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Food Justice team works with district on school food

From left, Mid-City CAN Food Justice Momentum Team Members Isabel Hernandez, Petronilla Kabandauli, 17, and Stella Oryem, 16, stand in front of a timeline that charts the group's progress from 2009 to the present.  Photo by Adam Ward
From left, Mid-City CAN Food Justice Momentum Team Members Isabel Hernandez, Petronilla Kabandauli, 17, and Stella Oryem, 16, stand in front of a timeline that charts the group's progress from 2009 to the present. Adam Ward

For a lot of teenagers, it's easy to criticize high school cafeteria food, but a group of City Heights teenagers and resident leaders is working with the school district to try to make it more appealing.

The Mid-City CAN Food Justice Momentum Team has been working with Food and Nutritional Services at San Diego Unified School District to change the food offerings and see if it increases the number of students who eat lunch at Crawford High School.

"We have the most diverse community in City Heights alone," said Gary Petill, director of the district's Food and Nutritional Services. "Different people want different types of food."

The food-focused group traces its efforts to increase healthy and diverse offerings at City Heights schools back to 2009.

Isabel Hernandez, a Food Justice team member, said she has been working with the group for about two years. Being a City Heights mother of three school-age children has inspired her to stay involved.

"I really want them to see part of the community come together for change," she said.

She credits what she has learned about food and nutrition with inspiring her to change her family's diet for the better – cutting out soda and sugary juices.

Jeanette Neeley, co-chair of the Mid-City CAN Coordinating Council, said the amount of progress the group has made despite having to facilitate monthly meetings in four to six languages is remarkable.

"We've been learning how to have input, and make our voices heard in a respectful way," she said.

The group has also made a conscious effort to reach out to youth members.

City Heights resident Stella Oryem, 16, was skeptical when she first started coming to meetings.

Then she realized, "maybe we have something here that could actually happen," she said. "Everyone is working so hard."

She was also impressed by the amount of teenagers the group recruited to come to meetings.

She was part of a group that in November created a healthy fish dish, using district guidelines, with the goal of inspiring new menu offerings.

She said food and academic success are linked.

"Students need energy," she said. "Without healthy food they are not going to want to be at school."

Another City Heights resident and youth Food Justice member is Petronilla Kabandauli, 17.

"I'm not saying we don't like school food, but some things should change," she said.

She said healthy food is important for student attention as well as preventing obesity.

"We are getting closer to what we want," she said.

For a lot of teenagers, it’s easy to criticize high school cafeteria food, but a group of City Heights teenagers and residents leaders is working with the school district to try to make it more appealing.

 

The Mid-City CAN Food Justice Momentum Team has been working with Food and Nutritional Services at San Diego Unified School District to change the food offerings and see if it increases the number of students who eat lunch at Crawford High School.

 

“We have the most diverse community in City Heights alone,” said Gary Petill, director of the district’s Food and Nutritional Services. “Different people want different types of food.”

 

The food-focused group traces its efforts to increase healthy and diverse offerings at City Heights schools back to 2009.

 

Isabel Hernandez, a Food Justice team member, said she has been working with the group for about two years. Being a City Heights mother of three school-age children has inspired her to stay involved.

 

“I really want them to see part of the community come together for change,” she said.

 

She credits what she has learned about food and nutrition with inspiring her to change her family’s diet for the better – cutting out soda and sugary juices.

 

Jeanette Neeley, co-chair of the Mid-City CAN Coordinating Council, said the amount of progress the group has made despite having to facilitate monthly meetings in four to six languages is remarkable.

 

“We’ve been learning how to have input, and make our voices heard in a respectful way,” she said.

 

The group has also made a conscious effort to reach out to youth members.

 

City Heights resident Stella Oryem, 16, was skeptical when she first started coming to meetings.

 

Then she realized, “maybe we have something here that could actually happen,” she said. “Everyone is working so hard.”

 

She was also impressed by the amount of teenagers the group recruited to come to meetings.

 

She was part of a group that in November created a healthy fish dish, using district guidelines, with the goal of inspiring new menu offerings.

 

She said food and academic success are linked.

 

“Students need energy,” she said. “Without healthy food they are not going to want to be at school.”

 

Another City Heights resident and youth Food Justice member is Petronilla Kabandauli, 17.

 

“I’m not saying we don’t like school food, but some things should change,” she said.

 

She said healthy food is important for student attention as well as preventing obesity.

 

“We are getting closer to what we want,” she said.

 

 

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