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Montgomery Council President Craig Rice, Vice President George Leventhal Urge MCPS to Support Healthy Food Program for Students Plan to be Discussed at March 20 HHS Committee Meeting

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Montgomery County Council President Craig Rice and Vice President George Leventhal have written a letter to Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Joshua Starr urging MCPS to support a program that would provide healthier food options for students.

The complete text of the letter sent to Superintendent Joshua Starr follows:

March 10, 2014

Joshua Starr, Superintendent
Montgomery County Public Schools
850 Hungerford Drive, Room 122
Rockville, Maryland 20850

Dear Dr. Starr:

As you may know, we have been working constructively with Real Foods for Kids, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is committed to educating children and adults about the importance of healthy eating and school food nutrition. In support of the MCPS Strategic Plan that seeks to have MCPS students, “make constructive and healthy decisions that promote hope, personal well-being, and social behavior,” they have recommended the following actions by the Montgomery County Board of Education:

The MCPS Wellness Committee should be reconstituted and should include all major stakeholders, including representatives from local community and non-profit organizations that work on issues related to school wellness.

Unlimited Free Water: MCPS should implement a system-wide solution for easier access to free, unlimited water in cafeterias (involving something to drink it with other than multiple trips to the water fountain). We would also like a list of those schools where students are discouraged from drinking from water fountains because of outmoded plumbing or other hazards.

Scratch-cooked Food: At least one meal per day should be offered that is not a typical "junk food" (i.e., not chicken nuggets, pizza, hot dogs, burgers, fries) with an eye toward drastically reducing these options to no more than once or twice a month.

Dangerous Chemical Additives: MCPS should remove all chemicals listed as "caution" or "avoid" by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) from all food served in MCPS. CSPI’s list is attached to this letter.

Sugar: MCPS should set an upper limit for sugar in any product served in MCPS based on limits for children recommended by the American Heart Association.

Vending and A La Carte Offerings: MCPS should replace items on current vending and a la carte list of foods and beverages with healthier choices (i.e., items without artificial colors and flavors, low in sugar, high in fiber.)

Transparency and Communications: All items sold and served to children in any school in MCPS’ cafeterias, snack carts or shops should appear on the monthly menus. In addition, at the beginning of each school year, each school should send parents a list of a la carte items sold at that school with information on how to block children's lunch accounts to prevent a la carte purchases.

Unlimited Fruits, Vegetables or Salad Bars: MCPS should offer unlimited fruits and vegetables free to all children who purchase lunch, preferably in some type of self-serve bar format. Fruits and vegetables should be in a form that is age-appropriate and easy to eat (i.e., oranges should be peeled and apples should be sliced for elementary-age children).

We believe these changes would go far in improving student health and would encourage smarter, healthier food choices. MCPS is usually on the forefront of student nutrition and we are certain headway on some or all of these fronts is already underway. It is important that the lines of communication stay open when discussing such issues. We look forward to hearing from you or your representatives at the joint Health and Human Services and Education committee meeting on March 20 and we appreciate the continued dialogue on this matter.

Best regards,

Craig Rice
President, Montgomery County Council

George L. Leventhal
Vice President, Montgomery County Council

Release ID: 14-071
Media Contact: Neil Greenberger 240-777-7939, Delphine Harriston 240-777-7931