• Description

Improving the nutritional value of school lunch presents a unique opportunity for public health programming to impact the U.S. obesity epidemic. Research investigating the dynamic relationship between school food and child obesity is particularly feasible in New Orleans, where most public schools operate within a charter system and 82% of public school students eat school-provided foods. In 2011, a non-profit social innovation incubator known as Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation partnered with KIPP New Orleans to launch the Healthy School Food Collaborative (HSFC), a social venture that addresses the need for systemic change in the Louisiana school food environment through innovative policy and practice. The HSFC recruited KIPP New Orleans to serve as an umbrella School Food Authority, which allowed participating schools to autonomously select a food vendor that meets stricter nutritional standards than those of the USDA. Currently, the HSFC serves 34 charter schools, 14,755 children, and 33% of the New Orleans public school population. By combining business principles with public health programming, the HSFC has successfully used contracting as a tool for improving the New Orleans school food environment. To evaluate adherence to contractual requirements and student consumption of food, Propeller has joined with the Louisiana Public Health Institute's School Health Connection (SHC); thereby forming a city coalition of experts in social innovation, programming, and science. HSFC efforts and complementary research will provide valuable evidence as to how the realms of policy, education, and business can come together to significantly influence the obesity epidemic in South Louisiana.

Combining Social Innovation, Business Principles, and Public Health to Address Healthy School Food in New Orleans Public Schools