Tuesday, August 31, 2010

PIZZA PI: A delicious slice of the Tipping Point in School Meals

Earlier this week, Tanya Harter, Director of Nutrition Services, sent me the fall secondary menu for Chico (California) Unified School District. The menu came along with several colorful photos of their new (and very popular) Build-Your-Own-Salad Bar, which you can see on School Meals That Rock.

I was reading the menu right around lunchtime and my stomach certainly approved - and so did my nutritionist brain! Sure, there were plenty of typical teen-pleasing options (hamburgers, veggies burgers, tacos, and the like), but there was also Teriyaki Chicken over Veggies and
Brown Rice, a Turkey and Mandarin Wrap, and a Veggie Hoagie. Clearly, these school meals rock!

Then my eyes landed on the words at the very bottom of the menu: Pizza Pi ... and I naturally thought what kind of pizza is that? Well, it's an amazing example of what I am calling the "Tipping Point in School Meals." Here's a slightly edited description in Tanya's own words:

The Pizza PI is a fun new program that we started last spring. With some ARRA funds, we purchased a pizza oven. We spent the winter researching crust, toppings, and recipes to come up with 5 pizzas. Then we went to our 7 secondary school sites, and met with student leadership – pizza samples in hand. We explained the concept, let them try it, and they filled out a survey letting us know what they liked, didn't like, and what should change. At the same time we held a contest to name our pizza, with an iPod Touch as a prize for the student (and his/her teacher) of the winning name. The media got involved with the contest and participation soared. An 8th grader came up with the winning name, Pizza Pi: Intelligence in Every Bite.

All I can add is WOW - Pizza Pi rocks in my book !

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New FUN, FREE F-and-V Resources Online

Looking for new fruit and vegetable information to use in your program, with your clients, or for your family?

I'm proud to share a series of resources that I developed this year for the the Montana WIC program. The What Incredible Choices Toolkit is packed with fresh tips, information, newsletters, and activities for staff to use in promoting “the original fast food” (delicious, crunchy, juicy, sweet, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables) with WIC participants and other families. The Toolkit specifically highlights fresh fruits and vegetables which can be purchased with the Montana Fruit and Vegetable and Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Benefits.

The 6 activities (Shopping Smart, Eating More Matters, Sneaky Produce Secrets, Born Learning Color, Mom-to-Mom, and Market Tours) are perfect for small groups of parents, including PTAs. Each of the 12 newsletters (topics below) features how to choose, store, and prepare a fruit and a veggie - along with easy tips for parents and simple kid-pleasing, mom-approved recipes. Check them out today - download one or all, in color or grayscale (there's also toolkit guidance for staff).
  • Enjoy a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables
  • Raising Children Who Love to Eat Vegetables
  • Easy Ways to Enjoy Cooking with Kids
  • Growing a Simple Family Garden Together
  • Delicious Ways to Serve Leafy Greens
  • Shopping Smart at Farmers' Markets
  • Helping Kids Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
  • Preparing Vegetables with Maximum Flavor
  • Putting Fruits and Vegetables on the Menu
  • Teachable Moments with Fruits and Vegetables
  • Maximize Your Health with Fruits and Vegetables
  • Fresh Fruits and Vegetables on a Budget

Monday, August 23, 2010

What does a Tipping Point feel like?

When I started this blog six months ago, Jamie Oliver's 'revolution' was on the tip of every foodie's tongue and the school lunch bashers were on a very crowded bandwagon.

Fast-forward to back-to-school 2010 - and the good news about school meals is busting out all over! Thanks to strong media interest and an even stronger effort by child nutrition professionals to get out the positive stories - the focus has shifted to the multiple innovations and school food heroes (often unsung) who are doing the right thing in districts, small and large, in every state in the USA.

You can check out success stories on the School Nutrition Association's new website Tray Talk - and on my ongoing Facebook collection at School Meals That Rock. You can read about them in your local newspaper and in the New York Times.

Child Nutrition Reauthorization has been a big part of the discussion - and it needs to stay on the front burner. While the unanimous passage in the Senate was something to celebrate (read Richard Lugar's excellent Op-Ed in the New York Times for a truly bi-partisan view), the House is going to have to work fast and furiously to get their version passed when they get back after recess.

Keep the good news coming - they need to hear it ALL in Washington!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back in the Saddle - with gratitude, hope, and homemade pizza

As children across the country go back to school, it's time for me to get back in the saddle again - and return to writing about nutrition and activity for the future health of our children.

I have spent the past month concentrating on the nutrition of one 13-year old boy - my nephew Jimi, who had his first adventure in Montana and Wyoming. We spent most of our time at our cabin in the Beartooth Mountains - no TV, only one small video game, no restaurants - lots of hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, and outdoor yoga, as well as lots of cooking and eating simple, delicious homemade food.

I am grateful for the time we had together - and the semi-break that I had from work. I love what I do, but it was wonderful to concentrate on the health and well-being of one child rather than efforts to improve nutrition and physical activity for children across the country.

I am also grateful for progress on Child Nutrition Reauthorization over the past month, especially the US Senate's unanimous vote in favor of the Healthy, Hunger-Act of 2010. I hope that the House can find a way to fund school meals, WIC, and CACFP more fairly than to take funding away SNAP. More on all these topics and what actions we all can take in the weeks to come.

For now, you may be wondering about the beautiful pizza that Jimi's is holding. We made the delicious whole grain crust from Eat Right Montana's August newsletter - which you can download for free. Check the link for more pizza photos - and hot tips about whole grains and inspiring stories about strong women in Montana. Personally, I'm glad to be back in the saddle again - rejuvenated, stronger, and ready to work on the best possible nutrition and activity environments for all children.