Recap: Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids - A Town Hall and Community Forum

by Beatriz Beckford

The mood was cheerful on the evening of March 21, 2012 as over 100 parents from East New York, Brownsville, and Cypress Hills gathered to speak their minds about school food issues impacting their children. The event, Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids: A Town Hall and Community Forum, was organized by the Brooklyn Food Coalition, NYC Department of Health, and United Community Centers and attended by several elected officials.

The event included testimonials by parents and children. The issues raised ranged from access to reduced cost lunches to questioning nutritional values and portion sizes. After a little over an hour of short speeches by a diverse spectrum of parents, all of whom were people of color, participants got down to business and crafted letters to send to their elected officials. Many in the group work together on these issues as part of the School Food Network and their enthusiasm for the work and each other kept the mood hopeful despite some the trying challenges they face keeping kids healthy and safe in marginalized communities.

Beatriz Beckford, the School Food Organizing Coordinator of the Brooklyn Food Coalition, felt it was important to organize such an event. "We've been training parents and supporting parent organizing in schools for the past two years now, and this was a chance to have parents communicate their concerns, challenges, and success directly to elected officials and to representatives in the leadership at the office of school food.  We are confident that improvements will continue to happen as a direct result of this event."

Audrey Castillo the Healthy Schools Program Coordinator at the NYC Department of Health, echoed Beatriz's points. "We really feel that we were able to bring people together to talk about their concerns and needs in bringing in more healthy foods to Brownsville and East New York.  We're definitely looking forward to continuing our collaboration."

What's next for this particular school food effort? "We are planning to continue working in coalition with our many partners in school food reform, and we will continue to create spaces for parent organizing on the ground to directly connect to the systems and policy changes our children are so impacted by."

If you're interested in learning more, want to help, or want to find out how to begin working on school food issues in your Brooklyn neighborhood, please email beatriz@brooklynfoodcoalition.org.