The Lunch Room Collective of the Greater Washington D.C. area is dedicated to raising the profile of and conversation around school meals as a catalyst for change in public health. In collaboration with school partners, the Collective will advance programs and policies leading to a systematic change in the way we feed students. The CDC estimates the cost of poor health to be $225 billion annually in lost worker productivity, due to conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease – conditions that are often preventable through the adoption of healthy lifestyle choices. Throughout the United States, businesses are investing millions of dollars in the wellness of their workforce. They are installing employee cafeterias, developing exercise programs, establishing on-site clinics and much more, driven by the understanding that a healthy workforce is a productive one. And the returns are measurable: higher performance, lower absenteeism, improved morale. Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce. They are the future of sustainable, strong communities and a predictor of a strong economy. Our schools are a critical component of their success, not only academically, but also through the development of life skills, including self-care. By ensuring all students have access to greater quantities of fresh, whole foods, free of harmful artificial additives and preservatives, while educating them and their families on the academic, physical and emotional benefits of healthful choices, schools can impact the health outcomes of future generations and, by extension, our economy. Lifestyle habits formed in childhood influence adult decisions. Schools and school meals play a critical role in not only feeding students well, but also influencing their decisions outside school walls. One of the most significant barriers to improving school food and increasing participation in school meal programs is a perception that school meals are a welfare program primarily for students unable to pay or bring lunch from home. Further, schools meals are seen as unappealing, lacking in taste, variety and nutritional quality. The detached relationship many school administrators have with their food services staff also contributes to the negative way students and parent view school meals. Limited time for students to eat and socialize further erodes the dining experience. Although many school districts have been proactive in offering higher quality, healthy and appealing options and instituting programs to address declining participation, the narrative of entitlement and poor quality persists, impeding the growing positive change that can build students’ enthusiasm for healthy foods and the benefits that come with those choices. Reframing the narrative requires the collaboration of diverse stakeholders whose combined reach can educate a broad constituency and whose combined voice can shape policy. The Lunch Room Collective is designed to be a nimble, innovative, and collaborative platform that will develop and implement community-based solutions to drive sustainable improvement in school food culture and programs guided by these principles: • That school food programs, through improved quality, appeal and service relationships, will elevate the dining experience for all students, drawing higher rates of participation and building sustainable programs that play an impactful role in improving health and academic outcomes in school communities; • That School Food and Nutrition Service divisions will influence the business models of food providers, driving the demand for products that are affordable, attainable, whole, fresh and free of harmful ingredients that negatively impact student success; • That every student will have access to engaging programs that naturally develop their literacy around food, nutrition and health in such a way that it positively informs how and what they choose to eat; • That students of all ages will be engaged in the conversation surrounding the food culture in their schools and empowered to advocate for positive change; • That school families, teachers, administrators and school food professionals will work in collaboration to develop whole-health focused school environment principles that guide their community’s academic, social and outreach initiatives. • That all school stakeholders will have access to the resources and support necessary to move the needle in transforming the food culture in their communities through a network of like-minded individuals and organizations. Changing school food requires changing the school food culture. This can only happen through the creative cooperation of diverse partners who are willing to propel support for innovative programs to the top of decision-makers’ agendas and drive long-term culture shift in how we feed our school children.



Real Food For Kids is committed to working in collaboration with our partners to increase the quantities of healthful foods in our school systems, developing and delivering programs that educate our students and their families on making healthier lifestyle choices, and ensuring access to real whole foods for all school children.






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