Better School Food Gives the School Food Update for Westchester, NY

Here is Westchester, Dr. Susan Rubin of Better School Food says that many parents have organized for better food in their districts over the past decade, but many of them have given up. “They’ve hit stumbling blocks in school bureaucracy or been frustrated with the slow pace of change,” says Rubin. “Thanks to Jamie Oliver and Michelle Obama, who are doing so much to increase the visibility of this issue, now is the time to get back involved!”

Rubin adds that school gardens are great ways to raise the Food IQ among children. If your school doesn’t already have a garden, Rubin recommends working with community members to start one. She also says that parents should encourage school employees and administrators to watch Jamie Oliver’s show, and she wants parents to sit down and eat lunch in the schools. “Menus don’t tell the whole story,” Rubin says. “Ask questions. Find out the ingredients and know what your children are eating. Find an ally within your child’s school. It could be a school nurse, a science teacher or an environmental club. Building numbers of like-minded parents is the most effective strategy for creating meaningful change in school food.”

For more information, visit

What You Can Do About School Food

by Dr. Susan Rubin

The struggle to improve school food was a lonely one until now. For many years, concerned parents felt marginalized when they took a public stand against the excessive amounts of sugar and processed foods that are served in schools. Now that the rest of the population has caught up to this issue, the conversation has changed. Discussions around healthcare reform now routinely include addressing our nation’s consumption of food, and especially school food, to help reduce our skyrocketing healthcare costs.

Josh Viertel is a Westchester County native and the president of Slow Food USA. He says that the way we feed our kids is a reflection of our values. “We cannot, in good conscience, continue to make our kids sick by feeding them cheap by-products of an industrial food system,” Viertel says. “It is time to give kids real food—food that tastes good, is good for them, is good for the people who grow and prepare it, and is good for the planet.”

Slow Food USA has launched an innovative plan to raise the bar on school lunches. Their campaign, called Time for Lunch, includes 3 action steps.

1. Sign the Time for Lunch petition online at and pass it on to your friends and fellow eaters.

2. Contact your legislators by phone or letter. Telling your legislators what’s important to you is one of the most powerful ways you can participate in our democracy.

3. Organize an Eat In and participate in a national day of Action on Labor Day, September 7, 2009.

An Eat In is a combination of peaceful protest and pot-luck that sends a powerful message to local school boards and federal legislators that school food is important to our nation’s health. The national Eat-In on September 7 will tell Congress that it’s time to provide America’s children with real food at school.

Eat Ins are starting to spring up all over Westchester and Rockland counties. For more information on these issues and actions, visit

Dr. Susan Rubin is a dentist, holistic nutritionist, mother, and 20-year Chappaqua resident. Susan has been involved with school food advocacy in Westchester and on a national level for over a decade. For more information about her work with school food programs, visit

Westchester Women Making a Difference

Local women leaders are helping to change our planet, and they’re inspiring others to do the same. We caught up with five such women, to find out what they’re doing and what they have to say about making an impact.

Dr. Susan Rubin – Improving School Food and Community Health

Dr. Susan Rubin is the founder of Better School Food (BSF), a coalition of health professionals, educators, and parents whose mission is to raise awareness about the connection between food and health. Also widely known as one of the mothers in the film, Two Angry Moms, Susan is a crusader for both children’s health and the health of the planet, noting that the environment benefits as well when local food is served in school cafeterias and other institutions. Susan says that shipping Washington grown apples to NY schools, is like “eating oil,” environmentally speaking.

Susan’s rise to food stardom began when, as a practicing dentist, started a PTA nutrition committee called “No Junk Food January.” Upon finding her passion, Susan used technology to spread her message—from email newsletters to Facebook to blogs—building visibility for her cause and growing the movement. Her appearance on the Rachael Ray show last year to promote Two Angry Moms allowed Susan to take her message to national audiences and shed light on the dismal state of school lunch programs in our country.

Currently, Susan co-leads the Westchester chapter of Slow Food USA, a global, grassroots movement that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. As summer approaches, Susan’s new dream is to see vegetable gardens popping up in every home, school and childcare center. “More community gardens too,” she says. “This would be the most effective way to build our food IQ, along with helping our waistlines, our wallets and the world.”

Susan says that anyone can do what she’s done to impact the community. “Start small, start local, and follow your passion,” she advises. “Don’t overthink it! Rely on your heart and your gut and trust that they will lead you in the right direction.”
Joy Rose – Leading Moms who Rock

Mamapalooza, the corporation, was born out of Joy Rose’s euphoria for life. After recovering from SLE–Lupus, that had her bedridden for years, Joy created Mamapalooza to use music as vehicle for change, amplify the voices of moms, and create a large scale platform on which women could gather.

In the beginning, Joy was focused on philanthropic work through Mamapoolza. After the corporation took off, she added a publishing arm, filmmaking, and online blogs and communities. Joy reports that she is only now thinking about becoming a business entreprenuer, after her organization has become well-established. Next on Joy’s wish list is building a Museum Of Motherhood. Women are invited to contribute to the inaugural exhibit by writing their story or the story of a mother they love at

Joy herself says she’s never done creating, and believes that everyone has the power to make a difference. “Wake up in the morning and take one courageous action,” she says. “For some of us, that means getting out of bed! For others it means extending a hand to someone who needs help, or acting on something despite our fear-based thinking to create something truly G.R.E.A.T.”

Joy says that prayer has been important for her. “Basically, my inspiration is God-sourced,” says Joy, “with a sense of humor and the addition of some pink lipstick.”

New Yorkers can experience Mamaplaooza for themselves on Saturday, May 16 at Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla (and be sure to visit the Natural Awakenings booth in the Sustainable Women area!)
Katie Ginsberg – Educating Kids about the Environment

Chappaqua resident and mother of three, Katie Ginsberg is also the Founder and Executive Director of the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation (CELF), a non-profit organization geared towards ensuring that sustainability education – an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning that helps kids understand how a healthy ecosystem is the foundation for stable economies and equitable societies –  is an integral part of every student’s learning. Since sustainability essentially means leaving the planet in better shape for future generations, it makes sense to get children involved, says Katie. After extensive research, it was apparent that environmental education existed, for the most part, as an isolated part of the curriculum, and generally only in the sciences. Katie created CELF to turn that around. One of the organization’s highlights is their annual expo, which unites businesses and community leaders with schoolchildren and the environmental activist community.

Essential to Katie’s and CELF’s success has been help from a small but knowledgeable and dedicated board. Katie also honors her “right hand person” Patti Bressman, and the value of pursuing continuing education to expand her knowledge base. CELF hopes to reach and support thousands more students and teachers by building a national platform for professional development and student programming in Sustainability Education. “My wish,” says Katie, “is to see more students, teachers and parents with the optimism, the knowledge, and the will to (work toward) a healthier, more equitable, greener future.”

Katie advises those seeking their calling to “start with what really, truly moves you.”“You have to believe in something—deeply—to be able to sustain your commitment and have an impact,” says Katie.
Hasita Nadai – Mind-Body-Spirit Leader with a Green Conscience

Hasita Nadai is perhaps best known as founder of YogaGaia, a guided experience of story and movement that facilitates the awakening of cellular memories and re-affirms the body’s connection to the earth and the larger universe. Interestingly, Hasita started out as a cell biologist and geologist, working at places like the Environmental Protection Agency. Over the years, she kept exploring and learning beyond her traditional training. “My work has to make sense to my heart, my calling and my talents,” says Hasita.

Today, Hasita leads Kripulu style yoga classes in Dobbs Ferry, YogaGaia retreats in the Italian Alps, and Green Yoga Sangha discussion groups in her home. Green Yoga Association is a growing circle of yoga practitioners, teachers and businesses who believe that taking care of the planet is an essential part of their yoga practice. Hasita, also facilitates new groups so that others can start them in homes and churches to bring about needed change in the world.

Not surprisingly, Hasita advocates stilling the mind with yoga, meditation, or energetic healing, and when seeking, follow the heart’s deepest call. “Practice curiosity and openness,” says Hasita, “and then the doors of opportunities will open. Most importantly, leave your ego behind.”
Patricia Wood – Safeguarding our Health

Patti Wood is an educator, author and environmental advocate who believes that global change begins locally. “To make a difference, first set a good example for your kids at home,” Patti says. “Then, reach out to your kid’s school, your neighborhood association, women’s club or house of worship.” As Founder and Executive Director of Grassroots Environmental Education, a non-profit organization that seeks to bridge the gap between scientific research and public knowledge, Patti works to educate people about the connection between environmental toxins and human health.

Patti says the “David and Goliath” scenario often applies to her battles with the status quo. Enlisting the help of community members is one way to fortify her efforts. One of Grassroots’ new programs is “,” a web-based initiative for people who want to get involved with climate change, sustainability and environmental health issues in their own towns.  Natural Awakenings readers can hear more from Patti at this month’s Natural Network Night in Rye on Wednesday, May 27.
Dr. Susan Rubin –
Slow Food USA –
Better School Food –
Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation –
Mamapalooza –
Museum of Motherhood –
YogaGaia –
Green Yoga Association –
Grassroots Environmental Education –
How Green is My Town –

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