Friday, April 30, 2010

MANY Thumbs UP for Wisconsin School Spinach

Thursday was a wonderful day to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the the Wisconsin Dietetic Association at their Annual Meeting in the Wisconsin Dells.

My presentation was about Food Trends, Past, Present, and Future (click title for PDFs of all my recent presentations).

It was also a wonderful time to celebrate all the School Meals That Rock in Wisconsin ... including the latest entry from Nicole Jones, RD, in Westby Area School District, Wisconsin:

Westby School District students sampled Creamy Spinach Dip as part of the Farm to School Harvest of the Month taste testing. The spinach was grown and donated by a local farmer and prepared in the school kitchen. The spinach dip provided an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals; it contains 14 calories and 0 grams of fat in one ounce. Students enjoyed sampling the spinach dip as they have enjoyed other veggies including cabbage, beets, sweet potatoes and eggplant.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Louisiana Lunches Rock with a Healthy Twist on Traditional Foods

From Terrebonne Parish School District in Louisiana -- the first southern School Meal That Rocks. Thanks to Monica Walther, MS, RD, for submitted this wonderful example of putting a healthy twist on these traditional Louisiana favorites:

Lunch ladies rock and school meals, too. Terrebonne Parish provides healthy meals by adjusting traditional foods to be lower in fat and high in nutrition.

Brown Rice Jambalaya with low-fat Turkey Sausage

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

High Protein Field Peas

Steamed Corn

Fresh Fruit

1% Milk

Why don’t you join our band?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Good news in the Denver Post and CLARIFICATION about SCHOOL MEALS THAT ROCK

Last Friday, April 23rd, I had the honor of addressing the CO PTA at their awards luncheon in Denver about Fit, Well-Nourished, and Ready to Succeed: What your PTA can do to support nutrition and activity at school. We distributed the bookmark pictured here to reinforce the main points of the presentation (click for a PDF the slides on my website).

My positive approach to both childhood weight and school meal issues was very well received. The good news is that a Denver Post reporter interviewed me before the meeting and then attended the presentation. And the even better news is that her article (Fat fight: a game plan for schools. A nutritionist warns the state PTA against too much focus on kid's obesity) did a very good job with both issues. (I did not like the online headline, but you get always get what you want!)

The best news of all is that School Meals That Rock has been collecting fans from all over – we are up to 244 – in less than 10 days!! However, we are falling a little behind on entries – and I think I know the reason why: School nutrition folks are so busy feeding kids that they have trouble finding the time to take photos and send them in!

Here’s the thing – I need your entries so that I can brag about School Meals That Rock whenever I get interviewed or do a presentation. Remember, my goal is 250 entries by the end of school year – at least five from every state in the USA. Wisconsin has exceeded that goal – and Indiana and Georgia are close behind.

Please take 5-10 minutes TODAY – and send me your entry for School Meals OR Nutrition Education That Rocks. VERY IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION: Your school does NOT have to be a HealthierUS School Challenge winner to send in an entry (but do let us know if you are).

Here’s all you need to do:

  • Send one or more photos of a School Meal That Rocks – breakfast, lunch, snack, vending machine, or party – any eating occasion (nutrition education examples also encouraged) to
  • Include a 50 word-or less-description of what makes it amazing (local ingredients, made-from-scratch, nutrient content, popular with kids, etc.).
  • If there are people in the photo (highly encouraged!), make sure that you have permission to share the image.

That’s it: Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Carnival Cauliflower Rocks in Guilford County, North Carolina

I've been traveling a lot ... presentations in HI, NC, WY, and CO in one week. In every location, I've been talking about School Meals That Rock and hearing wonderful examples from coast to coast (and out onto the islands!).

In North Carolina, I met Amanda Hester, RD, LDN, SNS, with Guilford County Schools. Here's a School Snack That Rocks from one of their elementary schools that was awarded a USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant through USDA. As you can see, they are very creative with what they offer! At Frazier Elementary, students receive a fresh fruit/veggie every day for snack in their classrooms and often they also get a nutrition education lesson that rocks.

Look at this amazing Carnival Cauliflower - now that is School Snack That REALLY Rocks!!

Check out more photos from Guilford County on our School Meals That Rock Facebook page ... and download a PDF of my slides from recent presentations on my new website.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wisconsin WINS with School Meals that REALLY Rock

WISCONSIN was the second state to send in an entry for School Meals That Rock - and now they are the FIRST state to meet (or actually exceed!) my goal of five examples per state. WISCONSIN really rocks!!

And, here is another appealing, colorful, nutrient-rich example, pictured here with student Logan Broker.According to Chartwells Food Service Director, Nicole Gray, in Colon Community Schools:
Our elementary students have 3 meal choices everyday. On April 19th, our first choice was a baked potato served with shredded cheese. Second choice was whole grain breaded chicken nuggets. Third choice was a packaged chef salad. Our sides included cooked broccoli, fresh celery and carrots, soft pretzel, fruit salad and milk.

Friday, April 16, 2010

BackPack Meals That Rock in Billings, Montana

On April 7th, my friend Virginia "Ginny" Mermel (left) received a richly deserved honor at a ceremony in the Montana Capitol. Nancy Schweitzer, Montana's First Lady (center), presented the award on behalf of the Montana Food Security Council. I nominated Ginny because of her tireless efforts to establish a weekend BackPack program for children in Billings Public Schools.

As chair of the School Health Advisory Committee, Ginny became aware of a serious problem in Billings. A significant number of students were eating free and reduced meals for breakfast and lunch at school but had very little to eat on weekends and school holidays. To remedy the problem, she obtained a grant through the Montana Food Bank Network to start a BackPack program for this school year. Ginny is now co-chair of the Billings BackPack program where she coordinates the distribution of meals to 550+ elementary students in 12 elementary schools; manages inventory and ordering; and works to sustain the program with funding for year 2 and beyond.

In all our important work to enhance the quality of school meals – to make them fresh, local, and even organic we must never forget that some children lack food at home. These children are grateful for any nourishing food over a weekend or school break. The meals sent home in the Billings BackPack program are, by necessity, shelf-stable and ready-to-eat without any additional preparation.

While these foods might not “make the cut” for the beautiful examples of School Meals That Rock, they rock because they exist. They rock because children no longer feel compelled to sneak food left by classmates – or dread weekends with empty cupboards.

I absolutely believe that we should advocate for funding the highest quality school meals possible – making them fresh and locally-sourced whenever we can. And, in the meantime, we must remember that a pack of ultra-pasteurized milk, a container of applesauce, and a can of spaghetti with meat sauce – while far from perfection – can have a powerful effect on children's nutrition and education.

Thanks to Ginny Mermel and the Billings BackPack Program hundreds of children can concentrate on their Friday afternoon classes and return to school on Monday morning ready for breakfast, but not ravenously hungry. That rocks in my book!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Teen-Pleasing High School Meals Rock in Rochester, New York

Debbi Beauvais, RD, SNS, Food Service Supervisor in the Gates Chili Central School District, Rochester, New York, has won awards for her school cafeteria makeovers.

And, according to her customers, it was worth the effort to serve popular high School Meals That Rock – 65 percent of students eat lunch in Beauvais’s Spartan Café. In a recent TV story, students comments prove that healthful can be popular with teens (Jamie Oliver are you listening?):

  • We can pick from salads, yogurts and parfaits and things that we want to eat.
  • They used to sell Mark’s Pizza here like everyday for lunch if you wanted it. Now you can get chicken and salads and like bagels, yogurt. Everything's really healthy for you here now.

What the students may not see is the work that goes into making the food nutritious. The pizza is made with 50-percent whole wheat flour and lower fat cheese, the tater tots are baked not fried and on any given day there are salads, fruits and other healthy choices among the 13 entree choices. You won’t find chips in the café and bottled water is the only ala carte item you can buy there.

Debbi Beauvais and her staff are clearly cooking up high School Meals That Rock in Rochester.

What are you cookin' up in your schools?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why Every Entry Matters …

… because this is the Internet! Yesterday my search for School Meals That Rock was featured on treehugger. That delivered a nice bump in traffic here to the blog … and helped to raise the number of School Meals That Rock Facebook fans to 95 (and counting!!). While those numbers are nice, they are not the most important reason to send in your entry for School Meals That Rock.

This is the most important reason: The other four links on treehugger to Kids,
Schools, and Food were all negative!!

Jamie Oliver Shows Kids What's In A Chicken Nugget

Two Angry Moms Taking on School Lunch

Illinois Teacher Pledges To Eat School Lunches Everyday

Are School Lunches Safe?

If we want positive news about School Meals That Rock, we have to put it out there. On Facebook, we now have gorgeous examples from seven states … with more going up every day.

To reach the goal of 250 School Meals That Rock by the end of the school year, I need YOUR help. Remember, we’re not looking for perfection, we are just looking to show Jamie Oliver and the world that the School Food Revolution is alive and WELL in the USA!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chinese School Lunch Rocks in the Rockies

Former school nutrition director, Dorothy Turner, Sweetwater County SD #2, Green River, Wyoming, was truly a school nutrition pioneer in the Cowboy State.

Dorothy embraced school wellness with a passion – becoming the first GOLD HealthierUS School Challenge winner in the country. She was a true marketing maven – knowing that even kids in a small Wyoming town love Chinese take-out, Dorothy presented nutrient-rich foods that appealed to her audience.

Dorothy clearly knew how to deliver School Meals That Rock while giving kids what they want, how they want it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jamie's got some great ideas, but misses real opportunities to help kids across the USA

I believe in giving credit where credit is due. And, Jamie Oliver deserves some credit for jolting school nutrition programs into tooting their horns more loudly. Thousand of “lunch ladies" and gentlemen have been creating a revolution in school nutrition for years; they just haven’t been on prime time TV.

You can read my take on Mr. Oliver's late arrival to the positive school meal scene, PSST ... Mr. Oliver ... We Started the School Nutrition Revolution Before You Got Here, on the IFIC Food Insight blog and under More Information for You.

I have also posted a great press release from Vermont SNA and Vermont Campaign to End Child Hunger. They do a wonderful job of explaining why school meals are so important to hungry, low-income children:

School meals may be the only source of consistent and balanced daily nutrition for the 36% of Vermont schoolchildren who rely on free or reduced price school meals. Vermont school nutrition allies hope that ‘Food Revolution’ sparks a dynamic and ongoing community conversation about how Vermont schools nutrition programs can promote the success and health of Vermont schoolchildren.”

Susan Finn makes an excellent point about another of Jamie Oliver’s missing ingredients – nutrition education – in her post on Nutrition Viewpoint:

"Jamie Oliver's commitment is noble, but when the lights and the cameras are gone, no change will remain unless extensive nutrition education is part of his recipe."

What can you do? Start tooting your own horn today by sending in your entry for School Meals That Rock. I promise to share the entries far and wide – and to brag about your awesome meals every chance I get!

Please send examples of your Nutrition Education That Rocks TOOmy friend Susan is spot on! Nutrition education is essential for children to be well-nourished and ready to succeed in the future!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Northeast Wisconsin Rocks with Farm to School

Child Nutrition Services in Chilton & Hilbert Public Schools (WI) have a clear mission: "Learning to Eat for Life." That’s why fruit and veggie buffets like this one are offered daily at every site. But, Director Diane Chapeta’s local food revolution goes beyond the two districts that she manages:

Chilton and Hilbert Schools actively participate in the Farm to School program. Our districts purchase from beef and pork operations, produce growers, apple orchards, and cheese processors all within a seventy miles of school. We formed the Northeast Wisconsin Farm to School Initiative to assist schools in Wisconsin in making positive changes. Our "Insert Fresh Here!" program replaces processed foods with nutrient dense and fresh, whole food alternatives in a kid friendly menu.

Insert Fresh Here means School Meals That Rock in Wisconsin. What is your school doing?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Colonial School District (Deleware) Rocks with Whole Grains

Colonial School District in Delaware: Providing healthy choices to fuel great minds for improved academic achievement!

Alisha Jacobson, RD, and Paula Angelucci clearly live by the state motto of Delaware is It’s Good Being First, being the first to answer the challenge of school meals that rock.

You GO, Alisha and Paula!

  • Variety of salad platters offered daily with low fat or fat free dressings
  • Fresh fruit and vegetable options abound! Students may choose from a variety of fresh fruits offered daily, 100% fruit juice, side salads offered as an alternative to hot veggies at the middle/high schools, a bag of baby carrots in K-5 schools
  • Milks are all low fat with either 1% or 1/2% varieties
  • Lowered fat content with low fat cream cheese, fat free sour cream, low fat or part skim cheeses on sandwiches/pizzas, and completely eliminated trans fats from all foods including snacks
  • NO FRYERS in any kitchens
  • Most bread products are whole wheat including all sandwich rolls, hamburger rolls, hot dog rolls, etc. Bread and Hoagie rolls are either wheat or white/wheat blend.

Kudos and congratulations … Wisconsin (Live Like You Mean It) will be posted tomorrow!!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Send in YOUR entry for School Meals That Rock

The goal of collecting School Meals That Rock is simple.

I want to showcase all the AMAZING things that school nutrition folks are doing from Maine to Montana and Michigan to Mississippi. I know that millions of delicious, nutritious, local, fresh, kids-friendly meals are being served every day across America – and I want to collect the photos that tell this story.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Send a photo of Schools Meal That Rocks – breakfast, lunch, snack, vending machine, or party – any eating occasion.
  • Include a 50 word-or less-description of what makes it amazing (local ingredients, made-from-scratch, nutrient content, popular with kids, etc.).
  • If there are people in the photo (highly encouraged!), make sure that you have permission to share the image.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Send your entry for this school meals “hall of fame” to I’ll post photos and descriptions as space allows here on the blog.
  • OR join School Meals That Rock on Facebook and post your entries directly.

Here’s my goal:

  • 250 entries by the end of the school year (June 2010)
  • Just 5 School Meals That Rock from each state

Now, it’s up to you. Get those entries in and keep ‘em coming. And who knows??! Anyone can log on and see your School Meals That Rock – Jamie Oliver, the New York Times, the Today Show – it could happen!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bashing School Meals is Bad for Kids' Health

I have had it with bashing schools meals. Everyone from Jamie Oliver to the Today Show has been busy blaming the nation's "lunch ladies" for the health problems facing the youth of America. In some cases, they are missing a few ingredients - and in others, they got the whole recipe wrong.

Seriously, there are so many good things going on in school meals that it would take me a month to write about them - which is exactly what I plan to do. (Quick disclaimer: There are some poorly performing school meal programs out there and I am not here to defend you. If you haven't taken advantage of what's available from Team Nutrition and your state office, you're on your own. I need this space to talk about folks - like the terrific Child Nutrition staff in Petal (MS) Elementary's Produce Hut - who go way above and beyond the regulations to help kids be well-nourished and ready to succeed.)

Why is blaming school food bad for kids' health? Here's the short list of reasons - and trust me, I'm just gettin' started!

  • Child nutrition programs in every state have created food revolutions in their kitchens and cafeterias – against all odds (minimal budgets, little district support, constant bashing by the media).
  • School meals matter the most to kids who have the least. For millions of at-risk children, school breakfast and lunch are the most nutritious foods they get all week – providing essential fuel for success at school.
  • Focusing on the worst-case scenarios for entertainment value makes everyone suspicious of their meals in their local school. (BTW - JO – I have a list of school districts who would love to work with you on enhancing their programs.)

So, school nutrition friends, think of the BEST example of what your program is doing right. Take a photo and write a sentence or two about it – because tomorrow I am launching SCHOOL MEALS THAT ROCK and I want everyone to hear what you got!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Radishes, Egg Mythology, and Other Things to Ponder

It's snowing lightly here this morning ... no foolin'! It's pretty typical for Montana spring; somehow our crocuses seem to survive it every year.

I learned something new this morning. While searching for Easter egg photos, I found Easter Egg Radishes, which I now plan to plant in my garden this year. Given our growing season, they should be perfect for a spectacular 4th of July salad! So, I learned something that might even get kids to "eat their vegetables." I'll bet that even some skeptical children would be tempted to try a purple radish tossed in tasty baby spinach salad!

Learning new things and being willing to let go of fondly-held myths is an important part of approaching the childhood obesity issue. As promised, I am going to take on the recent demonization of school meals in the media. However, given that many schools are on a holiday break this week, I will launch my drive to focus on School Meals That Rock next week.

In the meantime, for a recent piece that I wrote on cracking open some myths about eggs, download Eat Right Montana's April 2010 Healthy Families newsletter. As I talked with colleagues about this newsletter, it was quite interesting how many of them believe that eggs are BAD and must be AVOIDED, despite a large body of evidence to the contrary. It is hard to give up concepts that have become conventional wisdom. It is easier for many health professionals to continue to view eggs as something devilish rather than something to be deviled.

It is very hard for many well-meaning health professionals to give up the myth that making Americans "aware" of obesity will cause them to adopt healthier habits. In fact, I'm guessing that nearly all large children over the age of 5 or 6 are already all too aware that childhood obesity is something pretty awful.