Sam Hammermaster (right) watches as First Lady Michelle Obama greets his mother, JoAnne Hammermaster.
Real Food for Kids Executive Director JoAnne Hammermaster was invited to the White House on February 25 to share the work of Real Food for Kids in promoting health and wellness in Fairfax County Public Schools.
Hammermaster’s appearance preceded an announcement from First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak on new proposed policies to limit sugary beverage and junk food marketing in public schools. The new rules will help ensure that foods marketed to students align with the new standards for snacks and lunches put in place through the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.
“The idea here is simple,” said Obama, “when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.”
This action comes after the White House Summit on Food Marketing to Children last fall where Mrs. Obama called on the country to ensure children’s health was not undermined by marketing of unhealthy food.
“The food marketing and local wellness standards proposed today support better health for our kids and echo the good work already taking place at home and in schools across the country. The new standards ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices. USDA is committed to working closely with students, parents, school stakeholders and the food and beverage industries to implement the new guidelines and make the healthy choice, the easy choice for America’s young people,” Secretary Vilsack said.
To help schools with the implementation of the school wellness policies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a new “School Nutrition Environment and Wellness Resources” website, which includes sample wellness policy language for school districts and a dedicated page of resources for food marketing practices on the school campus.
These new resources will complement a second announcement which highlights the nationwide expansion of a successful program that was piloted in 11 states with the goal of ensuring children who are in need of nutritious meals are receiving them. Beginning July 1, 2014, more than 22,000 schools across the country—which serve primarily low-income students—will be eligible to serve healthy free lunches and breakfasts to all students. This will help as many as nine million American children eat healthy meals at school, especially breakfast, which can have profound impacts on educational achievement. Research shows that kids who eat breakfast in the classroom preform over 17 percent better on math tests and have fewer disciplinary problems.
Hammermaster’s son, Sam, also addressed the group on the importance of learning healthy eating habits at a young age and how it has informed the food choices he now makes.
A highlight of Tuesday’s event was the First Lady’s reference to the Marshall High School Statesmen Station “wRap” which has been recently updated for national school audiences. The First Lady quoted lyrics from the rap and later tweeted about it from #FLOTUS. Marshall Principal Jay Pearson and wRap co-author Nikki Pope, from Marshall, were in the audience.