“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 »
US Kevin Concannon and Miami-Dade County School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho talk with students from North Beach Elementary School, Miami, FL, on August 23, 2012, during lunch. (USDA photo by Debbie Smoot).
I recently had the pleasure of visiting North Beach Elementary School in Miami to recognize 177 schools in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools District for their efforts to promote good nutrition and physical activity to their students. All 177 schools achieved Bronze Awards in the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). Miami-Dade now has the honor of having the second largest number of HUSSC awards in any one school district in the entire nation. Read more »
As a new school year begins, I’m proud to say that the Obama Administration is taking historic steps to make the school day healthier for kids in schools across the country. I’m excited about the changes showing up in cafeterias this school year – more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; low-fat and fat-free milk choices; and fewer salty and fatty foods.
In addition to those changes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working with parents, teachers and school cafeteria managers to ensure our kids get the right amount of food. Menus are planned for grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 and the meals are “right-sized” so that kids get the appropriate amount of calories and the correct portions of different foods. To further improve menu changes, we’re increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of sodium, saturated fat and trans fats available in those meals. Read more »
Fruit and Veggie Ambassadors sampling fresh fruit and vegetables at a Pawtucket Summer Food Service Program.
Do you know what a Malanga is? What about a Chocolate Pepper? The “Fruit and Vegetable Ambassador ” (F&V Ambassador) students of Slater Jr. High School in Pawtucket, Rhode Island learned about these unusual vegetables and more during their Summer Food Service Program fruit and vegetable taste testing. For the less adventurous vegetable eater, a Malanga is a root vegetable that has a nutlike flavor and when cut open looks similar to a sweet potato. A Chocolate Pepper is a purple Bell Pepper.
The students at this summer food program are nicknamed the “F&V Ambassadors” of their school. Along with this prestigious title, students get cool t-shirts and, most importantly, the responsibility of encouraging fellow students throughout the school year to make healthier decisions at lunchtime. Read more »