Posted on July 21st, 2011 No comments
The USDA just released its first report on the farm to school initiative and found that, even though the program is expanding nationwide, there are still many challenges in establishing a market between local farms and schools. The report found that local districts were excited to connect their schools to local farms but problems arose in terms of supply and storage. For one, school food service providers didn’t expect farms to replace their existing chains. Schools also can’t store raw or fresh foods for a prolonged period of time, they’re more used to handling precooked meals. The seasonality of foods also presents a challenge as many foods, such as tomatoes and squash, grow in the summer when school’s out but farmers are working on ways to make these items available during the school year.
The report also focused on education and teaching kids about where foods come from and how to eat healthy. Schools in Rhode Island, for example, have trading cards that showcase farmers and what they grow. At a school in Oklahoma, a phys ed teacher is using music and dance to teach kids about healthy foods. The USDA sees this educational aspect as an important tandem to bringing local food to schools by teaching kids where their food comes from.
“I think it’s really important for kids to get reconnected to agriculture,” Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, says. “Too many Americans are far removed from how their food is produced, and by whom, and they have a lot of questions.”
The farm to school movement will get a nice boost next year when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act will provide additional funding for farm to school grants. For the full article on Food Safety News, click here.
Posted on May 26th, 2011 No comments
Two pioneers in making sure kids are provided with meals in school, Gene White and Namanga Ngongi, are working together to do the same for kids all across Africa. On May 6, White and Ngongi spurred health and agriculture officials from 22 different African nations to push for legislation to expand “home grown” feeding programs that will connect local farmers to schools, help prevent malnutrition and keep children, especially young girls, in school.
Currently, at least 50% of Africa’s farmers don’t grow enough food to feed even themselves, and 40% of their children are malnourished. With the potential to connect these farmers to schools in their communities, they can grow more and thus ensure that kids are receiving local, fresh food and that their own families aren’t going hungry. Moreover, having meals and lunches in schools helps to keep kids in schools, especially young girls who are at risk of being married off early. A regular, balanced and nutritious diet can make sure early development continues and that kids can go on to have healthy and active lives.
White, founder of the Global Child Nutrition Foundation, and Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, know a thing or two about the importance of school meals. With the new accord agreed upon by the African nations, the work and tireless efforts they put into their own organizations can be realized across the continent, so that no child goes hungry and has the chance for a healthy and productive life. For more information, click here.
Posted on May 5th, 2011 No comments
Make room for those carrots and potatoes from your local farm! The USDA recently introduced rules to encourage schools to work with local farms in order to provide more fresh produce and veggies during school meals. With the new rules, schools can give local providers preference when they bid for meal contracts. Local farms can provide “unprocessed” foods, which can be frozen, peeled or sliced but are not doused with preservatives.
This is all part of the bigger issue to curtail childhood obesity, spearheaded by the recently passed Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, but one major obstacle in the endeavor is to get kids to actually eat the healthier options. Alice Waters, founder of the Edible Schoolyard program, notes:
We should certainly try to improve diets by make school lunches more nutritious and by getting the vending machines out of the hallways. But we can’t be sure that kids are even eating — let alone understanding — what nourishment is all about. Kids are wary of unfamiliar foods, besides they can always buy packaged junk before and after school.”
The key is to make healthy foods fun and exciting for kids and introduce nutrition education programs that will help with an early start on better eating. The new rule, though, is definitely a step in the right direction in the ongoing battle against obesity. For the NPR article on the rule, click here.
Posted on April 7th, 2011 No comments
One of the ways Anne Arundel County Public Schools are making sure students are served fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables at school is by presenting them with a colorful assortment of these options at the lunchtime buffet. Students can take as much as they like and the fare also includes seasonal treats like pineapple, kiwi and peaches.
In addition, much of the produce comes from local sources since the school nutrition program requires schools to obtain locally grown items whenever possible. Parents get involved too. The schools host tasting parties for families so parents can see and try the new, delicious and healthy treats their kids are eating in school. The school buffets are a great way to provide as many fruits and vegetables to students. The kids have fun picking their own fresh foods and teachers and parents know they’re eating nutritious foods instead of vending machine and processed snacks. Another winning effort in the fight against childhood obesity. For more on the program, click here.
Posted on March 31st, 2011 No comments
Jamie Oliver, the hyper-kinetic chef who brought his “Food Revolution” TV show to a West Virginia school last year in an effort to curtail childhood obesity, returns to the airwaves on Tues, April 12 on ABC. This time, he’s taking his show and his message to the big city: Los Angeles! However, the plan to bring healthy foods and lunches to the city’s students is not an easy undertaking as Oliver sees opposition from the School District and other forces.
Can Chef Jamie overcome local politics? Can he institute a comprehensive but approachable and nutritious meal program to help stop childhood obesity? Tune in on April 12 to find out! Click here for more information on the show and the chef with a zeal for health and a mission to help our kids.
Posted on March 3rd, 2011 No comments
Food Safety News had an interesting piece earlier this week on how to get students at school to eat more of the healthy options offered. As more schools across the country meet and even surpass federal nutrition requirements, the question arises as to how to get kids to eat these nutritious options in the face of pizza, fries and other fast food options. Well, it seems lunch providers across the county have some pretty creative ways to make healthier options more desirable. For example, Oceanside School District in California packages food under its own brand and makes it look like popular commercial food, like pizza with low-fat cheese and whole grain crust which is bleached white.
Other schools, like districts in Washington, get feedback from students themselves as to what they’d like to see on menus. Tom French, a chef who runs a nonprofit that helps schools to cook from scratch, says:
“With the older kids, you really have to market to them. We take suggestions, we have focus groups, we have tasting groups. Because you can either take it or not.”
Another approach used at schools is to offer food repeatedly until students become familiar with it. For more on these and other ways schools are getting kids to eat healthy, you can check out the full story here.
Posted on January 13th, 2011 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.
Posted on December 30th, 2010 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.
Posted on December 23rd, 2010 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.
Posted on November 4th, 2010 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.