Some Washington Schools Go Organic for
By REBECCA COOK Associated Press
Organic food accounts for less than 2 percent of U.S. food sales,
but the industry is growing like a weed. Sales of organic food
increased 21 percent between 1997 and 2002, according to the Organic
Trade Association. Industry analysts
expect sales to grow by about 20 percent annually in the next few
School meals are getting new scrutiny in light of the obesity
epidemic among U.S. children. The latest government statistics show
that about 31 percent of children ages 6-19 are overweight, and 16
percent are obese.
``Organic'' doesn't necessarily mean ``healthy,'' and pigging out
on natural foods won't help your waistline. But organic programs
such as the one in Lincoln Elementary have successfully gotten
children to eat more fruits and vegetables, which will help improve
their health in the long run.
For Gary Hirshberg, the wake-up call came when he asked his
teenage son what he'd eaten at school one day.
``Pizza, chocolate milk and Skittles,'' was the reply. Not
terribly shocking, except that Hirshberg is president and CEO of the
New Hampshire-based Stonyfield Farm, the largest organic yogurt
company in the country.
Thus his campaign to put organic foods in schools was born.
Stonyfield Farm stocks schools with refrigerated vending machines
that sell healthy treats such as Newman's Own Pretzels, Stretch
Island Organic Fruit Leather, Silk Soy Milk, and of course
Stonyfield Farm Fruit Smoothies. They're a hit - even in inner-city
neighborhoods that don't match the white, upper-income demographic
profile of most organic devotees.
Meanwhile, the Olympia parent who sparked Lincoln's meal makeover
is becoming something of a Johnny Appleseed for organic school
lunches. Vanessa Ruddy first proposed organic menus when her son was
at Lincoln Elementary and was pleasantly surprised to find school
district officials receptive. She's spoken to parents and school
officials from around the country about the idea.
``The desire is there,'' she said. ``It's something for the whole
country to follow.''
Her son just started middle school, and when she went to a
meeting at the school last week she noticed all the teachers looking
Ruddy said, ``The first thing they asked was, 'Can you do
something about the school lunch program?'''
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