SALT and PUFFA: Students Advocating for Nutritious School Lunch Food

Every month, students from West and South Philadelphia meet to discuss ways to get healthier food into their communities and public schools. These students are from PUFFA (Philadelphia Urban Food and Fitness Alliance) and SALT (Students Advocating for Lifestyle Transformations). In September, PUFFA and SALT had their first meeting for the school year at the People’s Emergency Center in West Philly.

 Over a healthy meal of turkey and veggie burgers, salad and juice (prepared by the students), about 20  students between the ages of 14 and 18 played team-building games and talked about upcoming events for the school year.

 Tiffany Spraggins, the youth engagement coordinator, energetically gets the group of students to chant “community.” She emphasizes the importance of making decisions together through “being positive and supporting each other like a family.” She comments that “these students are so talented and they have really been influential to their peers and the community in bringing local, healthy food to schools and the surrounding community.”

 Spraggins also stresses that this program reminds and teaches students that they can be outspoken advocates for issues in their community, not only healthy food access. By teaching the students public speaking and leadership skills, the students have the resources to become leaders in their communities. Displaying behavior such as choosing healthier food, the students become advocates for healthier food.

 Meals are planned by taking menu items off the public school lunch menu and making them healthier and more exciting by adding local ingredients, changing the recipe, or experimenting. In November, pilot taste testing will occur at 2 area high schools. Possible taste-tested items will incorporate more local, healthy food into the recipe.

 PUFFA and SALT are finding unique ways to reach out to their peers to make better food choices, including text-messaging, using Facebook, and the possibility of using Twitter.  Every month, the students send out several rounds of text messages with catchy sayings like “add flavor, not fat.”

 During the past year, students from SALT and PUFFA participated in conferences, went before the School Reform Commission, participated in summer internships focused on food access, and collected signature for petitions—all for healthier school food. Several students spent the summer at WHYY learning video and photo skills to help them spread the word about healthy food.

 Videos produced during the summer by SALT and PUFFA students were screened at the Food Day Film Screening at the Clef Club. Several of these short videos are displayed at schools on hallway TV monitors to remind students of healthy food choices.

 For more information about SALT and PUFFA, visit their facebook website here.

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