Tag Archives: cafeteria

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Summer School Lunch Programs: Serving Year-Round Nutrition

Summer is just around the corner, and that means most schools will be finished with their cafeteria duties until fall. But many schools throughout the country participate in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The SFSP was created to help low-income children receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.  All children 18 years old and younger are eligible to receive free meals through the summer lunch programs at approved SFSP sites in areas where there is a significant concentration of low-income children.

Summer lunch program background

The SFSP started in 1968 as an amendment to the National School Lunch Act. In 1975, it became a separate program. Currently, the SFSP is the largest federal resource for local sponsors to combine children’s nutrition programs with summer activity programs.  The SFSP is administered by Food and Nutrition Service, which is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture. In the summer of 2012, about 39,000 sites provided meals to more than 2.28 million children.  In 2012, Congress spent $398 million on the SFSP programs across the country.

Why have summer lunch programs?

When school is out, only 1 out of 7 children who receive free or reduced lunches during the regular school year will continue to receive meals during the summer months. Good nutrition is essential for children’s physical and social development. Schools, local governments, camps, non-profit universities, and private non-profit organizations can sponsor SFSP programs. Resources for those interested can be found at the Food and Nutrition Service website. These resources includes a Summer Meals ToolkitFAQs for sponsors, and tips on how to raise awareness. As a part of this program, sites will be reimbursed, based on the number of meals served.

A sponsor site has the option to prepare its own meals, purchase meals through another school, or contract meals from a food service management company.  For sites that have their own kitchen and are able to prepare their own meals for the summer lunch program, a higher rate of reimbursement is given for “self-prep” rates.

Central’s school cafeteria products

School trays, Summer Lunch Programs

Central carries everything you need for your school cafeteria.

Whether your school is preparing for a summer lunch program, or getting ready for the upcoming school year, Central has you covered. If you need equipment – check out our selection of refrigeration, cooking, and food prep. We also carry supplies such as food trays and pans, as well as school furniture for your seating needs. If you’re not sure where to start, we have a school product buying guide. We also have expert solutions online, and many manufacturers offer extended warranties to schools. Shop online or call 800-215-9293 to speak to a product consultant!

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Celebrating Halloween in School Cafeterias

Halloween is a favorite holiday for a lot of people, especially children. Here are some ideas to help you plan your school’s Halloween celebration, specifically in the cafeteria.

Start off your students’ day right with a pumpkin-themed breakfast. Transform regular pancakes into “Flap-Jack-O-Laterns” or create an impressive fall-inspired French toast dish.

Take your lunch from ordinary to extraordinary just by using normal ingredients and taking it up a notch. Start off by serving up some spooky main courses, such as hot dog mummies, worms on a bun or making your own healthy (but still creepy) lunchables for the students. To quench everyone’s thirst, serve up bloody punch in a cauldron with a floating hand for ice.

Make some spooktacular sides to accompany your main courses. Halloween is a great holiday to use to your advantage when you want to sneak in fruits and vegetables by making it fun. These ideas are all very easy to do and won’t increase your cost. Take fruit cups (preferably orange ones, such as mandarin oranges or peaches) and use a permanent marker to draw on the lid and make a jack-o-lantern face. You can also do the same thing to clementine or tangerine oranges. Create a squashed gut side by using spaghetti squash and tomato sauce. You can add some dairy into the meal by using mozzarella sticks and make “finger food”.

Finish off the spooky, Halloween-themed meal by giving the students a real treat. Halloween dessert ideas are widespread and easy to find. Selected ideas range from brain cupcakes, to cookies in the shape of skulls or skeletons. There’s even a recipe for “corny cookies”. The choice is up to you and the possibilities are endless!

If you want your students to take home their dessert instead of enjoying it in the cafeteria, there are many ideas for treat bags to go. Popcorn might be the easiest way for a cheap treat which can be transformed into any flavoring or color you want! A variation of Chex Mix is also another cheap way to promote a sweet treat. Instead of a typical popcorn ball, try a Rice Krispie treat pumpkin!

Makeover your cafeteria into a spooky Halloween destination by having students create decorations, making your own or using these ideas for a cheap way to create a creepy atmosphere.

http://www.marthastewart.com/270997/crepe-paper-curtains?&backto=true&backtourl=/photogallery/halloween-decorating

http://crafts.kaboose.com/easy-outdoor-halloween-decorations-2.html

Finally provide some Halloween fun for your students to cap off the day right! Easy games include Halloween Bingo, pin the bowtie on Mr. Bones or pin the spider to the spider web. Gingerbread houses aren’t only for Christmas! Have the children create their own haunted mansion by using colored frosting and graham crackers.

If you’re still stumped for Halloween ideas, don’t forget to visit our Pinterest page and look for our Halloween Treats board!

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Complete Guide on New Standards for School Meals: July 1 Changes

In late January of 2012, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsak introduced new standards for school meals.  These new guidelines will be implemented in phases all the way out to the 2022-2023 school year, with the first phase beginning on July 1 for the 2012-2013 school year.

Introduction and Links to Bookmark

With schools needing to implement changes on July 1, Central is ready to help in any way possible.  Below is an overview of the new guidelines and list of products that can help with new portion requirements. Don’t hesitate to call one of our Product Consultants at 800-215-9293 with any questions on your school foodservice needs.

Below is a recap of the new guidelines that are to be implemented on July 1.  See a complete overview slideshow in full detail, including upcoming school years, on the USDA website.

To make it easier to find information, each new requirement below includes the corresponding slides.  Other important items to bookmark are:

Lunch Requirements

The USDA has provided a Lunch Meal Pattern for all food items (slide 9). Below find details on each requirement for the July 1, 2012 implementation with links and slide page numbers to refer to for all information.

Fruit
Slides 10 to 11

  • Offer fruit daily
  • Minimum of ½ cup per day

Vegetables
Slides 12 to 14

  • Offer vegetables subgroups weekly
  • Minimum of ¾ cup per day
  • The weekly requirements are for: Dark green, red/orange, beans/peas (legumes), starchy or other (as defined in 2010 dietary guidelines)

Grains
Slides 15 to 18

  • Half of grains must be whole grain-rich and must offer weekly grains ranges.  Whole grain-rich is at least 50 percent whole grains.
  • The USDA says, “If the first ingredient is water, a whole grain may be listed as the second ingredient and still meet our whole grain-rich criteria.”
  • Serving Minimum Requirements:
    • Grades K-5: 1 ounce eq. per day or 8-9 ounces per week
    • Grades 6- 8: 1 ounce eq. per day or 8-10 ounces per week
    • Grades 9- 12: 2 ounce eq. per day or 10-12 ounces per week

Meat/Meat Alternatives
Slides 19 to 20

  • Offer weekly meats/meat alternatives ranges (daily minimum)
  • Serving Minimum Requirements:
    • Grades K-5: 1 ounce eq. per day or 8-10 ounces per week
    • Grades 6-8: 1 ounce eq. per day or 9-10 ounces per week
    • Grades 9-12: 2 ounce eq. per day or 10-12 ounces per week

Milk
Slides 21 to 22

  • Offer only fat-free (unflavored or flavored) and low-fat (unflavored) milk
  • Serving Minimum Requirements (same for grades K-12):
    • 1 cup per day or 5 cups per week

Dietary Specifications (to be met on average over a week)
Slides 34 to 39

  • Calorie ranges:
    • Grades K-5: Breakfast: 350-500, Lunch: 550-650
    • Grades 6-8: Breakfast 400-500, Lunch: 600-700
    • Grades 9-12: Breakfast: 450-600, Lunch: 750-850
    • Saturated fat limit
      • Less than 10 percent of total calories
      • Zero grams of trans fat per portion

More lunch requirements are going into effect on July 1 on menu planning, age-grade groups, offer vs. serve and monitoring.  Review the USDA’s Implementation Timeline for details.

Breakfast Requirements

The USDA has provided a Breakfast Meal Pattern for all food items (slide 25). Below find details on each requirement for the July 1, 2012 implementation with links and slide page numbers to refer to for all information.

Milk
Slides 30 to 31

  • Serving Minimum Requirements (same for grades K-12):
    • 1 cup per day or 5 cups per week

Dietary Specifications (to be met on average over a week)
Slides 34 to 29

  • Zero grams of trans fat per portion

Central’s Product Suggestions

Need new equipment? Below are suggestions by Product Consultant Dan Merriman. Again, don’t hesitate to contact a Central Product Consultant at 800-215-9293 with help on the new guidelines and purchasing equipment.

Food Portioners

Spoodles

Measuring Cups and Spoons

Dishers

Compartment Trays

Milk Coolers

Cold Food Pans

Hot Food Pans

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A Deeper Look At New USDA Guidelines for Schools

In last Tuesday’s blog, Central looked into schools serving meals three times a day—and it really shows just how times have changed.  Thanks to a rough economy, many children eat over half to all of their meals at school during the week.

In general, “the school meal” has been a hot topic, perhaps really kicking off in 2010 when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was signed and First Lady Michelle Obama started the Let’s Move! campaign.

It’s been a few years since those initiatives have been put in place and with anything, there are always changes and revisions.

On January 26, the USDA released new guidelines to improve nutritional quality.

To summarize, schools will have to offer more fruit, vegetables and whole grains, provide fat-free or low-fat milk, limit calories based on age and reduce saturated fat, trans fat and sodium.  Also, every three years school lunches will be reviewed to ensure they are consistent with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  (Further detail of changes reviewed later on in this blog).

Schools will have to start to implement these changes on July 1, 2012—which kicks off a three year phase for all of the changes included in the document, “Nutritional Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.”

At a whopping 80 pages, this document is no quick read and is a lot of information to sift through. Because there are so many revisions, the USDA isn’t leaving schools in the dark.

On March 1, the USDA released a very informative (and shorter) document, “Questions & Answers to the Final Rule, “Nutrition Standards in the School Lunch and Breakfast Programs,” which focuses on specific changes piece by piece.

It’s not surprising the very first question is, “Why is USDA setting new meal patterns and dietary specifications for school meals?”

Well, the signing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was a huge step in school nutrition because it was the first change in the last 15 years.  So, going back to the concept that “times have changed,” they really have.

In this chart by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the rise in childhood obesity is clear.  From 1963 to 1970, four percent of six to 11-year-olds were overweight, and 5 percent of 12 to 19- year-olds.  There were subtle changes from 1971 through 1980, and then there was a big jump from 1988 to 1994 when the rate jumped to 11 percent for children between the ages of six and 19.

Today? Almost every one out of three children is overweight.

With many children getting many if not all of their nutritious meals at school, the USDA knew it was time for some changes to be made.

To go into further detail, the USDA lists the following as the main differences to the old rules and the new ones:

  • Food planning based on age and grade group
  • Fruits and vegetables now two separate food components
  • “Offer vs. Serve” approach, to have students choose at least a half a cup of fruits or vegetables
  • Weekly grains ranges along with a daily minimum requirement—and by the third year, all grains served must be whole grain-rich
  • Only serve unflavored or flavored fat-free milk or unflavored low-fat milk
  • Minimum and maximum calorie levels
  • Two intermediate sodium target reductions, then a final one
  • Limit trans fat and saturated fat
  • Three year administrative review cycle

Currently, the new guidelines do not affect meals for children with disabilities or children in pre-kindergarten.

The three year administrative review cycle will start during the 2013-2014 school year.

The new changes and guidelines are extensive. But documents like the “Questions & Answers on the Final Rule” help to simplify. 

Here is a list of some helpful resources from the USDA, be sure to find all of them here:

Also, don’t forget to check out our blog from Tuesday March 19 about schools serving three meals per day.

Central Supports Michelle Obama’s Initiative to Put Salad Bars in Schools

Salad bars have been the buzz in school foodservice news lately, with the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools campaign.  This stems from First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative.

Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools’ vision is simple—increase the amount of salad bars in schools enabling all children the choice of fruits and vegetables at school.

The goal of this initiative anticipates the funding and granting of 6000 salad bars to schools over the next three years.  Their goal is to raise $15,000,000 and so far, they’ve raised $1,416,586 and have granted 552 salad bars.

Why salad bars? There are many reasons.  In an article by the Houston Press, they stated the results of a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2009 which concluded only one percent of adolescents ate the correct serving of fruit and vegetables recommended by the then-current 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  (Check out their website for the latest update from 2010).

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These numbers are astounding. We’ve found many other similar statistics for previous blog posts with similar results—all stemming down to the core issue that children aren’t meeting the nutritional standards they need.

The National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance, The Lunchbox, United Fresh and Whole Foods have all got on board with the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools campaign.

Whole Foods has had their own similar campaign called the Salad Bar Project.  They have since announced themselves as a founding partner with the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools Campaign.

In early February, Whole Foods announced they would award grants for over 500 free salad bars.  A PR Newswire release said Whole Foods, through the Salad Bar Project, had an original goal to raise $750,000.  With shopper’s donations, they exceeded expectations and raised $1.4 million in September 2010.

Schools receiving the donations will get a salad bar kit, which includes a five-well Cambro® salad bar that also includes utensils, pan inserts, chilling pads and training tools. These tools can also be found on The Lunch Box’s website.

Schools who would like to receive a salad bar through Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools can apply here, and those who would like to add to the cause and make a donation can do so by clicking the “Donate to a School” link on the homepage—which will direct you through which school or district you would like to help.

Also, if you’re a school with the funding and are searching for ways to make your school healthier, a salad bar is the way to go.  Central has a variety options and accessories to make this possible for your foodservice application.  Browse the website, look in our catalog or contact a Product Consultant at 800-222-5107 with any questions you may have about salad bars.

Changing the American Lunch Room

Schools are back in session and while the classroom is very important, the lunch room plays a very significant role to students. Whether it is revising layout and design or implementing healthier foods, any change to your lunch room can be beneficial to students.  Schools across the United States are implementing these different changes to better their cafeterias.

In a recent article by School Nutrition Magazine, they featured “Color Your Cafeteria Beautiful” which explains the benefits of adding color and vibrance to the cafeteria as opposed to the all too familiar “fluorescent lighting and cinderblock walls.”  They discovered adding color can actually build participation, encourage students towards different menu items, and promote a positive attitude for everyone.

file000826359266Children have been introduced to (and are enjoying) healthier foods such as bean soup, turkey sandwiches and salads with a light dressing. They also are providing a variety of low fat milks as well as plain skim. They do acknowledge different flavors have almost twice the amount of sugar in them, however, have listened to experts who say the benefits of calcium outweigh the amount of sugar.

Instead of serving lunch, schools in the Roanoke district have an “offer” model which allows students to take only what they are planning to eat and in return decreases waste. And now during the few days where menu items like sloppy joes are available, students are going for the turkey sandwich instead!

So if you are trying to decide whether or not to make changes to your lunch room, consider the short and long term benefits it will have for your students and your school by making it a better and healthier environment.