We will continue to post updates when they are available.
As Slow Food San Francisco looks forward, we have lots of ways for people to volunteer and get more involved in community and food. These are the first of many opportunities with Slow Food San Francisco! We are grateful for your support, and could not do this work without your support. We look forward to seeing you at an upcoming event!
Slow Food San Francisco’s Mid Year Childhood Obesity Bay Area (COBA) Conference took place last week and we’re thrilled to say that it exceeded our expectations. Some of the most active and influential people involved in childhood obesity prevention gathered to discuss important policy, health and youth empowerment-related issues. It was a day of education, motivation, entertainment and, hopefully, inspiration to do even more.
We were fortunate to have two dynamic keynote speakers. Kathryn Boyle, from Kaiser Permanente’s Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) programs, talked about Kaiser’s incredible work, and the challenges they’ve faced in building environments for health. She previewed a clip from Weight of the Nation and explained how to get involved. Charlotte Dickson, Director of Local Policy for the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, spoke about the economic and human cost of obesity. She broke the costs down into five categories: individual (ex. lost wages from weight discrimination), businesses, society, community, and healthcare. A moving quote she shared from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity really summed it up: “We need to fight obesity, not obese people!”
We also heard from James Kass from Youth Speaks and Sarah Fine from UCSF’s Center for Vulnerable Populations, about health disparities in California and their collaborative Bigger Picture campaign. They passionately discussed the need to give youth a voice in the discussion of the epidemic of diabetes in their neighborhoods and families. And we were excited to have the slam poetry performances by Jade Cho and Jose Vadi, two peer educators who took part in the Bigger Picture Campaigns program (you can check out an online video of “The Corner”).
Throughout the day a central theme emerged: the human cost of obesity. So many kids are facing a compromised quality of life, both physically and emotionally. And there is a tremendous cost to society at large. It was widely acknowledged that individuals need to take responsibility for their health – but the environment and social norms must be addressed if we want to make real progress.
It was our hope that attendees gained a broader perspective on the issue, leading to more effective models for change in our communities and professions. According to Laura O’Donohue, director of the COBA conference, “The statistics that constantly come out predicting the obesity rates in the U.S. in 20, or 30 years are frightening. I want people to realize that we still have time to make sure those statistics never becomes a reality.” Laura is planning another conference for November and is confident that, with all the energy and amazing minds working on this issue, “we can not only stop the rise, and reverse some obesity trends, but actually start to create an epidemic of healthy eating and active living.”
Acre Gourmet – Sponsor of Childhood Obesity Bay Area (COBA) Mid-Year Conference
Can you imagine a world in which a young boy sits in a cafeteria, surrounded by classmates and teachers, enjoying a wholesome lunch of chicken quesadillas with freshly grilled vegetables and a dessert of fresh strawberries? One in which this happy little boy exclaims to his friends, “You know what!? I think it’s almost asparagus season!!” Does this sound like a mere fantasy? Thankfully – the folks at Acre Gourmet have made this dream a reality.
Acre Gourmet is in the business of creating “a better food culture.” Their mantra is very similar to Slow Food’s commitment to Good, Clean and Fair – Acre uses a proven integral approach that combines healthy organic ingredients and environmentally friendly practices, paving the way for a better approach to eating. They specialize in designing and managing distinctive on-site restaurants, lunch programs and concessions in schools and business centers throughout the Bay Area. And they have generously offered their services to Childhood Obesity Bay Area (COBA) – they are donating the lunches we’ll be enjoying at our upcoming conference.
Acre has been involved in feeding children healthy food for over seven years. They have developed programs in four private schools in San Francisco – providing counsel, nutritious and delicious food and ongoing support to ensure their school lunch programs are successful. They consult with the schools to ensure their kitchens are outfitted with equipment that can support the preparation of fresh, homemade food (most school kitchens are only set up to heat pre-packaged, processed foods). They provide rotating menus featuring locally produced, organic items that are nutritionally balanced and child-friendly. Acre even hosts regular “tasting” events at the schools where the kids can learn about various kinds of produce. Imagine a child exclaiming “I really like Cara Cara oranges better than Blood oranges. They’re so much sweeter!”
Britt Galler, Acre’s Executive Chef, was kind enough to talk with us about their work. She focused on the fact that everyone at the organization recognizes how fortunate they are. Over the course of their history, they have received tremendous validation. Kids are eating more fresh produce and the schools are totally engaged in ensuring students are receiving healthy, nutritional meals. At the same time, Britt recognizes that the children they feed are extraordinarily fortunate. Most schools can’t afford to support school lunch programs like the ones Acre promotes. Public schools are challenged to provide healthy fare. Between inadequate funding to the tremendous amount of bureaucratic red tape that dictates what schools can and can’t serve – oftentimes, nutritious school lunch programs are but a dream. Acre does what they can though. They provide free counsel to any school that needs it – sharing the wisdom they’ve developed over the years and distributing information about nutritional school lunch programs to anyone who is interested. And they are committed to enhancing nutrition and promoting healthy eating habits of all children.
Though she is very aware of the issue of childhood obesity, Britt rarely sees overweight kids at her schools. “Childhood obesity is partly a socio-economic issue,” Britt said. “Schools with less funding often have the higher rates, and a contributing factor is that the lunch menu relies heavily on processed foods.” This disparity is another reason she’s so thrilled to be helping out with the COBA conference. She told us, “I look at food as the basis for everything. But it is marginalized in today’s schools – food education receives hardly any attention. Yet it’s at the heart of so many issues – health, the environment, social justice.”
There’s obviously a lot to be done to address the issue of childhood obesity. But the kind people at Acre Gourmet are doing what they can to help. They take the increasing health threat of childhood obesity into consideration as they cook for their community. And beyond the food – they focus on something that is rarely addressed in today’s schools. They insist that all students and teachers eat together – that they share a communal meal. “I love what happens when people eat together,” said Britt. “The kids talk about food, they connect with their teachers. It’s a supportive and nourishing environment.” Perhaps those of us who attend this year’s COBA Mid-Year Conference will keep this in mind as we enjoy the beautiful food prepared by Acre Gourmet. Let’s focus on respecting and valuing the food – and each other.