Is it possible for one girl and her bicycle to positively impact America’s school cafeterias?
I intend to find out. My name is Sara Salo, creator of The School Food Tour, a self-supported bicycle tour across America dedicated to raising public awareness about the need for more wholesome school meals. Over the duration of this 6,000-mile adventure I will engage a diverse group of communities and students in conversations about healthy eating and encourage advocacy for change.
In its seedling stages, the School Food Tour has already become my full time occupation, and every day is dedicated to furthering my plans. My kitchen table has slowly begun to resemble a strategic planning station. It is covered in oversized maps of the United States labeled with a flurry of orange, green and purple tags. Today I ate my breakfast on top of Oregon and my lunch hovering near South Carolina. My computer is currently perched in the Atlantic just east of Virginia. While the Tour timeline and exact route is still being finalized I have made concrete plans to begin riding late summer 2011 in Oregon, pedaling a southern route across the states, turn up to Washington DC spring 2012 and conclude the Tour in my small Midwestern hometown. America is an extraordinarily diverse country and I am thrilled for the opportunity to explore communities large and small, rural and urban, northern and southern.
A true food revolution requires partnerships; the participating youth and their schools will need outside support to achieve success
The Tour concept developed as I considered fresh ideas that might be integrated into school food reform. Throughout my public health work and research I had noticed an absence of student input about their meals. So in response to this trend I came up with the simple concept of interviewing students and recording their suggestions for school food improvements with the intention of adding these young stakeholders’ unheard voices to the national school food reform movement. However, I soon realized that to document the true diversity of US student opinion I was actually going to have to visit these locations. And what better way to travel from town to town and create enthusiasm for healthy meals than by bike!
The School Food Tour has now evolved into an exciting and comprehensive package of student and community activities that will include classroom sessions about wholesome food choices, group bike rides to encourage active living, farm visits that will engage local agriculture and more. Every part of the Tour is aimed at inspiring action and garnering public support for student health initiatives.
In each Tour community across the country I will deliver interactive lessons to classes within the local school system to facilitate critical thinking about the students’ current food environments. The curriculum is designed to provide education about wholesome meal choices and healthy living principles. Essential features of class sessions include small group conversations about how to create a healthier school cafeteria and the development of small, tangible student projects that focus on incremental progress. I believe that kids are capable of fantastic innovation and have the potential to transform their school environments into spaces that support healthy eating and provide opportunities for physical activity if given the chance.
A true food revolution requires partnerships; the participating youth and their schools will need outside support to achieve success. That’s why I will be including community activities to increase public awareness and enthusiasm for healthy living programs. Local farm visits will allow me to gain a sense of the area’s agriculture while group bike rides will engage active transportation advocates. Additionally, I will be inviting interested parties to ride more substantial sections of the Tour route with me. I hope that these varying activities will provide opportunities for like-minded individuals and organizations to discuss collaboration as well as generate community enthusiasm for youth wellness initiatives.
I know that one girl riding her bike across America will not revolutionize our school food alone. However, I do hope that my fairly ambitious endeavor might inspire sparks of activism in students and communities worldwide. The School Food Bicycle Tour is my first contribution to the Food Revolution – what will yours be?
If you want to find out more or are interested in finding out how to request Sara coming to your school check our The School Food web site.
About the author: Sara Salo is the creator of The School Food Tour and an ardent healthy kids advocate based in Bend, Oregon.