New Haven Serves up Fantastic Offerings to Put an End to Childhood Hunger
by Timothy Cipriano
Over the past several years, Americans have gradually taken a much greater interest in what we feed our children and where this food comes from. As childhood obesity has developed into a national epidemic and concerns about tainted and unsafe food have created fear among American consumers, Connecticut residents can take solace in the fact that the public school districts are doing something to address these issues.
As the Executive Director for Food Services for New Haven Public Schools, and as a parent, my passion is feeding children and offering them access to delicious healthy meals with a local flavor. I have seen first-hand the positive impact providing higher quality food can have on our young people. In New Haven, as in many other school districts across CT, the food we serve in our schools may be the only food these children consume on a daily basis. It is disheartening to think that with all the fame and glamour attributed to chefs and the food industry in this country, that the children in our communities must continue to desperately seek it to keep nourished.
In 2009, more than 12 million children in America were hungry. That's was one in six who were at risk of hunger. In 2011 I am sad to report that there are now over 17 million children who have limited or uncertain access to the nutritious foods they need to develop to their full potential, that equates to one in four children who are at risk of hunger! School districts nationwide are experiencing a rapid increase in the number of families applying and qualifying for free and reduced meals. The need to serve additional meal in our schools has also increased. School breakfast programs are increasing and with the new legislation from the Healthy, Hunger- Free Kids Act of 2010 suppers will now be offered in schools nationwide.
Despite its devastating and highly visible consequences, childhood hunger is invisible. You can't see it just by looking, and you can't measure it in pounds, but it is among us: it affects black, white, Asian and Hispanic, short and tall, thin and chubby in every school district in Connecticut. According to a recent Connecticut Department of Public Health Report, we know that in just over one generation, US rates of obesity have approximately tripled among preschoolers and adolescents, and quadrupled among children aged 6 to 11 years. Unhealthy food choices & eating behaviors are major factors contributing to overweight and obesity. Obesity is a major risk factor for many chronic conditions, including 4 of the 10 leading causes of death in the US: heart disease, stroke, diabetes & several forms of cancer.
While there are many fundraising events throughout the year, Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation is the only one of its kind where 100% of the ticket sale proceeds go directly to the fight to end childhood hunger, making an immediate impact right here in Connecticut. Please plan to join legendary Chef Jacques Pepin, Food Network’s Chef Duff Goldman, me and all of the fantastic restaurants that will be participating in Taste of the Nation New Haven on June 8th to make this our best year ever. We realize that the current economy may make you think twice of attending, but this is the economy when our children need us the most. Poverty is complex – feeding a child is not.
Timothy Cipriano is Executive Director for Food Services for New Haven Public Schools and Co-Chair of Taste of the Nation New Haven. For additional information or to purchase tickets, visit www.TasteOfTheNation.org/NewHaven