New and Improved School Lunches at Sunset High School: Photo Courtesy of Building Healthy Communities Del Norte County and Adjacent Tribal Lands

New and Improved School Lunches at Sunset High School: Photo Courtesy of Building Healthy Communities Del Norte County and Adjacent Tribal Lands

With the economy still feeling the effects of the downturn and school funding levels at a drastic low, opportunities to enhance the education system seem few and far between.  However, donors like the California Endowment provide the necessary funds to enact that change.  In 2012, the Building Healthy Communities initiative, an ongoing program funded by the California Endowment, helped students at Sunset High School petition their school district for healthier lunches.

The Building Healthy Communities program, or BHC, is “a 10-year commitment to making our neighborhoods healthy for our children,” according to sacbhc.org.  The program strives to promote healthier behaviors and to broaden access to healthy choices.

In Del Norte County, California, one of the many regions where BHC program has been implemented, a BHC youth organizer aided students in the process of determining the favorable and improvable qualities of their high school.  The process of surveying and voting resulted in a multitude of students dedicated to the same cause—the improvement of health standards for their school lunches.

This group of students, called the student organizing committee, was determined to reinvent their school’s idea of nutrition.  Over the course of the next two months, the committee extensively researched plausible solutions to unhealthy school lunches.  They consulted with various members of their community including a pediatrician, the Del Norte County Unified School District’s head of nutrition, and Superintendent Don Olson.

The students proposed a four-point policy for the improvement their school lunches.  In place of a multitude of pre-packaged and overly processed foods, the policy instead substituted three hot meals a week, and added a salad bar loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables.  After Deputy Superintendent Rodney Jahn agreed to the policy at the ultimate “action meeting,” healthier, more balanced lunches were implemented at Sunset High School.

To see the story from the perspective of the students, click here.

This success story is one of many, thanks to the Building Healthy Communities program and the California Endowment.  Local Oak Park residents, as members of a BHC region, also have the vital potential to enact change within their communities.  Here in the capital of California, with the support of the BHC program, the opportunity to petition organizations for change is boundless.