The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country. We thank them for sharing their stories!
By Victoria Wittrock, Food Service Supervisor, West Central School District, South Dakota
I’ve seen a lot of great changes come about in the West Central School District since the implementation of the new school meal pattern in 2012, and I’m very grateful for the process we’ve gone through.
The changes in the younger kids have been the most noticeable. Exposing them to more fruits and vegetables has been really exciting. When we first began introducing new fruits and vegetables, I was surprised that some kids had never had cantaloupe or honeydew melons. Now, I go to the local market and I see students there pointing out fruits and vegetables and telling their parents, “Mom, Dad, you’ve got to try this!” The younger kids now ask me about proteins, grains, and what other types of nutrients they need. Read more »
Families sample local foods and learn about healthy options at the Minneapolis Public Schools third annual Farm to School Community BBQ.
What a day! The Minneapolis Public Schools’ (MPS) third annual Farm to School Community BBQ took place under bright blue skies on a crisp early autumn day. Over 750 families and community members gathered with over 50 different organizational partners to celebrate MPS’ great work in getting local food into school cafeterias. I had the pleasure of competing against the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in a corn shucking contest. We were neck and neck – or maybe ear to ear – but I ultimately lost the race. Luckily, children in Minneapolis are winning big!
Minneapolis provides a fantastic example of a school district embracing the changes recently called for in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. School board members routinely eat lunch at the district’s schools, the food service program is making money, and in just two years, Minneapolis school food has become a source of community pride. To enable as much scratch cooking as possible, MPS will invest $40 million in kitchen upgrades to bring the district’s majority “heat-and-serve” sites up to cooking capacity. Read more »
Principal Kimberly Norton of Danville, Ill (second from right) stands on stage with President Clinton at the 2014 Leaders Summit hosted by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Photo credit: Scott Henrichsen
Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Leaders Summit, where I met several inspiring school wellness champions who were eager to share their stories of success. In today’s installment in our Cafeteria Stories series, Kimberly Norton, a principal of one of the schools honored at that event, shares some of her school’s award winning strategies for a healthier environment that kids truly enjoy.
By: Kimberly Norton, Principal, Northeast Elementary Magnet School
A few weeks ago, I attended the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. to receive the National Healthy Schools Gold Award for my school, Northeast Elementary Magnet School in Danville, Illinois. The Leaders Summit brought together school leaders like me, along with business executives and community champions to celebrate our success in building healthier environments where our kids can thrive. Read more »
The USDA Farm to School Planning Toolkit provides school districts helpful questions to consider and resources to reference when building their programs.
Healthy habits are taking root in our nation’s schools. Thanks to an important commitment made possible by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, more of our nation’s kids are being exposed to lessons about healthy eating and learning where their food comes from. Established as part of that legislation, USDA’s Farm to School Program plays a vital role in improving health outcomes for our schoolchildren.
This October, during National Farm to School Month, it’s important to acknowledge farm to school programs’ contributions to fostering a healthier next generation. These programs support the work of parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals, and communities to make sure the healthy choice is the easy choice for America’s children. Read more »
USDA’s Healthy Incentives Pilot found that SNAP participants who received incentives to purchase healthy foods consumed about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables per day than people who did not receive the incentives. Click to enlarge.
USDA is firmly committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to a safe, healthy, adequate and affordable diet. Unfortunately, our nation is facing an unprecedented nutrition crisis, with far too many Americans facing both food insecurity and obesity. Although it seems paradoxical, the two actually go hand in hand far too often. To reverse the course of this two-sided crisis, we must create a cultural change that facilitates and encourages healthy food choices among all Americans.
One example of how USDA has been working to implement this cultural shift is the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) project that was recently conducted in Massachusetts. The goal of this project was to provide SNAP participants greater access to healthy foods and better nutrition through financial incentives at the point of purchase. Specifically, we tested the impact of providing families with 30 extra cents in SNAP benefits per benefit dollar that they spent on fruits and vegetables. We were very encouraged by the results. On average, people who received the incentives ate about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables per day than people who did not receive the incentives—a substantial increase! Read more »
This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.
An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »