On April 30, Miguel Villarreal, director of food and nutrition for the Novato (CA) USD, towed 100 pounds of sugar on his bike as part of School Fuel’s Annual Tour of Novato and Fun Fair to kick off The Sugar Challenge. He rode from Petaluma to Novato to Pt. Reyes and exchanged it for 100 lbs of fresh produce, then rode back to Novato, a total of 60 miles.
The Sugar Challenge, a two-week event sponsored by NUSD’s Food and Nutritional Services, urges families to reduce the amount of highly processed sugar foods, increase consumption of fruits and vegetables and increase daily exercise. A Family Activity Tracker was sent to all families in the district to help them track these goals and turn them back in with their results. The school with the most points received a Free for All healthy luncheon event.
“We're facing an epidemic health challenge within our community,” says Villarreal. “We've allowed sugar and processed food to creep into our diets in large amounts and our children are paying the price with their health. This is a fixable situation, but we need to act as examples to our youth, helping them make smart choices. Eating right and exercising daily can go a long way in preventing illness," he adds.
Villarreal has long realized that the school food service program alone cannot make a difference in children's health. He works closely with schools and community partners to connect the 3 C’s; cafeteria, classroom and community. Serving 4,500 daily meals to students in Novato, Villarreal has eliminated over 400 lbs of sugar per day.
This equates to over 36 tons of sugar per year. Foods such as sodas, chocolate milk, juice, pastries, cookies and other high sweetened foods are no longer offered and have been replaced with fresh, whole grain foods.