Re: "Pair enlist in junk food war" | article, June 18
Make nutrition a priority in schools
Mrs. Obama has stepped forward and announced that she will lead the fight against childhood obesity and has enlisted the help of over 1,000 chefs to work with schools across the nation. You wrote that while chefs are ready, no Hillsborough schools have signed up to take part. Unfortunately, they may never do so, and Hillsborough schools are not alone in the nation.
Ms. Albert stated that "You don't go in and change federal guidelines," yet that is precisely what needs to happen. The problem is not that schools and teachers are not interested; many simply have no time in their schedules for nutrition education. Teachers are mandated to adhere to the curriculum approved by their districts, which is usually focused on achieving acceptable scores on standardized tests to remain in compliance with federal guidelines. Nutrition education is not seen as a priority.
Nutrition education was given lip service in the Child Nutrition and WIC reauthorization act of 2004 (currently expired but extended until September 2010). As part of the act, each district that participated in the National Lunch program was to address nutrition education as part of an overall wellness policy. Yet the act only provided guidelines. Each school district was to construct its own policies, and many school districts across the nation simply did not provide adequate time or resources needed for nutrition education.
I know firsthand how difficult it is to make inroads with schools. As a registered dietitian and mother to two school-age children, I have volunteered countless hours of my time with several different school districts. Only after I made personal connections with teachers was I able to offer any type of nutrition education. The teachers and children were always very receptive to the information I provided. However, in most cases my presentations pre-empted another lesson the teachers had planned. Nutrition education was simply not part of their curriculum.
While I applaud Ms. Albert and Ms. Rupe for their willingness to step forward and devote their time and talents, it will take much more than a PTA parent salad night or an after-school chef club to create the paradigm shift needed to make nutrition education a priority in this country. More stringent federal guidelines for nutrition education must be a part of the Child Nutrition and WIC reauthorization act of 2010.
Christina Lewis, RD, Tampa
Re: "Rail stirs a colorful old cemetery" | article, June 18
Hoping for best in light of rail plans
Elisabeth Parker's article on Oaklawn Cemetery (c. 1850, downtown Tampa) was marvelous: comprehensive but cogent. We in the public history community have our fingers crossed that the new high-speed rail station will be a help — not a hindrance — to Oaklawn's preservation as an artifact of Tampa's pioneer era and a tool for teaching local history. To lose any part of this unique site (already so endangered by 160 years of weather, neglect and vandalism) would be a tragedy.
I still have serious concerns regarding the rail station's proximity to Oaklawn: vibration, debris and construction accidents are just a few. But those of us who treasure the site and have worked hard for decades to see it take its rightful place as an exhibit of Tampa's past are hoping for the best. The attention that journalists like Parker, along with publications like the St. Petersburg Times, give to the cemetery will be key in keeping Oaklawn in the public eye.
Maureen J. Patrick, president, Tampa Historical Society Inc.