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Posts tagged: HealthierNextGen

Embracing a New Vision of School Nutrition

Academy for Global Citizenship students enjoy a healthy lunch.

Academy for Global Citizenship students enjoy a healthy lunch.

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 Alan Shannon, Public Affairs Director, Midwest Region, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, and Katherine Elmer-Dewitt, Academy for Global Citizenship

As we approach the five-year anniversary of the passage of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, it’s worthwhile to revisit some of the schools that were at the cutting edge of creating healthier school meals. Chicago’s Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) has been a pioneer in serving healthy, delicious school meals that exceed USDA school meals standards. Just as important, students love them! Integral to AGC’s success is a belief in not only serving positive foods but also in creating a culture that supports wellness. The school’s holistic approach relies on parent engagement, physical education, nutrition education, gardening, and more.

The Academy is a recognized national leader in these areas, so much so that Good Morning America visited it in 2011—just after the Act passed—to highlight its work. I was there for the visit and wrote this blog about it. I’ve been fortunate to visit several times since and am honored to share the blog below, written by AGC’s Katherine Elmer-Dewitt. It tells their story and underscores the importance of healthy school food. Read more »

The Cafeteria is the Biggest Classroom in the School

A Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES) class photo.

A Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES) class photo.

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 Linda Mailhot, Head Cook, Mount Desert Elementary School in Northeast Harbor Maine on September 24, 2014

Mount Desert Elementary School (MDES) is a small school with a big vision, located on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine. Here we strive to promote a healthy lifestyle for our students through physical activity and nutrition education.

The cafeteria is the biggest classroom in the school where students are taught to make healthy choices for themselves beginning in kindergarten. Students progress each day through a fruit-and-vegetable bar and an entrée station. Along this route they choose the nutritious and appealing foods they need to build a balanced meal according to the new school meal standards issued by USDA. Many of our entrée offerings are multinational, which is a great way to introduce students to nutritional foods from a variety of cultures. By empowering students in the cafeteria, they learn to make healthy choices for life. Read more »

Liberal High School Develops Second Chance Breakfast Program

The “Grab-n-Go” breakfast station is in Liberal High School hallways after first period, so kids can pick them up on their way to the next class. The concept has increased breakfast participation (and students’ overall nutrition) significantly.

The “Grab-n-Go” breakfast station is in Liberal High School hallways after first period, so kids can pick them up on their way to the next class. The concept has increased breakfast participation (and students’ overall nutrition) significantly.

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 Denise Kahler, Communications Director, Kansas State Department of Education

More than 70 percent of Liberal High School’s student population qualify for free or reduced meals. Yet, only 11 percent of the entire student population was taking advantage of the school’s breakfast program.  While we would like to believe that all kids eat a healthy breakfast at home and come to school ready to learn, that’s not reality.  Additionally, most high school kids would rather stay in bed as long as possible or choose to socialize with friends before school instead of taking the time to eat breakfast. For some students, buses don’t arrive at the school early enough for them to participate in the breakfast program and for others, they simply aren’t ready to eat until they’ve been awake for a while. Whatever the case, Liberal High’s breakfast program participation was too low and too many kids were turning to vending machines for snacks to get them through the day.

Knowing that something needed to be done, the school nutrition staff secured the support of the principal and a grant from the Midwest Dairy Council to find a way to increase breakfast participation. Staff knew that whatever they did, it had to be fast (kids only had five minute passing periods), would have to be fuss-free and easy to handle since kids would be taking their breakfast to class, would have to include food items that were appealing to students and included yogurt or cheese every day, and were available in a location that was easily accessible to students. Read more »

Team Up for Success! USDA and Partners Help Secure a Healthier School Day

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 »

Raymore Peculiar Achieves Salad Bar Success with “Rainbow Days”

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 Wendy Moraskie, USDA Food and Nutrition Service

Every year the schools in Missouri’s Raymore Peculiar R II district celebrate their salad bars during “Rainbow Days.”  Thanks to the staff’s efforts to use local farmers markets, students throughout the district see fresh peppers, squash, onion, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, green beans, corn on the cob, peaches, apples, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon and more.

“Whatever’s in season, they’ll try it,” said District Food Service Director Colleen Johnston, “our kids are good experimenters.”

Missouri schools hold Rainbow Days celebrations and feature the abundance of bright colors at their salad bars as a way of encouraging students to eat a variety of foods.  To help promote the events, schools can qualify for a $200 stipend. Read more »

Durfee Students Learn Healthy Habits in the Garden, Classroom, and Cafeteria

Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, El Monte School District. Photo credit: Jim Newberry

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 »