March is National Nutrition Month, a time to focus new energy on giving kids healthy food options throughout the school day. Students consume up to half of their daily calories in school, so access to wholesome meals and snacks is important to their overall health. In fact, research shows that students living in states with strong nutrition laws gain less weight than those in states without such policies.More info
Though agriculture plays a key role in Kentucky’s economy, traditionally, few school districts have taken advantage of the opportunity to serve produce, dairy, and other locally sourced products to students. In recent years, Montgomery County Public Schools have made considerable progress incorporating foods sourced from the surrounding community. Successfully overcoming a few potential hurdles along the way—including increased cost implications, federal procurement guidelines, and students’ acceptance—the district has received several Healthier US School Challenge (HUSSC) gold awards in the process.
Some of the Solutions
A program of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture called Kentucky Proud Restaurant Rewards offers schools incentives for purchasing produce, meat, dairy products, and eggs from local producers. Thanks to reimbursements of 14 to 16 percent of total food costs, the district was able to offer students fresher ingredients at an affordable cost—while also supporting local farmers. This meant that students could eat fresh apples, cantaloupes, tomatoes, watermelon, and more—fruits and vegetables that taste better than produce that has traveled long distances over the course of days or weeks before arriving on students’ plates.
Measures of Success
Early on, district leaders recognized the importance of reinforcing lessons about eating healthy, fresh-tasting foods in the curriculum. In one school, cafeteria staff coordinated a display of hydroponic lettuce so that students could see how the roots grow in water. High school students enrolled in a greenhouse class and learned to grow lettuce and cherry tomatoes hydroponically. Since establishing these programs, the district has doubled its lettuce usage.
The district’s educational initiatives begin at the elementary school level, where students visit local orchards and see firsthand produce that will eventually end up in the cafeteria. The district’s philosophy is that if students learn about the seasonality of fresh food—how it is grown and where it comes from—children will feel empowered to make healthier food choices and learn to enjoy eating more fruits and vegetables.
The #1 Lesson Learned
Administrators believe the key to making locally produced foods a major component of the school menu is by building partnerships with local farmers, parents, and others in the community. District leaders plan to work toward strengthening and expanding these partnerships and implementing a newly developed farm-to-school curriculum.
Read more "School Food Success Stories" from school districts across the nation.
- Date added:
- Dec 19, 2012
Jessica Donze Black, director for the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, calls the modification change a “pragmatic and scientifically sound decision,” and San Francisco-based school food reformer Dana Woldow agrees: “[The calorie caps] will automatically limit the amount of potentially fatty protein and grains going into the meals. I think the days of seeing giant cheeseburgers the size of your head in school cafeterias may be over.”More info
It was food delivery day at Glen Landing Middle School in Blackwood, New Jersey, and the 42-year-old walk-in freezer went kaput. Again.More info
infrastructure. More info
This is the second in a series of reports that summarizes how schools are putting in place updated U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, meal standards and the challenges they must overcome to reach full implementation.More info
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Only 1 in 10 school districts nationwide (12 percent) has all the kitchen equipment needed to serve healthy foods, according to a new report issued by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project. The report makes recommendations for how schools, policymakers, industry, and philanthropic partners can work together to make these investments and provide healthy, appealing foods more efficiently. It is the first national assessment of districts’ kitchen equipment and infrastructure needs.More info
"In other words, children will be able to buy only foods that their parents would find generally acceptable,' says Jessica Donze Black, director of the Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a non-profit, nonpartisan group helping to improve school foods for our kids. If your school participates in the National School Lunch Program (most public schools in the country do), they must adhere to these new snack regulations by the start of the 2014 school year.More info