High School Winners of Michael Pollan-judged Competition Represent Cross-section of U.S. Students Calling for Greater Focus on Nutrition and the Environment
WASHINGTON – Earth Day Network announced the winners of the nationwide Healthy and Sustainable School Food Journalism Awards today, and they represent a cross-section of U.S. high school students calling for greater focus on nutrition and the environment. The six winners – judged only on the merits of their submitted articles in an anonymous process – hail from Apopka, Fla.; Portland, Ore.; Houston, Texas; Oakland, Calif.; Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Traverse City, Mich.
Rachel Armstrong, a senior at Apopka High School in Apopka, Fla., won the $1,500 grand prize for her article about the obstacles to providing healthy, local and environmentally sustainable cafeteria food in her school district. Her analysis included interviews with fellow students, school administrators, and politicians such as Florida Representative Bryan Nelson and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.
“I feel very strongly about the traditional values of journalism and its goal to inform its audience,” said Armstrong. “When it comes to the importance of healthy, environmentally sustainable food, I believe reporting is a perfect tool to inform the public of the necessity of healthier options. If schools continue to provide a diet of overly processed food, those who rely on school meals for nourishment will have a much lower quality of life in the long-run.”
Earth Day Network presented this first-annual competition in partnership with the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, The Edible Schoolyard Project and the Epstein-Roth Foundation. The goal of the competition is to bring the facts about school food to entire communities in the students’ own words. To be eligible, the articles had to appear in a school newspaper or other official publication.
Best-selling author and food activist Michael Pollan selected the winners from among an anonymous pool of finalists chosen by a panel of judges at UC Berkeley.
“It’s exciting to watch young journalists explore a subject that stares them right in the face every day – school lunch – and learn through their reporting why it is the way it is, and how it might get better,” said Pollan.
Mariel Klein, a senior at Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore., won the $1,000 second prize for her reporting on the challenges faced by a school cafeteria built to serve 400 students but is now serving over 1,200. Aditi Busgeeth, a junior at Alief Taylor High School in Houston, Texas, won the $500 third prize for her analysis of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which went into effect across the country in 2012.
In addition, $300 fourth prizes were awarded to three students: Cecilia Seiter, a senior at Oakland Technical High School in Oakland, Calif.; Sophie Hollis, a sophomore at RJ Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Rand Michaels, a junior at Traverse City West Senior High School in Traverse City, Mich. Faculty supervising the winners also received prizes of $200.
“Getting young people informed and vocal about food issues is critical,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. “With submissions from all over the country and an accompanying awareness campaign, this competition went a long way toward that goal. My sincerest thanks to all the students who participated, and congratulations to the winners.”
To learn more about the Healthy and Sustainable School Food Journalism Awards and to read more about the winning submissions, go to www.earthday.org/journalismaward.