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  • Hold the Fries: USDA Proposes New Guidelines for Healthier School Lunches

    Posted on January 13th, 2011 pankaj No comments

    A recent AP article talks about the Department of Agriculture’s efforts to better school lunches by implementing new meal guidelines that will add more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These changes will apply to meals subsidized by the federal government and will also require schools to cut sodium in meals by half and serve low fat milk. This announcement comes a few weeks after President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which helps schools pay for healthier meal options. Some of the points of the proposal include:

    • Establishing the first calorie limits in school meals.
    • Banning most trans fats.
    • Incrementally increasing the amount of whole grains required with the goal of having all grains be whole grains.
    • Improving breakfasts by having schools serve a grain and protein.

    Some critics say it will be hard-pressed for schools, already strapped for cash, to pay for these new measures, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says these items are necessary in order to curtail the rise of obesity in the nation’s kids. Said Vilsack:

    If we don’t contain obesity in this country it’s going to eat us alive in terms of health care costs.

    Click the link above for more on the USDA proposal.

  • A ‘Rock-Star’ Chef’s Role in School Nutrition

    Posted on December 30th, 2010 pankaj No comments

    Happy Holidays! We came upon this insightful article on Chef Tim Cipriano, the executive director of Food Services for the New Haven, CT school system. It talks about how he gets kids interested and excited about healthy lunches by going for the basics, and how he’s involved in a unique training program to teach food handlers the proper steps to offer safe and nutritious food. Cipriano also works with distributors that gather produce from local farms so delivery of these healthy foods remains fresh and fast. Says Cipriano of the training program:

    We talked a lot about food safety. We shared information we could bring back to the farmers and food-service workers.  I think it definitely increased awareness about produce.  It opens up doors to a world one may never had any experience with unless you’ve worked in a produce house or in restaurants.
    Overall, it’s an interesting piece about how Cipriano, who’s like a rock-star to the students he serves, and others are doing their part in bringing healthy foods to the nation’s schools.
  • Concise Explanation of the New Child Nutrition Act

    Posted on December 23rd, 2010 pankaj No comments

    Passionate healthy school food advocate and star chef, Jamie Oliver, has a new posting on his website, JamieOliver.com, that provides a clear and concise explanation of the benefits of the newly signed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Here are some of the provisions the $4.5 billion allocated to the Act will provide:

    • DOA will update national school nutrition  standards for food sold outside school meals. This would effectively remove junk food sold on school premises.
    • An increase in funding to the national school lunch program, providing an additional $0.06 to schools that meet higher nutritional standards.
    • An increase of technical support to schools and strengthening  school compliance with nutritional standards.
    • An expansion of after-school meal programs for at-risk children and new ways to enroll low-income students into the program.

    The passage of the act couldn’t have come at a more critical time when 1 in 3 kids are affected by childhood obesity. Click the the link above for more on the article and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

  • The Origins of Farm to School

    Posted on November 4th, 2010 pankaj No comments

    Dana Hudson grew up on a family farm in Washington, D.C. and her childhood memories are filled with spending time with her extended family there. Then, the tide of sprawl swept through and her family had to sell the farm to developers and relocate to different parts of the country. Dana settled in Vermont and years after the move, channeled her motivations and emotions into reconnecting individuals with their local farms. She focused on schools and wanted to connect kids to healthy foods through farms and nutrition education. She partnered with a collective of Vermont nonprofits called FEED (Food Education Every Day) and set up relationships between farmers, food providers, schools and community members. Thus was born the Farm to School movement.

    In the years that followed, Dana’s witnessed a lot of positive changes, including seeing teachers and parents change their food habits, attendance improving when farming was on the day’s schedule, new economic markets opening up for farmers and food management companies changing their distribution and corporate practices. Dana knows a lot more needs to be done but clearly understands we all have the power to change our food habits and take back our food systems. Just take it from Dana when she talks about the importance of good food:

    When I was a child on my family farm, my grandmother told me repeatedly, You are what you eat, which I always considered in respect to my own health and wellbeing. But my food is linked not only to my daily energy to function, but to my family, my traditions and culture, our shared landscape and all aspects of our functioning society, including our democracy, our economy, our health care and our societal welfare.

    For the full article, click here.

  • Agriculture Secretary Urges Schools to Take the Healthier School Challenge

    Posted on August 26th, 2010 Build with Purpose No comments

    Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urged schools across the country to take part in the Healthier US School Challenge, happening this week. This USDA endeavor recognizes and awards schools that focus on health by providing access to healthy meals, encouraging physical activity and teaching kids about nutrition. Vlisack says of the program:

    While many schools have made healthful changes to school meals, more can be accomplished. The Challenge encourages schools to take voluntary extra steps toward improving the nutrition of all foods offered in schools, enhancing the opportunity for children to be physically active during the school day and providing nutrition education to help them learn how to make healthy lifestyle decisions.

    USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service even offers monetary incentives for schools to participate. This will help in efforts to teach nutrition and reduce the levels of obesity across the country. Awareness of this program comes at a crucial time as Congress is in the midst of considering overhauling the Child Nutrition Act. For more information on the Healthier School Challenge, click here.

  • Local Chefs Get Involved in Healthy School Lunches

    Posted on August 12th, 2010 Build with Purpose No comments

    USA Today ran a piece earlier this week which discusses how local chefs are helping their school districts introduce nutritious meals and ingredients into their lunch and breakfast programs. This is all part of Michelle Obama’s broader Let’s Move campaign to end childhood obesity and the chefs definitely see the need to provide better options for kids. Chef Tony Geraci, director of food and nutrition at Baltimore City Schools, says:

    It’s time for Americans to “start doing right by our children” by serving them better food at school so they can be successful and healthy and live long lives. Kids can’t grow and thrive if they are being fed by a “chicken nugget factory.”

    Geraci and other chefs try to introduce fruits, vegetables and grains in a way that’s exciting to kids. And they use their background in culinary arts to make the meals more presentable on the plate, which draws attention from the kids. They also help out the schools in other areas such as hosting dinners and teaching knife skills.

    To read the full article, which also includes ways to pack creative, healthy lunches and kid-friendly recipes, click here.

  • First Lady Urges Passage of Child Nutrition Bill

    Posted on August 5th, 2010 Build with Purpose No comments

    First Lady Michelle Obama wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post earlier this week, bringing to light the need to pass the Child Nutrition Bill currently stuck in Congressional limbo. The bill has cleared committees in both chambers of Congress but has yet to be passed by the full body. The First Lady states how vital the passage of the bill is as it will provide for healthier meal standards, reward schools that meet those standards and help remove junk food from vending machines, all important steps in the fight against childhood obesity. She writes:

    We owe it to the children who aren’t reaching their potential because they’re not getting the nutrition they need during the day. We owe it to the parents who are working to keep their families healthy and looking for a little support along the way. We owe it to the schools that are trying to make progress but don’t have the resources they need. And we owe it to our country — because our prosperity depends on the health and vitality of the next generation.

    For the full piece, click here.

  • Child Nutrition Act Passes Congressional Committee

    Posted on July 15th, 2010 Build with Purpose No comments

    The Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act passed its first hurdle today as the House Education and Labor Committee passed this sweeping bill to reform childhood nutrition with a vote of 32-13. The bill is the first substantial change to school food policy in some time. Some of its proposals are to increase the reimbursement rate for schools-the first increase in over 30 years, improve the quality of the meals, implement new safety guidelines and promote physical activity and recess time.

    “I am pleased that this legislation calls for common sense action, to protect the health of our children. This bill addresses the need to work with children of all ages, from infants to high school age, to help them form healthy habits” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), chair of the Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities and original co-sponsor of the legislation.

    Click here for more information about the bill and its amendments.

  • New Documentary Highlights the Hardships of Healthy School Food

    Posted on July 8th, 2010 Build with Purpose No comments

    The new documentary Lunch Line, by Uji Films, is an intriguing look at the federal policy that shapes the nation’s school lunch program and how complex its become in the past 60 years. It also focuses on an intrepid group of Chicago teens who are cooking up healthier meals as part of an effort to get better options in schools. The film shows how not just a change in meal options, but a new direction in policy is needed to propel important change in the school lunch program.