Wednesday, November 20, 2013

it's a beautiful day for sending a letter

i thought i'd share my letter i sent out this morning to get things going with our school food.  it's wonderful to be part of the group who resurrected our district wellness committee (did you know your district should have one too?) and we're starting with school breakfasts.  

i hope it may light up some inspiration out there for other concerned parents who need a little "go food rev team" high-fiving this morning.  this insane story really got me going and a letter was sent home from our assistant superintendent yesterday asking parents for suggestions on how to improve test scores.  

the stars have aligned and i wrote this email last night (into the wee hours).  

i hit send about 15 minutes ago.  i think i'm still on fire.


Dear (insert your school food "movers and shakers" here),

It's time to gather our team and talk about Breakfast.

I became a Food Ambassador for Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution last year as soon as I realized the connection between real food, school food and academic success.  Last year, Dr Petrella wrote to the district families and asked us for suggestions on how we could help bring our District test score up from failing marks.  Today, I received a similar letter from Sandy Anderson, our Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction.  Her letter asked district parents for ideas on how we can help improve the quality of education for our English Language Learners (ELL) who did not meet this year's State-set achievement targets.  So, here I go...
As we all know, a large percentage of our ELL kids participate in the Free and Reduced lunch program provided by Preferred Foods.  As a first step forward, I believe that by examining & tweaking the breakfast menu options, it will not only help our kids, but it will also to help our teachers and administrators have more success teaching and reaching these students in school.  Case in point - Two years ago, Fairhaven's administrators and staff worked tirelessly to help my daughter Abbie succeed in school before our food change She had been receiving intensive pull out interventions since Kindergarten.  The removal of artificial additives from her diet at the beginning of last year was a catalyst that changed the "game".  Abbie's confidence, test scores and academic performance skyrocketed in dual language after removing the artificial "hand cuffs" from her diet.  The teachers were finally able to break through in two languages!!!  Could there be more Abbie's out there?  Can we help improve our District's test scores by removing artificial color from school food?  Let's find out shall we!?  

For what do we have to lose!?  Let's dream, inspire and take ACTION NOW!
1.  We can adjust the school breakfast menu to remove the worst "fake food" offenders.
2.  We can educate on how to reduce artificial ingredients and move towards eating and cooking more real foods.  It's not about perfection!

First, let us take some time and discuss last year's Wellness Committee's request to remove breakfast items that include artificial colors for the 2013-14 school year.  This conversation can be framed with some background information to get us all on the same page.  I'm sure that are aware of the recent coverage about Kraft Foods taking out artificial yellow #6 out of certain macaroni and cheese boxes marketed to children.  (Here is a link to a video created by Vani (aka the Food Babe) and and article written by Lisa Leake (100daysofrealfood) who are the co-writers of the petition who ultimately forced Kraft to change).  It is a long time in coming, but finally, artificial additives and the negative effects they have on children are receiving the media attention they deserve.  Food change stories are gaining traction all across the nation which focus on the overwhelmingly positive results when artificial color is removed from a child's diet. Here is a recent article from the Today Show's live report discussing food coloring's negative behavioral effects on children.  Moreover, check out this blog like mine which tells the same success story as Abbie's!  The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) - who recently organized the national Food Day - has a lot to say about Food Dyes and how important it is to get these fake additives out of our food, especially off of our children's plates.  In addition, here are two recent articles that are must reads about food additives:  5 Questions on Food Additives with Dr Maricel Maffini and Robyn O'Brien's - Rainbow of Risks It's Time to Cut out Artificial Color.  This is all extremely important information to consider when understanding the Wellness Committee's determination to provide the cleanest food options for all District 76 students.  Thank you for taking the time to read (even if a few) these links.

How does our breakfast menu shape up!?  Here is the District's online breakfast menu and I would like to offer feedback and ideas for improvement.  It was extremely disappointing to find the lack of information posted on the breakfast and lunch meals for our District.  One has to search elsewhere online to find the full nutrition and ingredient information.  It was interesting to note that there is no sugar amount included in our breakfast menu's nutritional information.  I was able to find this link to research a few current breakfast menu options.  Here are some fake food highlights: 
  • Apple Jacks Reduced Sugar breakfast includes yellow #6, blue #1, red #40.  
  • Fruit Loops includes the soon to be banned trans-fats "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (which is allowed to read "zero trans-fats" because there is less than .5g per serving... a frequent label loop hole), red #40, yellow #6, blue #2 & #1.  
  • Strawberry frosted mini wheats include red #40, blue #1&2.  
Complete nutritional information should be readily accessible on our website for parents due to the increase of allergies and other food sensitivities.  For example, here is an example of Preferred Meal's Toasty O's linkwhich includes the complete nutritional and ingredient information.  
**As a parent of the District and Wellness Committee member, I would like to officially request that this complete nutritional and ingredient information be provided for all district families to access.** 

As a member of the Wellness Committee, I would like to propose that the menu items with artificial colors be removed from the District 76 offerings by January.  There are other menu options that do not include artificial colors such as Rice Crispies, Raisin Bran and the original Mini Wheats (perhaps there are more I have missed!?) that can rotate and stay on the menu.  Furthermore, instead of juice are there any real, whole food options like bananas that we can afford to add within our budget constraints?  Water and milk are fine options for morning beverages.  We must put our heads together and strive to improve the sugary, processed nature of these breakfasts in order to give these students a more nutritionally dense start to their day.    

Hopefully, this email provides Preferred Foods and our District's "movers and shakers" plenty to chew on as we brainstorm how to improve our test scores across our diverse student population.  This is our chance to make change outside of the classroom FOR the classroom!  I hope to see you at our next Wellness Committee and please let us know what you need (whether it be from me, the Wellness Committee, the Administration or the Board of Education) to help make these changes towards more real food for our students - We are in this together!  

Let's go food team 76!!

Lindsey Shifley
Food Revolution Lake County


i'm off to a little "farm to table" field trip now with some other super awesome parents.  i am so excited that i already have my jacket & boots on.  i wonder what i'll learn today:)

let's fly!



  1. I have been following the blog for several months and commented several times. I am not in the same boat as you and wish I was. I have a 10 yr old ADHD/ODD dysthmic child. I saw the success you had with your daughter and we decided to take him off his meds. The meds were hurting him more then helping at this point and I knew and have known we had to do something. I decided to first remove the gluten/ dyes from his diet. My son is an awesome eater and really had no problem with any of the foods I gave him. After a month I saw some improvement with his behavior ( very few meltdowns yes meltdowns at 10, and much more agreeable plus he was sleeping really great). Although, in the month he has not bee on meds his work had taken a huge nosedive. His homework wasn't getting turned in, he wasn't' finishing assignments, loosing assignments, talking out, talking over everyone etc. So we thought okay lets remove the casein and hope for the best. We have been off of casein entirely for 10 days and still no success. I keep reading your blog and other people's blogs who had success to see when did they have success. I keep looking for articles about how long to try the diet for. How long could it take to see results and I definitely find mixed results. We have an appt. with a dietician to see what she has to say about it all. Plus to make sure he is meeting all of his nutritional needs. It's so sad because in the meantime I had another appt. with his doctor because he is doing so horribly at school. He's such a bright, bright kid and he couldn't pull it together to do well. So now we are on another med. He had one good day and then a horrible day today. The anxiety and irrational behavior that the meds cause is un-real. I keep hoping though that we can just find the right mix of foods to help him. I do agree that food really can help someone with behavior/mood etc. We ate healthy as a family before the diet change, but now we are eating even better. I thank you though for giving me a glimmer of hope that changing his diet would work. I'm optimistic that maybe we need to try it for a few more weeks and we will see better results.

  2. Hi Meghan! First let me just say THANK YOU for commenting today. I love hearing from my readers especially from Mom's who are trying to "figure it all out". I'm so excited that you are meeting with a dietician and please let me know how what he/she has to say. I don't know what I would have done without the support of my Nutritionist who built her practice on dealing with food allergies and ADHD (among other things). Early on my journey, I found another blog that found through her elimination diet with her son, that SOY had a big effect on his symptoms. I about fell out of my chair on that one cuz it was the first time I heard that one! For Abbie, I have found that salicylates (which are found in varying levels in fruits and vegetables) have an effect on her, but not enough for me to have done a trial/step re-introduction of them. Strawberries are high in salicylates and when I started giving them to her in lunch everyday, her teacher really started to notice a difference. I want to tear my hair out sometimes because she'll have off days and I'll go, "OMG, what did I GIVE HER!? and REALLY, REALLY!?!?... I need to look at fruits and veggies, *#&$^#&$(#*$#^#!!!!" So, there is no doubt there are additional foods out there that set her off, and the artificial color/preservatives/refined sugar/gluten are the biggest triggers for her. The more I find out there in the "wilderness", the more I realize each person has there own unique mix of "triggers... and for some, food just isn't enough. I did a Food Rev google chat last year on New Years Resolutions with Dr Walter Willet from Harvard and he said the same thing:) I want you to know that you are so BRAVE for trying to figure it out. The ups and downs and mixed results you are experiencing must be emotionally exhausting. The one thing I do know 100%, is that we'll never have any regrets for trying to figure it all out. If I got to the end of my list of eliminations and did not get the results Abbie needed, I would be telling a different story! So, be gentle with yourself!! For you are giving it your ALL and you are writing your OWN MAP for your son and family. Super crazy high fives that this journey made us both get our families to eat better. I am so happy not to be alone in this experience and thank you THANK YOU for reaching out! Keep me posted, I'll be thinking of you:) xoxo

  3. You are my hero!!!!!!!!!


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