By Tammy Baker
General Manager, Arizona Dairy Council
On July 16th I was honored to be part of the Future of Food: Food Security in the 21st Century–an event that brought thought leaders throughout Arizona together to discuss the issue of improving children’s health and nutrition, especially during the summer months. Many of the speakers shared innovative and exciting ideas about how to connect more people to agriculture and fresh food. One such program is the Summer Food Service Program, which provides free, nutritious meals to any child between the ages of 1-18. Good nutrition is important over the summer; students receive the opportunity to continue developing physically and socially and can return to class ready to learn.
The Litchfield Elementary School District (LESD) recognizes the importance of children receiving healthy meals over the summer and has partnered with local farmers to provide fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and eggs from local farms. LESD has made the commitment to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday thru Fridays, but also has opened some feeding sites on Saturdays. “I’ve had a hard time trying to find students who are only hungry Monday thru Friday” said Dave Schwake, Food Service Director for LESD. Along with the traditional meals served at school sites throughout the west valley of Arizona, LESD also uses a school bus that drives the bus route and provide meals throughout the neighborhood to children who cannot make it to a feeding site.
Taking the lead to provide meals to hungry students has been an impressive feat for Litchfield Elementary School District, but as Allen Ng, administrator of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Western Regional Office emphasized, we all have a shared responsibility in taking steps to improve the future health of generations to come. The dairy industry has a century-long heritage in its dedication to child nutrition, health and wellness and is intent on making sure future generations are well nourished. Dairy foods are some of the most efficient and affordable sources of nutrition available. They provide nutrients in a way that kids enjoy and schools can afford. Continuing partnerships to provide food to those in need is essential not only for the future of America but also the world.