Organic Valley: Launches School ‘Lunch Lottery’

Make Every Child the Winner When It Comes to School Food

BALTIMORE, Oct. 5 /PRNewswire/ — “Lunch Lottery,” a national educational campaign to build grassroots awareness and support for healthier school food, was launched today by Organic Valley Family of Farms at a taste test of three types of American school lunches.

“In a nation where childhood obesity, diabetes and other food-related illnesses are rampant, it is essential that we even the odds in the school lunch game of chance,” said Theresa Marquez, Public Affairs Director for Organic Valley, the organic farmers cooperative that farms for future generations. “All children deserve a school lunch that helps them realize their best possible physical, behavioral and academic growth.”

At the “Lunch Lottery” event, held during Natural Foods EXPO East at the Baltimore Convention Center, educators, food manufacturers, farmers, business leaders, parents and other guests received either a USDA-approved school lunch, a home-packed organic bag lunch, or a progressive “lunch of the future” from the Berkeley Unified School District in California.

The main entrees featured by each type of school lunch were: chicken nuggets, USDA-approved lunch; organic ham and cheese sandwich, home-packed bag lunch; and organic hamburger on whole grain bun with lettuce and tomato, Berkeley school lunch.

“Most kids get lunches that work against them,” said Alan Greene, M.D., one of America’s leading pediatricians, author of From First Kicks to First Steps and board member of The Organic Center. “We need to give them lunches that put them ahead.”

Dr. Greene noted that kids develop differently depending on how they are nourished. “Food is the building block for every part of a child’s body, from bones, skin and muscles to organs, including the brain and its complex network of neural connections,” said Dr. Greene. “They need the best building blocks during the school years, as well as protection from chemicals and junk ingredients in what they eat and drink, and from foods that have the nourishment processed out of them.”

Dr. Greene stressed that nutritional health starts at home. “Healthy choices at home will support children in making better choices at school,” said Dr. Greene. “A healthy bag lunch is a great short-term option, but because it’s not an option for everyone, we need to keep focused on equitable long-term solutions.”

Renegade lunch lady, Chef Ann Cooper, author of Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children and Executive Director of the Berkeley Unified School District’s pilot lunch program, discussed the challenges and possibilities for a solution to the lunch crisis.

“The status quo in the USDA school lunch program is contributing to the negative health trends cited by Dr. Greene,” warned Chef Ann. “It also supports an unsustainable agricultural system. We must provide adequate resources to cover the true cost of healthy food for our children.”

Chef Ann explained that each of the three school lunch options had hidden costs. The USDA-approved lunch, for example, was inexpensive and accessible, but increased fast food preferences, served highly processed foods, had negative health impacts, and long-term negative effects on the environment, among many other hidden costs.

“There is no cookie-cutter solution to the school lunch crisis for every community. It takes a grassroots effort, beginning with parents, food service management and school administrators,” concluded Marquez. “Ultimately, the choices we make at home will shape the future of our children.”

For “Lunch Lottery” information and resources for creating change in America’s school lunch programs, including a citizen action guide for holding a community “Lunch Lottery” event, visit the Organic Valley website at http://www.organicvalley.coop/school_lunch.

Organic Valley: Farmers on a Mission

Independent and farmer-owned, Organic Valley Family of Farms is America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and is one of the nation’s leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents more than 800 farmers in 25 states and realized a record $245 million in 2005 sales. Focused on its founding mission of keeping small and mid-sized farmers farming, Organic Valley produces over 200 organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, produce and juice, which are sold in supermarkets, natural foods stores and food cooperatives nationwide. The same farmers who produce Organic Valley also produce a full range of organic meat under the Organic Prairie label ( http://www.organicprairie.com/ ) For further information, call 1-888-444-MILK or visit http://www.organicvalley.coop/ .

CONTACT: Sue McGovern of McGovern Communications, +1-781-648-7157, or [email protected]

Web site: http://www.organicvalley.coop http://www.organicvalley.coop/school_lunch http://www.organicprairie.com/