Plant-Based Schools

Plant-Based Schools with Amie Hamlin

This week, we brought on Amie Hamlin to talk about her organization’s work towards changing school foods. Amie Hamlin has served as the Executive Director of the Coalition for Healthy School Food (CHSF) since its founding in 2004. Amie has a Master’s Degree in Education and is certified in Plant-Based Nutrition through E-Cornell. In her spare time, Amie operates Growing Peace Farm, a small veganic farm outside of Ithaca, NY.

Tell us a little bit about the Coalition for Healthy School Food.

Hamlin: We are a non-profit organization. We started the CHSF after I introduced and got passed a New York State legislative resolution. This is not a law, but it’s a recommendation. However, it’s introduced and voted on the same way laws are. This was in 2004, and it passed unanimously.

After that, a small group of people and I decided we should start a non-profit to implement the recommendations of the resolution. So we pretty much started out in New York State, but we have expanded, and we help schools everywhere in the country now.

Are you seeing any different kinds of stumbling blocks or challenges in your work?

I think sometimes, when you’re in a large food service kind of operation, food preparation mistakes happen sometimes; things are overlooked by mistake. Obviously, nobody wants to feed kids moldy food; sometimes it’s just a matter of somebody not looking carefully enough.

Even if it would get more publicity, no food service staff wants to feed kids bad, moldy food. What they’re doing is they’re following the USDA regulations given to them for reimbursable meals – they’re meeting those guidelines. You would think if you’re meeting these guidelines, that’s a healthy meal. But what many don’t really understand is how easy these meals can become unhealthy.

It is possible to make a school meal super healthy with the regulations (except for the milk). Unfortunately, the standard is the common, unhealthy, American food you see: pizza, hot dogs, ham and cheese sandwiches, and chicken nuggets. There’s a lot of the same old stuff all the time, across the country on a lot of school menus.

What Progress Have You Seen in School Nutrition?

Schools can now opt for the vegetarian menu. If it was up to us it would be a vegan menu, but at least it’s moving in the direction of more vegan options on that menu. New York, in particular, has made a lot of these changes.

I would say the CHSF hasn’t done it all on its own. We’re working in partnership with the New York City Office of Food and Nutrition Services. They are in charge of the school meals. In some cases, we’ve managed to get improvements like Meatless Friday. Many of the partners were saying, “yes, let’s do that.” However, it was mainly due to our saying we don’t want to see cheese every meatless Monday. So, we came up with the idea that on Fridays we could do something, and maybe we could make that vegan. So, we have definitely seen progress on getting meat and processed foods off the menu.

Enjoy our complete interview by CLICKING HERE!!.


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