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 »
Waterford students learned how to make “Smart Snacks” (fruit kabobs) and the nutrition benefits of each fruit.
Doreen Simonds is the Nutrition and Purchasing Services Director for the Waterford Public Schools in Waterford, Michigan. Doreen has been a strong voice for healthier school meals and creative nutrition education strategies. Under her leadership, thirteen of Waterford’s twenty schools have won USDA HealthierUS School Challenge awards. I’d like to share Doreen’s blog below on the importance of teamwork in moving forward on children’s health and nutrition.
Oakland County, Michigan has always been in the forefront for promoting progressive moves in child nutrition to support healthy learning for our children. Waterford Schools Food and Nutrition is fortunate to be part of a collaborative community that is always growing for the good of education. With the help of great leadership in our Michigan Department of Education/Team Nutrition and School Nutrition Association of Michigan (SNAM) of Oakland County, we are implementing the new regulations set forth by the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. The teamwork provided our district with great support and direction through comprehensive and thorough statewide and county staff trainings. Read more »
The Mediterranean Quinoa Salad won second place in the grains category. Photo by Jeanne S., Lauren M., Jeanne G. and Rodney P. from Bellingham Public Schools, Bellingham, MA.
For much of the nation, the long winter has presented a great opportunity to gather in the kitchen and cook up a new dish with the family. In the spirit of National Nutrition Month, USDA has recently released new cookbooks that feature 30 delicious, kid-approved recipes. The offerings represent the top picks from the Recipes for Healthy Kids Competition where teams of students, teachers, community members and chefs competed to create dishes that could be incorporated into school lunch menus.
Inspired by the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, the Competition kicked off on September 7, 2010 at the start of the school year. The Competition supported historic improvements made to school meals made possible by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and the aggressive goals set by the White House for the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). 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 »
CDC Study finds Obesity rates among low-income preschoolers declining in many states. Credit: CDC
Here at USDA, we’re on a mission to help all of our nation’s children have the best possible chance at a healthy life. So, we’re very encouraged by some recent news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): the rate of obesity among low-income pre-school children appears to be declining for the first time in decades.
The declining rates show that our collective efforts are helping to gain ground on childhood obesity, particularly among some of the more vulnerable populations in our country. Low-income children are often at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the food they need to grow up healthy, which is why USDA’s nutrition programs and resources are so vital. Read more »
Farm to school programs are mutually beneficial – kids get fresh fruits and vegetables and farmers build a new customer base.
“Our farm to school program helps our district offer more fruits and vegetables on a daily basis,” said Julie Hamilton, school food service director of operations/training for Lamar County Schools in Purvis, Miss. “Being exposed to more choices, the young students will learn to like them and make healthier food choices over their lifetimes.”
Offering more fruits and vegetables to students is part of the new requirements recently passed by Congress to improve nutrition in the nation’s schools. Utilizing a farm to school approach – where locally sourced products are featured in the school cafeteria – is an effective way to make it easier to meet these new standards and help the students at the same time. Read more »