OSU Public Health alum is “spokes”woman for the School Food Tour

Sara Salo graduated from OSU in 2010 with her Masters of Public Health in health promotion and a passion to teach kids about healthy eating.  Later this summer, she’ll be taking her message on the road and peddling it 6,000 miles through 17 states.  “Healthy kids are our future,” believes Sara.  “The School Food Tour will not only generate health-conscious youth in the communities we visit, it will also inspire folks across the nation to examine their environments and health habits and take actions to improve them”.

In August, Sara will leave Bend, Oregon for the School Food Tour (SFT), a self-supported, coast-to-coast bicycle tour that aims to encourage students to advocate for more wholesome school meals. The initiative plans to engage young individuals through classroom sessions, farm visits, and group bike rides along a 6,000-mile route.  SFT is a one-woman show and Sara laughs that she’s the founder, director, cyclist, researcher, advocate, communications specialist, grant writer, and fundraiser!

The tour will feature a variety of interactive sessions for both students and communities. A two-day classroom curriculum is designed to get kids thinking about how they can take action to improve their personal health, school food and physical activity settings. Community group bike rides will provide youth and adults with an opportunity to pedal together and will highlight both the enjoyment and utility of cycling. Sara also plans to visit local farms in order to gain a more complete grasp on the area’s agriculture. This combination of activities will connect community leaders young and old and leaves advocates energized and eager to initiate further healthy kids programming.  The tour will encourage simple, actionable projects that focus on incremental change. An important complement to this message will be the provision of continued follow-up support and resources.

The primary goal of the tour is to raise public awareness about the importance of providing all students with wholesome school meals and ample opportunities for physical activity. Along the way she aims to inspire youth and communities to become involved in creating healthier school environments. Even more important than the obvious accomplishment of bicycling across the country, Sara hopes that the visits on her tour are the precursors to constructive conversations about how schools can enact tangible change towards healthier kids. Ideally, the ride will be the spark what finally motivates individuals to get involved.  Sara says, “if I can pedal 6,000+ miles then perhaps speaking up at a school board meeting or riding to school one day a week might not seem so daunting”. She is also looking forward to compiling a comprehensive summary of students’ views on their school food. This valuable contribution of youth opinion will assist with the planning of future healthy schools programs.

There are 17 states on the SFT route and the approximate tour route is 6,000 miles

Sara encourages other individuals and groups to get involved in the School Food Tour. She welcomes those located along the Tour route to examine the projected timeline and contact her with inquiries. She says that the company is welcome to ride along “for a few miles or a few days.”   She has also developed the “Virtual School Food Tour”. This program will include a series of activities that interested teachers can use to integrate the tour into their class lessons. The Virtual Tour will allow the kids to track her progress across the country, help them evaluate their surroundings, set goals and connect with her through social media networks.

Visiting the White House is one of Sara’s goals for the tour. Sara says, “I admire Mrs. Obama’s bold initiatives such as Let’s Move and it would be fantastic to meet with such an influential proponent of healthy kids programming. I will be actively pursuing this lofty objective and I hope next spring to ride up to the White House organic garden surrounded by kids on bikes. What a great statement we would make!”.

You’re invited to track the tour’s progress via Sara’s blog. The site will be filled with photos, video clips and anecdotes from the road. The tour is on Twitter (@schoolfoodtour) and Facebook.

Learn more about OSU’s Master of Public Health program.

By Briana Ledesma