Way to Wellville gets in line in Seaside for healthy school lunch options


In a return trip to the Northwest, New York City-based venture capitalist Esther Dyson stopped in the Seaside High School cafeteria Monday to meet students and explore options for healthier school lunches.

Healthy living is a passion for Dyson, who is the founder of the Health Initiative Coordinating Council (HICCup), which sponsors the Way to Wellville, a five-community, five-year challenge to improve health.

Clatsop County is one of the five communities selected for the Wellville challenge.

Ideas, such as improving school lunches, are something the Way to Wellville could help accelerate through connections with interested investors around the world.

“What we are trying to do is support local players in doing things like this,” Dyson said.

Any idea to improve health in Clatsop County will first need to be vetted by local groups, including a recently formed Way to Wellville Strategic Advisory Council, which includes stakeholders in business, social services and education.

The Strategic Advisory Council will take local ideas and match them with interested investors through the help of Way to Wellville.

All ideas that work or fail will be shared among the other four Wellville communities.

Improving school lunches is definitely on the list of possible projects Way to Wellville could assist, according to organizers.

No plans have been set yet and possible ideas are still forming for the five-year challenge, Way to Wellville spokeswoman Patti Atkins said. Atkins understands the Wellville communities are getting anxious, but plans are in the early stages.

“Right now it’s so uncomfortable because we are still figuring out what we want to do,” Atkins said.

At Seaside High School Monday, Dyson sat with students, met with the school’s head cook, its food supplier Chartwells and culinary teacher Chris Holen, who owns Baked Alaska in Astoria.

Dyson discovered only 98 students out of about 475 stayed on campus for the school lunch, which was pizza or nachos. Many students crossed the street to fast food restaurants and convenience stores.

The challenge, which has been attempted with other initiatives, is to find healthy food students will actually eat, Dyson said. Logistics and cost are larger hurdles to improving the lunches.

“It’s complicated. If it were easy, people would have done it,” Dyson said.

Dyson spent Monday in Clatsop County prior to speaking in Portland Tuesday night at the Linus Pauling Memorial Lecture, which covers topics in science, technology and society.

Along with visiting Seaside High School, Dyson also toured Tongue Point Job Corps Monday.

Dyson, who visited Clatsop County in January for a kickoff event, said she is encouraged with the foundation of programs and groups in the community that revolve around health.

She describes Way to Wellville’s role with an analogy of a group helping a business, not acting as the owner of the business.

Way to Wellville will assist where it can, but it will be up to the locals to achieve a healthier community.

“If it happens without us, that would be great, too,” Dyson said.

This Article was orginaly published by The Daily Astorian