Improving the nutrition and health of their students is a high priority for the staff at CentroNia- operated Bilingual Public Charter School (PCS) in Washington, DC. This was clear to me after I joined them to celebrate the salad bar donated to them by the Dole Food Company and United Fresh Produce Association. The event, also attended by DC-based celebrity Chefs Cathal Armstrong and Spike Mendelsohn, showcased the school’s deep commitment to the health and welfare of the school’s children and our nation’s next great generation.
Improving child nutrition is not easy—especially here in the Nation’s capital. The District of Columbia has the highest childhood obesity rate in the nation. Obesity is on the rise in Hispanic communities like the one D.C. Bilingual PCS serves. In order to stem this rising tide the leadership of people like B.B.Otero, president and CEO of CentroNia, and Beatriz Zuluaga, the school’s Food and Nutrition Director, is critical.
Mr. Otero and Mrs. Zuluaga is making a difference is the lives of more than 1,500 children and their families annually. They’re pursuing holistic strategies to educate the kids about nutrition—from starting a school garden to preparing school meals that include fruits and vegetables. They’ve also integrated nutrition education into their curriculum as well as begun to offer nutrition classes to parents and school staff.
D.C. Bilingual PCS is one of many across the country who serve students who face nutritional challenges. That’s why the Food and Nutrition Service is working to enhance USDA’s child nutrition programs on behalf of the nearly 32 million kids nationwide who at least one meal at school. Aggressive initiatives like First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign are drawing needed attention to the obesity epidemic and have made nutrition and health goals a central part of the American dialogue.
I applaud D.C. Bilingual PCS for their hard work, and I commend organizations like Dole Food Company and United Fresh Produce Association for helping schools in our Nation’s Capital achieve their goal of improving their healthy offerings. By donating free salad bars to several schools throughout the District, including Walker-Jones Elementary, River Terrace Elementary and Brown Education Campus, they’ve done much for Washington’s children.