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
Mississippi has one of the nation’s highest rates of obesity. From 2003 to 2005, the percentage of overweight first-graders grew from 27 to 43 percent, and the percentage of overweight seventh-graders rose from 44 to 55 percent. Since then, the state has been making progress in reversing this trend. Between 2005 and 2011, the overweight and obesity rate among all public elementary school students dropped from 43 percent to 37.3 percent. As one example of local efforts, in 2009 the Lamar County School District set a goal to meet the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) criteria.
Some of the Solutions
To meet the HUSSC nutrition standards, the district increased its use of whole-grain products, which included developing a whole-grain dough recipe for the base of all bread products. The district also incorporated a greater variety and volume of dark green and orange vegetables into the menu, and increased the use of dried beans. To ensure high-quality and consistent preparation, the district requires all staff members to attend a two-week training course each summer to learn how to prepare and serve menu items, and how to increase participation by educating students about the meals.
Measures of Success
According to school district officials, students have responded positively to healthier menu items, resulting in increased revenue. The more nutritious dishes are prepared with low-fat butter substitutes, spices, and seasonings. The district is setting an example too, as popular recipes have been shared with nutrition directors and administrators in nearby districts.
The district eliminated all deep-fat fryers, transitioning instead to combination ovens—one piece of equipment that efficiently replaces conventional ovens, steamers, and fryers. Staff say this has revolutionized the way they prepare meals. These ovens can bake potatoes, “oven-fry” chicken without oil, and oven-crisp fries simultaneously in less time than it would take to prepare them with conventional equipment. Additionally, the machines are programmable, allowing cafeteria staff more time for hands-on food preparation.
The #1 Lesson Learned
Lamar County administrators agree that buy-in from all staff—including principals, health coordinators, child nutrition directors, and superintendents—has been critical to the district’s success. With all district staff involved and engaged in the process, everyone is held accountable.
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
Schools would be better able to serve healthy, appealing meals if investments were made in new kitchen equipment and infrastructure.More info
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