ACTION ALERT: Healthy Students Amendment Act of 2017!

Healthy Schools Act Amendment 2017: Community Action Guide

Prepared by the DC Food Policy Council’s Working Groups on Food Equity, Access, and Health & Nutrition Education & Sustainable Food Procurement

 

What does this bill do?

The Healthy Schools Act Amendment 2017 proposed three areas to amend the current Healthy Schools Act that will help improve school food nutrition, health & wellness in Washington, DC:

  • It invests in healthier, higher quality childhood nutrition by adding an annual subsidy for schools implementing breakfast in the classroom and gives schools more options on how to serve breakfast, taking steps towards creating a central kitchen facility for local food production, and requiring the development of strategies to increase participation in the DC Free Summer Meals Program;
  • It establishes new guidelines around nutrition and physical activity, including requirements pertaining to sodium, milk, whole grains, vegetarian meals, and snacks distributed at school while changing physical education from a requirement to a goal, and would require schools not meeting the requirement to develop an action plan to meet the standard;
  • It requires DC Public Schools to engage with the Good Food Purchasing Program – a national set of food procurement standards pertaining to local sourcing, labor standards, animal welfare, nutrition, and environmental sustainability – to conduct a baseline assessment and develop strategies to increase purchases that meet these standards;
  • It expands and changes the format for providing grants to schools to be more equitable. Previously, the capacity of schools to apply for and get grants varies widely, by offering both competitive and more directed grants, OSSE will be able to reach more schools, more students, and allocate funds more equitably.

 

What would make this bill better?

Making sure we include equitable and diverse voices. We would encourage that this bill include the Public Charter Schools Board as a participant in required reporting on summer feeding, and explicitly call for nonprofit service providers and relevant for-profit firms to have a say in the planning of the central kitchen facility along with the opportunity for co-locating within the facility once constructed.

Avoiding over-regulation and impractical timelines. The bill’s language around ‘certified health teachers’ may needlessly limit the teachers who can deliver health information. It could be more useful to instead specifically call for curriculum use around nutrition and food systems. Its expectation for demonstrating improvements in GFPP-compliant purchases do not allow sufficient time for fact-finding, negotiating changes with foodservice vendors, or collecting community input on the appropriate articulation and implementation of these standards within DC’s unique context. Moreover, the targets for sodium reductions by 2022 are well-intentioned but not viable, and we propose maintaining the strict standards the law puts in place for the 2017-18 school year until more data can be gathered.

Expanding education that contributes to long-term health and sustainability. We propose including language that supports the provision of nutrition and food systems education to DC schoolchildren within the context of personal health and environmental literacy, allowing for greater standardization beyond today’s often ad hoc efforts.

Keep the law up to date by removing outdated language. The proposed amendment requires schools to meet the USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge program, a standard that is now outdated, and often contradictory with other USDA nutrition requirements.

How can you help make this bill a real law?

On Thursday, November 16th, 2017 at 11:00AM in Room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building (Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC), the Committee on Health & the Committee on Finance & Revenue will hold a Public Hearing on the Healthy Students Amendment Act of 2017. In-person testimonies make a big difference to our Councilmembers, so making the time to join this hearing will have a big impact on the bill’s success!

 

What do I have to do if I want to participate in this hearing?

Those who wish to testify should sign-up online at http://bit.do/educationhearings  or call the Committee on Education at (202) 724-8061, and provide your name, organizational affiliation (if any), and title with the organization by 11 :00 a.m. by 5:00pm Tuesday, November 14. You must bring 10 copies of your written testimony to the hearing.

As an individual, you will have 3 minutes to speak, and if you represent an organization or business, you may have up to 5 minutes. Written testimony can be as long as you’d like, but what you say to the Council needs to fit in those timeframes. Remember that one page of double-spaced text (about 250 words) takes about 2 minutes to read aloud, so we recommend planning your remarks accordingly. After you testify, the Council may ask follow-up questions about what you’ve said and why you care about this issue. If you’ve never testified before the DC Council before, we recommend reviewing this brief, helpful guide.

In terms of structuring your testimony, we recommend:

  • Thanking the Councilmembers for convening this hearing and considering this bill;
  • Briefly introducing yourself and/or your organization/business;
  • Explaining why you care about promoting healthy schools and healthy students;
  • Explaining how one or more of the four pieces of this bill will make a difference to you, your organization, or your community;
  • Expressing any concerns you might have about elements of this bill that might be incomplete or in need of additional clarification;
  • Close by thanking the Councilmembers for listening and re-stating clearly whether you think the Council should support this legislation and make it a law of DC;

Lastly, be sure to practice reading your testimony aloud before the big day, and timing how long it takes you. Practicing will help you stay on time and make your points clearly and succinctly.

 

What can I do if I can’t testify that day?

If you are unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. The record typically closes 10 business days after each hearing. Written statements can be emailed to Ashley Strange, Committee Assistant, at astrange@dccouncil.us or mailed to the following address:

Council of the District of Columbia
Committee on Education
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Suite 116
Washington, D.C. 20004

 

Any other questions?

Thank you for being part of the movement to fight for good school food in our community! Please direct any questions or concerns to alexander.moore@dcbc.dc.gov.

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