GCC In the Fight Against Obesity and Diabetes

Vanessa Aguirre

With an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, Glendale proves to be the “lead” college for schools hoping to solve this ongoing problem.

After months of interviewing different community colleges through out the state Glendale was picked to be the center for training or “lead college” for their “Starting Right in Child Nutrition Program” simply because of the impression made by the school and by culinary arts instructor Sona Donayan.

“[They believed] I could do the job of leading by modeling and coordinating the teachings that were going to be organized in the other regions involved,” said Donayan. “They were also looking for a good chef and they trusted in chef Andrew Feldman’s ability to deliver on his part, which was co-teaching the class, ‘Healthy Cuisine for Kids’.”

While the state is in the process of trying to fix this issue, many students, like Mate Vickovic, who eats at the cafeteria almost everyday, believes that this is a step up toward the health of future students.

“I am glad that the state is trying to make a change in our eating habits,” said Vickovic, “and by starting in elementary schools and day cares, this means stopping the bad eating habits before they start.”

Donayan and Feldman, along with the state of California, are taking the first step to improving nutrition practices training their food service workers to make healthier food in 8 of the 11 state superintendent runned school regions in California public schools across the state.

As of now the application process within the education system has no guidelines or requirements for the people they hire as food service workers. This means there is no minimum standards set by the state for workers being hired to prepare the meals being served to public school students.

“There is no one size fits all [career] ladder,” said Donayan. “This is what the state is trying to fix.”

Every school district has a different criteria they look to when hiring new food service workers. They often over look the fact that these new hires lack proper training and the needed background in nutrition and skill to prepare nutritious meals for students in the public school system.

This program hopes to counter that by establishing a base, in which future food service workers can obtain the necessary information and training needed to prepare healthy meals for students.

With a Team Nutrition grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, of around $275,000, and the California Department of Education (CDE), Nutrition Services Division, Donayan and the state are making an effort to implement a “Starting Right in Child Nutrition Program.”

This statewide grant provides an instructional program for production-level schools, childcare facilities and after school program staff and their trainers.

The program, which started at GCC in 2008, is now in its second round with a new two-year contract, scheduled to start in the fall. The program will continue training future trainers, who then in turn go back to their regions and train their staff. Along with that Donayan will also be adding follow up course for those wishing to keep climbing the career ladder.

This time around GCC has become a California Professional Nutrition Education training center for the state and is the only one in Southern California.

The CDE is also using two other colleges in the North as training centers: UC Davis and San Jose State University.

As the training center for southern California, GCC will be involved in writing the curriculum, as well as testing courses and the establishing certificates for the food service workers to earn upon the completion of this program.

They will then go on to continue working in public school breakfast and lunch programs and child care and after school programs throughout the state, positively impacting the nutritional quality of the meals given to thousands of children in USDA funded meal programs in California.

Apart from providing a positive change in the lives of young children, this program also provides many job opportunities.

When asked if this program would positively effect the community, Feldman had this to say. “Absolutely, in fact the dietary service program has provided high wage job opportunities for those who receive the certificate.”

Both Feldman and Donayan stressed the importance of the heath and the establishment of healthy eating habits of the children directly affected by this program.

“I’m excited about our potential at GCC as a culinary program,” said Donayan. “To impact the quality of the life’s of students in the public school system because we will be making a big change…”

For more information about this program call the Culinary Arts Department at (818) 240-1000 ext 3256.