In the Area of Nutrition, Charters Are Getting It Done

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A few weeks ago, the Education and Workforce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was signed into law in November by President Obama. Outspoken district food service leaders decried the USDA’s proposed rule that the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs align nutrition standards with national dietary guidelines saying it puts an undue burden on cash-strapped schools.

Second to the money argument was an appeal that the nutrition guidelines might be so restrictive that kids simply won’t like the food. Change is hard; we certainly get it. The charter movement has continually met change head-on time and time again—changed structures of governance, changed ideas of teaching and learning, and changed minds on what a 21st century school can and should look like in today’s public system.

Often receiving far less than their fair shares of the pot, charter schools find ways to be innovative and still provide necessary supports. There’s plenty of evidence that more often than not charter school students are experiencing similar or greater achievement gains than students in comparable traditional public schools. But charters are not only getting it done in academics; they are also working to make schools a place where children learn about healthy eating habits.

Family Life Academy Charter School in the Bronx created a five-year food revolution to get its students to not only like the food being served up, but to understand its nutritional benefits. Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School in Washington, DC, has put cost-effective fresh cooking atop its list of priorities, no matter how tough the job. 

Despite the barriers that district leaders espoused at the hearing—fear of change, pushback from students, the high costs of healthy food—many charter schools are unwilling to sacrifice their mission and goals because of apparent obstacles. We reinvent. We make tough decisions. We learn to change in order to provide what’s best for our students. It’s critical that charter schools continue to have full access to the federal school meals programs as well as the flexibility in choosing partners who care about nutrition.

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