Feeding students healthy, tasty and nutritious school meals can be a challenge. Just ask any one of the thousands of school nutrition professionals who carry out the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. They have to balance menu planning following nutrition standards, financial management, and inventory management, all while making meals that will be enjoyed by students – not always an easy audience. It is a testament to their dedication that over 90 percent of America’s schools have now implemented the improved standards found in the Healthy Hungry Free Kids Act of 2010.
USDA is working hard to find ways to continue to support their efforts. One way we are doing that is a new program that we recently piloted in Mississippi that provides free training through a partnership with the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI). The Team Up For School Nutrition Success Training (Team Up) is tailored to schools and covers topics like menu planning, financial management, procurement, meal presentation and appeal, as well as youth engagement tactics, and strategies to reduce plate waste.
Another partner in this initiative is First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama is grateful for the hard work being done in our country’s school cafeterias, but also recognizes that some may need a little help. When she heard about our initiative, she took the time to make a video to not only thank and encourage the dedicated school food service professional around the country, but to encourage them to take advantage of Team Up. Hear with the First Lady had to say about Team Up:
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 »
Students in Cañon City, Colorado, enjoy fruits and vegetables from their "Harvest Bar".
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 Paula Buser, Director, Nutrition Services & Print Shop, Littleton Public Schools
For me, success in implementing the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, in large part has been about communication and leadership. It’s not just what you present to people, it’s the way you present it and the way you lead them through change.
In the fall of 2012, when the rules were first being implemented, I was the Manager of Nutrition Services for Cañon City Schools in Cañon City, Colorado. Initially, there was a lot of anxiety among the staff about how we were going to be able to meet the new requirements. Read more »
School lunch staff and students enjoy the new school lunch menu created to meet the new standards at the Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, VA on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.
In this week’s guest post, Dr. Stephen Cook describes the childhood overweight and obesity epidemic based on first-hand experience with patients in his clinical practice. He also discusses the important role that school nutrition plays in both short- and long-term health outcomes among our nation’s children.
Dr. Stephen Cook, M.D., Ph.D., American Heart Association Volunteer
It’s a hard truth to swallow, but childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions – and diet has a lot to do with it. In the city of Rochester, where I currently live and work, almost half of all children are overweight or obese. In fact, one of the patients in my practice was already considered obese at the tender age of three. By the time he turned four, his BMI was over the 98th percentile for his age. Read more »
Earlier this morning, The Hill published an op-ed written by Secretary Vilsack and former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, who served from 2001 to 2005. In the op-ed, Vilsack and Veneman call on Members of Congress to stand strong for America’s children and resist attempts to undo the progress made since the passage of the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). Schools across the country are now serving healthier meals to kids based on recommendations from doctors and nutritionists at the Institute of Medicine. Thanks to HHFKA, the school environment is healthier for millions of American children, giving them a fair shot at a healthier, more productive future. Read more from The Hill Op-Ed
New foodservice equipment makes preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient for hardworking school food service professionals.
Each and every school day, over 30 million children participate in USDA’s school meals programs; many of these children consume two or more of their daily meals at school. There’s no denying that school food plays a critical role in children’s diets, and USDA takes this responsibility very seriously. We are committed to doing our part to ensure a healthier next generation!
Given public concern about our children’s current and future health, USDA has issued updated school meal standards stemming from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. These science-based standards call for increasing fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains, while at the same time limiting less healthy fats, sugar, sodium and excess calories. Schools across the country are stepping up to the plate. In fact, about 90% of schools across the country are already meeting the updated standards! That’s not to say that their work is done. Some schools have found that they lack the necessary equipment or tools to prepare healthy meals for all students. Read more »