In my role as Director of Nutrition Services, of the Riverside Unified School District, in Riverside, California. I recently had the opportunity to participate in two events concerned with health disparities in communities of color. The first was at the National Association of Black Journalists Media Institute on Health and Health Disparities, where I listened to experts articulate the depth and breadth of the health disparities in the country, and more specifically, the impacts in communities of color. I had the opportunity to participate on a panel entitled, “How We’re Feeding Our Kids-Childhood Obesity. Experts shared with the audience some heartening facts, data, and forecasts related to the affects of childhood obesity. They were shocking and very sobering. Yet as I looked at the audience, I wondered to myself, “Where is the rage?” The health and well-being of our children is at-risk.
The second was the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Minority Health, Advisory Committee or Action Learning Collaborative, Chicago was chosen to spotlight the city’s successful partnerships supporting healthy school environments for low-income minority students facing significant health disparities The theme was “Coming Together for Student Wellness and Achievement.” Once again, I had the opportunity to hear experts describe the health disparities that impact communities of color. And again, I just didn’t see the outrage that might lead us to action and change. Have we heard this bad news so much that we have disconnected ourselves to some good old fashioned anger at what is happening in our communities?
We must all move beyond the data to action and systems change. Change does not come overnight, but it comes—often from our outrage at injustices. Making change is both a grasstops policy effort and a grassroots community effort.
In my work in Riverside, it was the outrage at the way we feed our kids that helped create the Farmers” Market Salad Bar” program, which is a nationally recognized model for schools interested in providing students with daily access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce is purchased from local farmers, and made available to students on the all-you-can-eat salad bar during lunch. Additionally, we hired Chef Ryan Douglas to develop a line of sandwiches and salads for students and staff that feature locally grown fruits and vegetables. Students are also provided nutrition education activities in the classroom by the department’s registered dietician, farmers, and Chef Ryan.
Change doesn’t come overnight. But it can come, one step at a time. So what are we waiting for? We should be outraged about the health disparities that exist in communities of color, and we should be mobilized on the frontlines against childhood obesity and hunger. There are many reasons that these disparities exist. And a few reasons why things change—one being that folks got outraged and refused to accept the status quo. For all of us, the time is now.