On December 2nd, United Parents and Students hosted a summit on issues facing our communities in Los Angeles facing Green Dot parents and students. This series will explore the focus areas of ForwardLA: A Day of Justice.
It’s hard to focus or learn without proper nourishment and sustained meals–this is true for adults and students alike. It’s why conversations around serving healthy breakfasts and lunches, as well as decreasing the burden of providing quality nutrition are buzzing across the world of education. But there is often a common theme in these discussions: they focus on healthy and accessible foods internally within the education space, not externally within the community (and the nation). Food deserts and food insecurity are issues that exist across Los Angeles County, and Green Dot Public Schools parents look forward to leading the fight for change.
If students and their families cannot access healthy food within their own neighborhood, there is a higher chance that a student’s personal health and performance in school will decline—with or without school lunch.
With United Parents and Students (UPAS), we have a vested interest in ensuring that all students eat well and eat right. For children living in historically underserved neighborhoods, meals at school may be the only healthy option they have—and sometimes, a school meal may be their only meal of the day. Children with access to three healthy meals a day are physically and mentally healthier, and consistently perform better in school. If students and their families cannot access healthy food within their own neighborhood, there is a higher chance that a student’s personal health and performance in school will decline—with or without school lunch.
In too many neighborhoods, there is a higher likelihood of finding multiple fast food chains than wholesome grocery stores, which require venturing into other neighborhoods. Families are often left to find the groceries they need at local drug stores or mini-grocers, or make a trip to the nearby restaurants. It’s no surprise that health is an issue in the communities we serve—more healthful options aren’t available as businesses and civic structures ignore our families’ needs. It’s time for school communities to bring the same momentum from behind school doors onto the streets of our neighborhoods. “If we want to solve our obesity and health problems, we must provide everyone with fresh and nutritious food, because after all they are essential to physical and mental well-being,” says a student at Ánimo Watts College Preparatory Academy. “It provides nutrition that I need to be productive at school. Same goes for our schools’ lunches. Let’s make having nutritious and fresh food a right, not a privilege.”
Parents know this is a problem, and they are ready to do something about it. At this year’s ForwardLA event on December 2nd, together with UPAS, partners, and other community leaders, Green Dot families worked on an action plan to not only heighten awareness of this issue, but also to provide solutions. They worked on a series of demands that included seeking the construction of quality grocery stores, pushing for efficient land use practices to expand community gardens, and bringing healthier options to neighborhoods that desperately need it. At this year’s event, Green Dot families and community partners came together to fight for every student’s and family’s access to the nourishment they need to not just get by, but to thrive.