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 »
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 »
Several recent media reports have misrepresented how the bi-partisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards will impact school fundraisers like bake sales.
I’d like to set the record straight: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not imposing federal restrictions on bake sales or fundraisers.
USDA has given states complete authority to set policies on fundraisers and bake sales that work for them. States are free to allow fundraisers and bake sales featuring foods and beverages that don’t meet the new standards during the school day if they choose. They, not USDA, are responsible for determining the number and the frequency of these events each year. 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 »
As a mother and a grandmother, and as a school nutrition professional who has served at the local, state and national levels, I know the unique challenges and rewards that come along with helping to raise children—particularly when it comes to good nutrition.
Feeding kids, and feeding them well, can be tough, but I am proud to say that with the strong support of parents, our schools are making a real difference in the health of our nation’s children.
We at USDA have been working closely with schools during the transition to the updated meals. We have listened to school nutrition professionals, teachers, administrators, parents and students themselves. We have made tweaks and changes to the new meals along the way, based on feedback from their real world experiences. Read more »
Last week, researchers from Michigan State University, Oakland University, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and the Michigan Department of Education came out with a new study showing that when schools offer healthier snacks in vending machines and a la carte lines, students’ overall diets improve. Students in schools that offered healthier snacks consumed more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and not just at school—at home, too.
This is encouraging news for schools and school nutrition professionals as they begin implementing the Smart Snacks in School standards, which will ensure that students are offered healthier food options during the school day. Smart Snacks in School requires more whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and leaner protein, while still leaving plenty of room for tradition, like homemade birthday treats and bake sale fundraisers. Read more »