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Gimme Five: Monifa Bandele


Our own Zach Brooks speaks with a Leader each week to find out why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Zach’s profile and contact him.

Monifa Bandele is senior campaign director of’s Food Justice Program. is a network of people united by the goal of building a more family-friendly America. MomsRising recently recruited healthy food advocates and bloggers to write about healthier food options for kids in schools in their latest blog carnival.

Name: Monifa Bandele
Title: Senior Campaign Director, Food Justice Program

What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?

Childhood obesity is a national emergency. As a woman and as I mother, I can't ignore it. Nutrition-related diseases are negatively impacting the lives of millions of young people all over the country. Sadly, black women and girls are suffering from nutrition-related illnesses at a higher rate than any other demographic in America. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all women, and black women are more likely to develop heart disease than other groups of women.

A shocking 78 percent of black women are overweight or obese, and 37 percent of us have high blood pressure. Sadly for our girls, African-American women develop hypertension much earlier in life than our counterparts. Here's one factor: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 25 percent of black girls ages 6 to 11 are overweight or obese, making them more susceptible to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, specifically during childhood. There are similar statistics in communities across racial and ethnic lines.

How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity? is consistently developing and implementing programs to stem the crisis of nutrition imbalance for all children. We also work to improve public health policy for our kids. For example, thousands of our members mobilized to urge the federal government to strengthen a rule covering nutritional guidelines for snacks sold in school. This would be the first change in these rules in 30 years, so it’s incredibly important. (MomsRising was among the organizations that generated more than 200,000 comments in support of healthier school snacks!)

This is huge. School-aged children consume about 50 percent of their calories at school, and 40 percent of all students supplement or substitute their lunch meal with snacks sold in vending machines and a la carte lines. We know from studies done in states where strong rules are already in place that this rule can have quite an impact on the health of children everywhere. (Now that the comment period is closed, the USDA is expected to release a finalized rule sometime in the coming months, which will then be implemented in schools nationwide.)

What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity? has recruited mobilized dozens of healthy food advocates and bloggers to the cause of bringing healthier food options to kids in schools [for] our latest blog carnival. also played an important role in helping to implement the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which improved the quality of USDA school meals by reducing the number of calories and increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Improving child nutrition is the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The legislation authorizes funding and sets policy for USDA's core child nutrition programs: the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act allows USDA, for the first time in more than 30 years, an opportunity to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children.

We also mobilized thousands of our members to help promote and expand the Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Program (FFVP). A recent report found that FFVP has been a huge success:

* Children participating in FFVP ate 15 percent more fresh fruits and vegetables than their non-participating counterparts.

* The program was an effective avenue for introducing children to new fruits and vegetables. Large majorities of children took and tried the snacks when offered.

* School principals and teachers, parents, and children were very positive about the program and wanted to see it continue in their schools.

* FFVP schools offered nutrition education more frequently than nonparticipating schools.  

Who is your role model in your work?

My mom is my role model in everything that I do. She is the most determined woman I know. She raised me to believe that all things are possible and everything can be improved upon.

 What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up?

I have always been a fruit fanatic. As a kid, I loved (and still do) raisins, apples, oranges, all kinds of berries, and pineapples!

Click here to connect with Monifa Bandele.