The West Salem School District, located in rural, west-central Wisconsin, houses the elementary, middle, and high schools on one campus. The district has made considerable progress in its long-term efforts toward robust nutrition standards. Offering foods that appeal to elementary school children while still pleasing the palates of high school students is not always easy. Yet for budgetary reasons, retaining school meal participation rates across all grades is essential.
Some of the Solutions
The district has made numerous changes in recent years, including the introduction of “garden bars” featuring kale, Swiss chard, peppers, squash, raspberries, and other fruits and vegetables grown on the campus. Cafeteria staff have undergone training to teach them how to cook with a wider variety of herbs and spices, which allowed them to cut back on the use of salt. The schools only serve whole wheat breads and pastas and brown rice instead of white.
Measures of Success
To keep school meal participation rates high, the district offers healthy pre-plated meals and a la carte items to assure students have flavorful choices and a short wait time. The district has reduced wait times from five minutes to just 90 seconds—which anecdotally helps prevent high school students who are in a hurry from going off-campus for lunch. Parents also report that their children are asking for salads at home and ordering them in restaurants because they have learned to enjoy eating them at school.
Snacks and Beverages
To meet both the federal government’s Healthier US School Challenge standards and district wellness guidelines, a la carte items now include yogurt parfaits and baked chips, as well as muffins and cookies that are sold in significantly reduced portion sizes. Administrators have eliminated sugar-sweetened beverages from vending machines and replaced them with water, flavored water, and zero- and low-calorie energy drinks. Additionally, the district serves only nonfat and low-fat dairy products.
The #1 Lesson Learned
District leaders have found that giving students opportunities to sample products, such as brussels sprouts, before they appear on the menu is instrumental in gaining student buy-in. Administrators and cafeteria staff report that students are much more receptive to eating such foods after they have been introduced to them through samples.
Read more "School Food Success Stories" from school districts across the nation.
- Date added:
- Dec 19, 2012
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
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