Remember "love-ins" back in the 1960s? Well, in 2009, it's time for an Eat In. That's because a group called Slow Food USA is launching Time for Lunch, a national campaign aimed at getting Congress to provide America's children with better food at school.
While the campaign kicked off in June, one of its major milestones is yet to come. It will be orchestrating 250 Eat-Ins in various communities across the country this Labor Day Monday.
Maui's Eat-In will take place on the lawn in front of Baldwin High School in Wailuku from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Eat-Ins are set up to draw attention to the need for real, healthy food for the more than 30 million children who get their meals from the National School Lunch Program.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
The keiki of Punana Leo o Maui Hawaiian Language Immersion Preschool of Wailuku eat lunch by Simply Healthy Cafe. These little “lucky ones” include Puanani Naho‘olewa (from left), Nainoa Pascual, Apiki Daniels and Hokuaoka‘ale Gilman.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Kekuakamaha‘o Richards holds an island watermelon in front of a moa, or “chicken” painting.
"I don't like my school lunches because they're yucky," says a concerned, pint-sized, 5-year-old kindergartner. "They give me food I don't want."
She's talking about all of that canned and processed junk, full of sugar and salt that is so bad for her growing body.
But Slow Food USA wants to please and its program is part of the Child Nutrition Act that Congress will reauthorize later this year. That's where you can come in, as a helper to support the cause.
Slow Foods 'Eat In' on Maui
What: An Eat In to draw attention to the need for better and healthier food for school children.
When: To be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Labor Day.
Where: Baldwin High School front lawn in Wailuku.
Entertainment: Joe Katz from 11 a.m. to noon; and George Kahumoku Jr. from noon to 1 p.m.
And then: Simply bring a homemade dish for the potluck, enough to feed one to 20. Bring your own plate, napkin, fork and beverage of the non- disposable kind.
For further details: You may call co-organizer Charlene Ka'uhane at 243-2290.
Simply bring a homemade dish for the "pot luck." The dish can be enough for one, two or 20. In addition, everyone is asked to support zero waste by bringing his or her own non-disposable plate, napkin, fork and a beverage.
As part of the Maui Eat In, you will have an opportunity to visit the letter-writing and keiki art areas around the Baldwin campus - and to draft a letter or draw a picture of your own.
"We want our voices to be heard," says Charlene Ka'uhane, co-organizer along with Bonnie Friedman. "Not only will we gather to share good food, we will write letters and mail them off to Congress letting them know that Maui supports REAL FOOD in schools and a healthier future for our children and our community."
Maui's own Grammy-winner George Kahumoku Jr. will perform from noon to 1 p.m. He is also a longtime farmer and educator who teaches at Lahainaluna High School. Joel Katz of Seaside Recording and member of the Kool Kats will also play from 11 a.m. to noon.
"The way we feed our kids is a reflection of our values," says Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA.
"We cannot, in good conscience, continue to make our kids sick by feeding them cheap byproducts of an industrial food system. It is time to give kids real food: food that tastes good, is good for them, is good for people who grow and prepare it, and is good for the planet."
With nearly 32 percent of children ages 2 to 19 considered obese or overweight, and one-in-three born since the year 2000 in jeopardy of developing diabetes in his or her lifetime, providing schools with wholesome food is a national priority.
The Time for Lunch campaign is asking people everywhere to contact legislators and tell them to invest in the health of children by allocating "$1 more per day per child for lunch."
The USDA currently reimburses schools $2.57 for each meal served to a student who qualifies for free lunch - but most of this money covers labor, equipment and overhead costs - and less than $1 goes toward the actual ingredients.
The campaign also seeks to protect against foods that may put children at risk by establishing strong standards for all food sold at school, including items from vending machines as well as other fast foods sold on school property.
As it is right now, children can buy overly processed foods from vending machines and on-campus stores that sneak under the radar of federal nutrition standards.
According to a recent article in The New York Times, some districts rely on processed commodity food from the Department of Agriculture and on extra income from the sale of popular foods like chips, pizza and burritos in what are commonly called a la carte programs.
"If you feed a kid chicken nuggets and canned peas and Doritos and canned fruit as a school lunch or you serve grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, fresh fruits and a whole- grain roll, the difference is night and day," says Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York in the article by Kim Serverson.
The Slow Food campaign is also pushing for the government to provide mandatory funding to teach children healthy eating habits through farm-to-school programs and school gardens.
If you want this extra $1 to go toward foods grown on Maui, tell your legislators, as it will help the economy, lessen the carbon footprint and build a strong foundation for our growing keiki islandwide.