mar 6, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Here’s a blog post by Amy on Huffington Post!

    Gotta show you how to make links. It’s easy.

  • linda dewing // Mar 6, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    hi all,
    an aha moment for me was seeing how the kids in the schools with the changed lunch programs looked so healthy and glowing. what a treat that is!

    i also highly recommend two books: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollard, showing the movement in our country from thinking about food to thinking about products. and the Food Revolution, by John Robbins (Baskin and Robbins, but what a different view point!). he is meticulous researcher and really tackles, Nader -style, some major food issues in the US and world wide. he is a great writer, also.

  • Gerri Bain // Mar 7, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    I so enjoyed the evening with everyone, especially Michelle who is a wonderful facilitator and Amy who did a magnificent job of creating a significant, American documentary. Corporate America has done a disservice to our most precious commodity - our children. And it is a disgrace.

    As a grandmother and wellness advocate, my work centers around helping people to feel better. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables at home at any early age is critical. Advocacy starts in the home. Adults can help children embrace better nutrition and better food choices leading to better long-term health.

    Virtually any health status, good or bad, can be improved by better nutrition, because what you eat affects every cell in your body. Contact me if you’d like to begin the process of ensuring that your family is eating as healthy as possible under the tremendously challenging circumstances of the current market.

    In my own small way, I can help you make the segue to better health with nine simple ways to a healthier family diet.

    Let the nutritional advocacy begin in the home first and foremost!

  • Michelle G // Mar 10, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Check out what Kiersten had to say on her blog. She has an amazing blog called, Kmerica.com Post about Two Angry Moms and what she is going to do in Cranston, RI

  • Dale Ddonnelly // Mar 10, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    I am not a Mom. I am very involved with food in my adult life and was taught about food growing up with a Foods and Nutrition Major from Cornell U, my Mom. Food is and always was an important in our home.
    I had no idea that food in schools had become soooo processed. My schooling days was in the 50s to the early 70s. I have very few questions now as to why there are so many problems with behavior in schools these days. School food is a large part of the problem and a major part of the answer. Amy Kalafa has given us some stellar suggestions as to how to correct our school food programs without breaking the school budget.
    Another part of what I grew up with was that my Father was a great gardener. He literally grew up on a dairy farm. They produced most of what they ate year round. Which brings me to another thought as to the correct food getting to the kids at school.
    If the school kids can learn to eat healthy, can’t they learn to grow healthy food? My suggestion is that there have to be plenty of interested gardeners out there that might want to help kids get to know what it takes to achieve the goal of feeding themselves. Yes, it is a lot of work. Yes, it is dirty. Yes, it is very satisfying to sit down to a meal that you grow and cook yourself. This may be beyond the curriculum of what many schools want tackle.
    One of the things that Amy talked about was living in New York City and starting a garden on the roof top to grow food for themselves. Maybe you can’t create gardens for every one but maybe you can create a teaching model….with help from the kids.

  • Allan T. // Mar 14, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Michelle, what a great topic for Soul at Work and for RI. I too have been unsettled by the complacence with which we accept the marketing of the lowest order of “food” to our kids. I saw a special on a public school in the Midwest that brought in an executive chef to do organic, local, healthy food that kids loved, and that came in at the cost of the pre-cooked stuff from Sysco. That opened my eyes that the rationale that public
    schools can’t afford to cook healthy is a load of hooey.

    I’ve always wondered why, with J&W in our front yard, we couldn’t do a similar thing with the Providence school district. A matter of will?

    On the positive tip, I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve read about Daren Bulley and the “KidsFirst RI program”. Check them out.

  • NCAdmin // Mar 15, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Hi Allan,
    So glad you posted. Yes KidsFirst is great: I have seen both Dorothy Brayley and Karin Wetherill tirelessly working with RI school district to implement the wellness committee, helping many school cafeterias make the changes the law mandates, helping to train school administrators on what they can do, and basically offering solutions. Because of them I am now on our existing Providence Wellness Committee. Cool!

    On March 27, Karin and staff from FirstKids have been invited by Donnie Evans (Providence Superintendent) and the Jose Gonzalez, Jose Gonzalez, Director of Special Projects in Providence and District Wellness Leader, to conduct a Wellness Workshop to all the Providence Principals. My understanding is that the intent of the workshop is to increase the Principals Food IQ, and clearly define what is law and the implementation policy the Wellness Committee has written. Now getting that into action is the next step, and the meeting will showcase alternatives and solutions.

    3/27/08: Providence Schools Leadership Team Attends Superintendent Wellness Workshop
    Superintendent Donnie Evans and Jose Gonzalez, Director of Special Projects in Providence and District Wellness Leader, have invited Kids First professionals: Mary-Elena DeLuca, Sandy Sepe and Karin Wetherill, to conduct a wellness workshop for all of the district’s top administrators. This workshop is an interactive program that helps participants improve their own nutrition and food safety habits, and increase their daily physical activity. Workshop topics include “Sweeten Up Your Life Without That Extra Sugar” and “Turn Household Chores into an Exercise Program.” The participants will discuss their district’s wellness policy, learn about the RI Law regarding healthy beverages and snacks in school, obtain great ideas for fund raising and classroom/school celebrations, and hopefully begin to realize that building a district culture of wellness begins with each of them. ”

    Check out their calender for more upcoming activities and workshops as they move to get healthy foods into our schools. by the way they need support on this, including funding. So do support them! Here is the link to learn more

    As a parent I am going to see what unfolds and how I can further help in moving this forward. Anybody else have more to add?

  • Sally // Mar 15, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    sounds like a great night- I am sorry a missed it. I loved the bit of the movie on your website. one “AHA” for me was realizing how scary that moment must be when you realize that your kid is eating tater tots at school. And that your best intentions and all the good food and good influence at home can all be for naught when public policy is working against you.


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