19 December 2012
During a recent visit to one of KIPP’s schools, I noticed a student hard at work on his homework. In front of him was a supper, a school-provided meal that KIPP schools began serving to its students last week. If this was last year, this student would have had to wait several more hours until he arrived home before he ate another meal. For other students, they wouldn’t eat until breakfast the next day.
This unfortunate reality was the spark for KIPP New Orleans’ newest initiative. Through a partnership with Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation, KIPP is now serving a healthy breakfast, lunch, snack and supper at 26 New Orleans charter schools, serving almost 10,000 students. Some of KIPP’s partners include Renew Schools, Arise Academy, Crescent City Schools and Collegiate Academies.[Learn more about Propeller's Impact in Healthy Food here]
Propeller provided KIPP with consulting, technical assistance and access to a vast network to help make this initiative a success. In addition to offering increased food access to students, we are also providing a flexible system that allows for school autonomy, as well as a contractual system that holds school vendors accountable to raised nutritional standards in the quality of food being served—no fried food, no canned fruit, no high fructose corn syrup. Revolution Foods and Sodexo are two food vendors who have agreed to these standards. At all of KIPP’s partner schools, students are now being served an array of fresh vegetables at lunch and supper, and food is prepared from scratch daily.
According to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, the percentage of overweight or obese schoolchildren in Louisiana is among the highest in the United States. This problem has links to the quality of food served in schools. With the help of Propeller’s visionary and Executive Director, Andrea Chen, KIPP’s healthy food initiative is tackling childhood obesity, which we hope down the line, will reduce Louisiana’s overall obesity rate among adults. Equally important is the impact that healthy food will have on student academic achievement.
KIPP’s solution to a New Orleans school lunch makeover came as a result of countless hours of research and reaching out to experts in the nutritional field. When starting this process, there were several unknowns and challenges. I reflect upon one of KIPP’s credos for guidance in meeting such challenges:
If there is a problem, we look for a solution.
If there is a better way, we find it.
If a teammate needs help, we give.
If we need help, we ask.
Our school partners and organizations like Propeller, who focus on social innovation, are our teammates in this endeavor. KIPP’s value-add is in providing the necessary management support to help this team “win.” Together, we will work to improve our community’s health and wellbeing.
As we enter school year 2013-2014, KIPP hopes to expand its impact by partnering with new schools and charter management organizations. If you would like to know more about our program and what we can provide, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can visit our website: www.kippneworleans.org.
-James Graham, Director of Federal Programs and Grants, KIPP New Orleans