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California Project LEAN

Leaders Encouraging Activity and Nutrition

This edition of the California Project LEAN enews brings you local examples of school districts taking on the challenge of competitive foods and unhealthy beverages. Learn more about the health impact of sugar-sweetened beverages and steps to reduce access to these drinks and improve health. Read on to be inspired by true "parents in action" in the Central Valley community of Earlimart as they learn more about their children's school food.
Padres en Acction (Parents in Action): Central Valley
California Project LEANParents in the Central Valley community of Earlimart had an opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at their children's school cafeteria as a "hands on" lesson on parent engagement. The parents are participating in weekly California Project LEAN (CPL)trainings, "Padres en Accion: Abogando por Ambientes Escolares Saludables/ Parents in Action: Advocating for a Healthier School Environment," conducted by Jane Alvarado, CPL project coordinator. "As parents, we didn't know how the food was prepared," shared parent advocate, Esther Vergara. A meeting was arranged to tour the cafeteria and meet the food service director. This experience proved to be very powerful for the group of parents, as well as the food service director. "We want parents to know that we are dedicated to the overall wellness of the children, and we strive to serve healthy meals that also meet special dietary needs of children," said Clint Lara, Food Service Director of Earlimart School District . "Now that we know how the food is stored, cooked and served, we as parents, feel much more comfortable with our children eating breakfast and lunch at school," said Esther. The group is planning some exciting adventures for Spring, including joining the district's Wellness Council and volunteering to establish a Fruit and Vegetable stand on the Elementary School campus.
California is Ready to Rethink Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
California Project LEANSugar-sweetened beverages, or SSBs, as they are now commonly called, are adding pounds to our waistlines and significant debt to our health care budget. In California, 62 percent of adolescents ages 12-17, and 41 percent of children ages 2-11, drink at least one soda or other sweetened beverage every day. Click here to see a study on SSB consumption in California, conducted by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy.
For children, each extra can or glass of SSB consumed per day increases their chance of becoming obese by 60 percent. The prevalence of overweight and obesity is higher among California adolescents who drink SSBs than those who don't. Soda consumption equates to approximately 20 percent of obesity related costs, or $1.4 billion in public health costs for California.

Communities across the state are beginning to reduce access to SSBs and make healthier choices available. Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) was one of the first school districts in California to ban soda from their campuses and more recently has included language in their school district wellness policy to eliminate all SSBs and sell only water, 100% fruit juice, and milk to their students. Jennifer LaBarre, Director of OUSD's Nutrition Services, was highlighted at Governor Schwarzenegger's 2010 Summit on Health, Nutrition, and Obesity. Banning all sweetened beverages, including electrolyte replacement beverages was "the right thing to do for students," according to her presentation at the Summit. "We have a responsibility when students are in our care to provide a healthy environment."

The Bay Area Nutrition and Physical Activity Collaborative (BANPAC) conducted a Soda Free Summer campaign to encourage Bay Area residents in six Bay Area counties to reduce or eliminate SSBs. Evaluation of their 2008 campaign indicates that at least 100,000 Bay Area residents were reached. Go to to learn more.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has secured grant funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for obesity prevention efforts, including reducing consumption of SSBs. As the lead for CDPH, California Project LEAN will focus on increasing access to healthy beverages and limiting access to SSBs through policy initiatives. CPL will be working with local partners to enhance and expand the work of the Soda Free Summer campaigns and move more Californians to "Rethink their Drinks"
Eliminating Competitive Food Sales on High School Campuses
California Project LEANSeveral years ago, Anderson Union High School District in Shasta County made the bold decision to eliminate the sale of competitive foods from their six school campuses. They did a terrific job of remodeling their eating areas and making the cafeteria more enjoyable for students to eat their meals. Students were provided with a complete meal, and there were no foods sold "a la carte". Unfortunately, the food service budget was impacted by eliminating the sale of these extra foods and beverages. By the end of the third year of this effort, the foodservice budget deficit was $137,000. 

Food Service Director Barbara Camacho joined the district after the competitive products were eliminated and discovered some key elements that needed to be put in place in order for the food service transition to be successful financially:

Variety - Conduct student taste tests, and add entrees, salads, sandwiches, and pizzas that are appealing to students.
Experimentation - Make what they like and make it healthy. A prime example is their unique pizza made with bean puree. Students like it, and it has the added fiber and protein from healthier ingredients.
Smart Management - Food service now manages all of the beverage vending machines in the cafeteria, and has assigned key individuals to ensure all the beverages sold in outside machines are compliant with state standards.
Marketing - Let students and parents know about the new menu items. An orientation for future freshman and their parents provided a great opportunity to taste test some of the new foods and sign students up to participate in the meal program.
The results? The improvements made in the menu variety, management, and marketing contributed to cutting the budget deficit in half the first year and increased the total number of meals sold to students by 37 percent. 
April 2010
Girl at Playground
In This Issue
Padres en Accion (Parents in Action)
Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
Eliminating Competitive Food Sales
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Photo of girl on playground by Tim Wagner