Sloppy Joes, endless fried chicken, and pizza that counts as a vegetable. There’s a reason why public schools’ unsavory lunch reputation precedes them. But over the past 10 years, Wellness in the Schools, along with the New York City Department of Education and local chefs like Bill Telepan, has rallied to bring nutrition and wholesome food back to the lunch tray. On May 5, the organization will hold an anniversary gala at Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark restaurant with more than 35 participating restaurants. The I Heart WITS gala will acknowledge the individuals who have acted as change-makers in the public health and wellness space, like Sam Kass, former White House Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition, and Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO of FEED Projects.
“Combined with the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama and her Chef's Move to Schools initiative, so much more attention has been brought to the issues of childhood health and wellness in schools,” chef Bill Telepan, executive chef of Wellness in the Schools, told The Daily Meal. “We have developed the alternative menu, which focuses on scratch-cooking, less-processed food, and salad bars in every school. More and more, we’re watching the children devour these healthier food options. Right now, 30,000 kids across the city use the alternative menu, and there are actually lines for the salad bars!”
But the organization still has a long way to go until public school lunches are completely transformed. Telepan mentioned that they hope to to fight any federal or statewide attempts to roll back on the new standard; provide more educational resources for parents, teachers, and kids; and encourage continual research. Tickets for the event are $300 each — you can get yours here.