Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, El Monte School District. Photo credit: Jim Newberry
Today’s Cafeteria Stories contribution comes from Dr. Robert Lewis of the El Monte School District in Southern California. Dr. Lewis describes the success that his urban school district has had with school gardening, and how gardening helps to transform the food culture among students who were previously unaware of the origins of food. His district is making great strides in improving the school nutrition environment, thanks in part to support from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
By: Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, El Monte School District
The majority of the more than 1,000 students that attend Durfee School—part of El Monte School District, east of Los Angeles, California—have lived their entire lives in urban neighborhoods without access to farms or fields. It’s ironic that our school is named after James R. Durfee, a rancher and farmer who grew vegetables, grain, walnuts, and fruit. But until several years ago, Durfee students didn’t know where food came from, aside from the supermarket or the corner store.
When we joined the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program and decided to improve the healthfulness of the food we serve to our students, we started by getting our hands dirty. As the director of nutrition services for El Monte School District I knew that kids are more likely to try new foods if they are involved in the process and learn why it is important. I invited local farmers to school to plant seedlings with the students. Once kids saw how broccoli or red cabbage grows, you can bet they wanted to taste them both in the garden and in the cafeteria. Read more »
Sharon Foster of James Bowie Elementary School in Dallas is an Alliance National School Ambassador. Photo credit: Ellen Yale
Today’s guest post in our Cafeteria Stories series comes from Sharon Foster, a physical education teacher dedicated to paving a path of success for her students. Ms. Foster describes the importance of a healthy school nutrition environment, as well as involving students in the change process (something I wholeheartedly support!). Due to her motivation and successes, Ms. Foster now serves as an ambassador for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
By Sharon Foster, Physical Education Teacher at James Bowie Elementary School
As students at James Bowie Elementary School head back to school this fall, I feel good about the fact we are providing healthy meals, drinks, and snacks at school because I know we’re helping our students build strong minds and bodies.
It wasn’t always that way at our school. Before we started our journey by joining the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, our students were snacking on salty foods and sugary drinks outside the cafeteria and were not ready to learn when they came to class. Read more »
Allison Slade of Namaste Charter School in Chicago is an Alliance National School Ambassador. Photo credit: Dominic Arizona
As part of our Cafeteria Stories series, Allison Slade, Founder and Executive Director of the Namaste Charter School in Chicago, shares thoughts on why good nutrition is an integral component of a child’s education. She credits the academic achievements of Namaste’s students not only to the academic structure itself, but also to the fresh, healthy meals that are a pillar of the school’s structure. Thank you, Allison, for sharing your story.
Guest Blog By: Allison Slade, Founder and Executive Director of Namaste Charter School
I’ve worn many hats in many schools—I have been a Teach for America Corps member, a Kindergarten teacher, a mentor, a curriculum designer, a literacy specialist, and now at Namaste Charter School, a Founder and Executive Director. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of reasons why schools should or should not make their students’ health a priority on campus.
When I was a teacher, I watched my students come to school with orange fingers from their cheesy snack food breakfast. By 10:00 a.m., my students were crashing; they couldn’t focus and they certainly couldn’t reach their highest potential, which is every teacher’s mission. Read more »
Jackson-Madison County School System School Nutrition Director Susan Johnson and School Nutrition Field Managers Rena Harris, Betty Willingham, and Susie Murchison. Credit: Jackson-Madison County School System
In today’s installment of our Cafeteria Stories series, we highlight the innovative and successful school nutrition strategies that a Tennessee school district is using to positively impact the health of our next generation. I believe very strongly in the power of student engagement, and the Jackson-Madison County School District is expertly tapping into that resource. By empowering students and integrating them into the program structure, they have altered food culture and made the healthy choice the desirable choice within and outside of the school walls. We thank them for sharing their story!
Guest Blog By: Susan Johnson, School Nutrition Director of Jackson-Madison County School System
Sometimes I hear people say that kids don’t like the healthy foods they are served at school, but what I see every day in the 27 schools that make up the Jackson-Madison County School System tells me otherwise. My staff and I see our students choosing to not only eat, but also grow fruits and vegetables, and educate others about the benefits of making healthy choices daily.
At our schools, we are committed to maintaining high standards for the food that we serve to students so that they can flourish in and outside of the classroom. In 2008, our district set minimum nutrition standards for food offered to students in grades PreK-8, which put us on the right track to comply with the USDA’s school meals standards and the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards, which went into effect this summer. Enrolling in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program provided us with specific tools, such as the Smart Snacks Product Calculator, that enabled us to not only meet, but exceed, federal standards at our schools today. Read more »