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Students to play key role in Buffalo Food Policy Summit

High school senior Lamar Rice, 17, left, Margaret Wenger, center, youth enterprise educator, and student Tong Mawien, 18, cook at Pilgrim St. Luke's Church this summer during the Growing Green program as part of the Massachusetts Avenue Project. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News file photo)


By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor

Lamar Rice is among Buffalo Public Schools students concerned about the nutritional quality of food served in the sprawling district.

The high school senior has decided to do something about it.

“They make the food in a centralized location,” and most of it is processed, he said. Cafeterias across the district where food once was made have become little more than “warming stations.”

That’s why Rice and dozens of other students in the district have joined Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities – Youth Advisors Council, which is pushing for more farm-to-school ties, local foods, efficient cafeterias and healthier food options.

Council members aim to play a key part this week during the second annual Buffalo Food Policy Summit, a gathering of those interested in regional food availability from public health, regional planning and economic development perspectives.

Food justice is a key part of the summit, which takes place in the nation’s third poorest city and runs Wednesday and Thursday at sites on the University at Buffalo and SUNY Buffalo State campuses.

For information on associated programs, click here.

“MAP and many organizations working on local food issues are excited to have finally established a food policy council for Buffalo and Erie County,” said Rebekah Williams, youth training director with the Massachusetts Avenue Project.

MAP tends to two urban farm plots on the West side and has developed a Growing Green Youth initiative that shows teens how to make a better life with help from local food.

Every summer, MAP uses city youth money to hire about 30 children ages 14 to 18 to work on their urban farmscape, help sell fresh fruits and veggies at their farmers’ market and try their hand at cooking, often with ingredients that are unfamiliar to the teens.

Rice participated in the program before the start of the school year.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities members will help lead a talk called “Just Lead ... the way to better school meals!,” at the Burchfield Penney Arts Center on the Buffalo State campus.

The public is welcome to the talk, which will be followed by a panel discussion focused on food-related businesses and advocacy groups in the region.

Both events are free and open to the public, as are:

• A talk entitled “Just Sustainabilities in Food Systems Research,” from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in 105 Harriman Hall on the UB South Campus.

• A screening of “A Place at the Table,” which will be followed by a panel discussion of the film that focuses on efforts to combat hunger in the U.S.; this event will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at 107 Capen Hall on the UB North Campus.

Two other events, including a policymaker summit, also are taking place.

“We are very enthusiastic about having students lead the charge in creating a healthier school community, creating healthier options and healthier meals in schools,” Assunta Ventresca, director of Buffalo Public Schools health-related services, said in an email. “We need students to be leaders in making change.”



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About The Refresh Buffalo Blog

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered various topics in his quarter-century as a journalist in South Florida, Syracuse and Buffalo. He is aiming to pass along what he is learning these days about health, fitness, nutrition and family life.

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