Students, school staff, teachers, and the entire community celebrate National School Lunch Week.
The fall season has arrived and with it the National School Lunch Week celebration! During the second week of October, USDA recognizes the important role school meal programs play in providing healthy, appetizing foods to their students. Over the last several weeks, USDA leaders visited schools to experience their meal programs first hand. And they were quite impressed! Now more than ever, today’s schools encourage healthy choices by featuring creative dishes and a variety of fruits and vegetables. USDA also got the chance to tour school gardens that harvest fresh ingredients and allow students to learn where their food comes from. It was exciting to see the many ways schools get students excited about health and nutrition and the important strides made to secure a healthier next generation.
After only three years since the updated nutrition standards were implemented, more than 96 percent of schools nationwide are meeting the standards. The impact is nothing short of inspiring. School lunch revenue has increased by up to $450 million; teachers report that students are more attentive in the classroom; and a Harvard study found students are now eating more fruits and vegetables! Read more »
With kids now back in the classroom, USDA wants to help schools continue to build a healthier, more nutritious environment for their students. At the same time, we’re deeply committed to ensuring these same schools maintain financial stability and strong student participation in their meal programs. We’re seeing more and more schools move forward with new and innovative healthy school meals, but we also understand there is a need to share best practices across the country.
Thanks to our partners at the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI), we hope to fill that void. To make this a reality, the group will pilot the Team Up For Success Training Initiative with the assistance of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Southeast Regional Office. Together, they’ll work with school food authorities (SFAs) to identify challenges and provide nuanced resources to promote a healthier school day. Read more »
“Cooking Up Change” involved more than one hundred students and over 700 guests.
This November I served as a judge in the 2013-14 kick off Cooking Up Change competition here in Chicago. What is “Cooking Up Change”? It’s a culinary competition sponsored by the Healthy Schools Campaign that challenges Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students and others across the U.S to create and prepare meals that are healthy and tasty and also follow National School Lunch Program requirements. This competition empowers students to have a voice about school meals and nutrition. On top of that, it’s a lot of fun for everyone involved!
The day of the competition I prepared by reviewing the rules, reading meal requirements, and skipping lunch. When I arrived at the event, I was impressed to see how many fellow judges there were and the wide range of food experts sitting around me. The competition got started and teams from fourteen schools started presenting their meals to us. The students brought in three or four cafeteria trays and gave each judge a sample. Judging was based on visual appearance, taste, presentation, and originality. Some students set themselves apart by being very well-polished when explaining the dishes, or by adding some creativity with music and costumes that reflected the meal’s ethic background. The competition was really tough, and ranking thee dishes was no easy task. Every meal had something that stood out, and often I found myself saying “I would order this at a restaurant!” Each dish was so delicious that by the end I could not eat one more bite! Read more »
DC United Mascot Talon helped us promote MyPlate and the importance of physical activity and proper nutrition.
The DC United Soccer Club held its “Fall Kick” a couple weeks ago and I was happy to attend and help them mark the end of the fall season. The “Fall Kick” brought together youth ages 6-12 from across the District and Maryland to RFK stadium making it a perfect event to reach out to the local community and spread FNCS’ message of good nutrition and physical activity.
The event featured tournament style matches, DC United players and mascot Talon, music, and educational games involving nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Around 400 kids, their coaches, and parents visited our booth to learn about proper diet and nutrition. I brought with me a set of engaging games such as “Duck, Duck, Fruit!” and the “Eat Smart. Play Hard. Relay” as activities to teach the children key elements to healthy eating. Read more »
Schools across the country are telling us that they are successfully serving healthy, delicious breakfasts and lunches to students. But how do the students and staff feel about the changes? We interviewed students and staff at Bondurant-Farrar School District outside of Des Moines, Iowa to get their take on the new meals.
Lexi Atzen, a senior at Bondurant-Farrar High School says that school meals make her feel better. “When you eat good foods, you feel a lot better about yourself,” says Atzen. “You feel a lot better just in general, you have more energy. And then that leads into the classroom as well.” Read more »
FNCS Under Secretary Kevin Concannon and FNS SERO Regional Administrator Don Arnette meet the Student Wellness Team from North Beach Elementary School, Miami Beach, Fla., during a recent visit to the school. (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).
North Beach Elementary School in Miami Beach, Florida was recently recognized by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service as a HealthierUS School Challenge award winner for their outstanding school meal service. While there, we learned about the school’s wellness program which contributes significantly to a healthy learning environment.
“The school wellness activities have helped lead the way in the fight against obesity,” said Michele Rivera, Physical Education/Wellness Coordinator for North Beach Elementary School. “We have countless activities in our school led by students, parents, administrators and community members who share a passion to make our school a healthier place to learn. Students have numerous opportunities, beginning in Pre-K, to learn how to eat healthy and to understand the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle.” Read more »