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:
FNS works with states and school districts to ensure that schools are providing access to healthy meals to all children.
Ensuring access to nutritious food for America’s children is a top USDA priority. Our National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) play vital roles to ensure healthy foods are available to our nation’s schoolchildren. I have dedicated my career to these programs, and strongly believe in the power of their positive influence on public health.
Evidence shows that children who regularly eat balanced meals at school perform better in the classroom and are less likely to be overweight. Their ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy, and reach their fullest potential depends on what we do right now to secure their future. Read more »
Allison Slade of Namaste Charter School in Chicago is an Alliance National School Ambassador. Photo credit: Dominic Arizona
As part of our Cafeteria Stories series, Allison Slade, Founder and Executive Director of the Namaste Charter School in Chicago, shares thoughts on why good nutrition is an integral component of a child’s education. She credits the academic achievements of Namaste’s students not only to the academic structure itself, but also to the fresh, healthy meals that are a pillar of the school’s structure. Thank you, Allison, for sharing your story.
Guest Blog By: Allison Slade, Founder and Executive Director of Namaste Charter School
I’ve worn many hats in many schools—I have been a Teach for America Corps member, a Kindergarten teacher, a mentor, a curriculum designer, a literacy specialist, and now at Namaste Charter School, a Founder and Executive Director. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of reasons why schools should or should not make their students’ health a priority on campus.
When I was a teacher, I watched my students come to school with orange fingers from their cheesy snack food breakfast. By 10:00 a.m., my students were crashing; they couldn’t focus and they certainly couldn’t reach their highest potential, which is every teacher’s mission. Read more »
Jackson-Madison County School System School Nutrition Director Susan Johnson and School Nutrition Field Managers Rena Harris, Betty Willingham, and Susie Murchison. Credit: Jackson-Madison County School System
In today’s installment of our Cafeteria Stories series, we highlight the innovative and successful school nutrition strategies that a Tennessee school district is using to positively impact the health of our next generation. I believe very strongly in the power of student engagement, and the Jackson-Madison County School District is expertly tapping into that resource. By empowering students and integrating them into the program structure, they have altered food culture and made the healthy choice the desirable choice within and outside of the school walls. We thank them for sharing their story!
Guest Blog By: Susan Johnson, School Nutrition Director of Jackson-Madison County School System
Sometimes I hear people say that kids don’t like the healthy foods they are served at school, but what I see every day in the 27 schools that make up the Jackson-Madison County School System tells me otherwise. My staff and I see our students choosing to not only eat, but also grow fruits and vegetables, and educate others about the benefits of making healthy choices daily.
At our schools, we are committed to maintaining high standards for the food that we serve to students so that they can flourish in and outside of the classroom. In 2008, our district set minimum nutrition standards for food offered to students in grades PreK-8, which put us on the right track to comply with the USDA’s school meals standards and the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards, which went into effect this summer. Enrolling in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program provided us with specific tools, such as the Smart Snacks Product Calculator, that enabled us to not only meet, but exceed, federal standards at our schools today. 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 »
Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, students across America are being served meals with more fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Parents can send their kids to school knowing that the healthy habits they teach at home are being reinforced at school, with breakfast and lunch menus that provide more of the foods we should eat, and less of the foods that we should avoid.
Parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals, communities, and policy makers are working hard to make sure that school environments support a healthier next generation. Read more »