Category Archives: Let’s Move!

The Latest on School Nutrition: New USDA Standards

Last August the School Nutrition Association released their “The State of School Nutrition 2011,” which found many school nutritionists and foodservice workers eager to provide healthier menu items at their schools.

Image: Jeltovski/MorgueFile

Unfortunately, many schools cited monetary reasons as to why they were unable to enhance menus.  Other schools just hadn’t made the switch yet.

There’s been a huge emphasis on school nutrition and health since Michelle Obama stepped into her role as first lady.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was signed in December 2010, the food pyramid was revamped into MyPlate and Mrs. Obama initiated the Let’s Move! campaign, which aims to create a healthier generation of children.

So while some things have just been encouraged or implemented as guides, come July 1, schools will have to start making changes based on the USDA’s new standards.

The new standards were announced on Jan. 25 and stem from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  Per the USDA’s website, the new rules are to:

  • Offer fruits and vegetables to students daily

    Image: margey6652/Morguefile

  • Increase offering of whole grain-rich foods
  • Provide only fat-free or low-fat milk
  • Limit calories based on age so students receive their appropriate portion size
  • Reduce amounts of saturated fat, trans fat and sodium

Schools must begin making changes at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, but will have three year period to implement all revisions.

While some critics say more can be done for school nutrition, many are pleased, including Sarah Wu, former anonymous blogger for her blog Fed Up with Lunch (also known as Mrs. Q, read our October interview with her here).

“I think it’s really great, actually,” she said. “I’m pretty pleased with them and it’s definitely a good step in the right direction.  There’s more we can do, but I’m totally happy.”

Image: Fed Up with Lunch

One of Wu’s biggest concerns goes back to the reason why many schools hadn’t made the move to healthier items in the first place: money.

“I think I’m concerned about how districts will make it work with the money they have,” she said.

According to the USDA, the price of school menus will increase by six cents—which is the first big increase in the last 30 years.

To compensate, the USDA will increase funding to cover the six cents.  However, Wu pointed out despite the increased funding, she mentioned it’s been said the cost for the new standards may actually be 11 cents per meal.  If that is the end result, the five cent difference could be challenging for schools.

“There are ways instead of having to absorb those losses,” Wu said, and wonders if schools could get in touch with local non-profits, foundations, have fundraisers, etc.

“There have to be ways people can engage and help.”

Image: imelenchon/MorgueFile

So cost aside, Wu and many others are pleased with these new standards.

In the USDA’s press release, they also had other improvements they would like to make such as to have nutritional standards apply to all ways students get food and beverage (i.e. vending), have “common-sense pricing standards for schools” and provide training and technical assistance to help schools comply with the new standards.

To view more information about the new guidelines, including links to sample menus and more, visit the USDA’s website.

How do you feel about the USDA’s new standards? Schools, how will this impact you directly?

 

vegetables, Image from Morguefile

Nutrition Education: Another Key to Healthy School Lunches

For years, Americans have been hearing about the rising rate of obesity in the country.   Books and movies like Fast Food Nation (2001) and Super Size Me (2004) have warned against the harm of eating an unhealthy diet based mostly in convenience foods.   But even with all of this cautioning, only when First Lady Michelle Obama’s introduced the Let’s Move initiative in February of 2010 did the message really begin to make an impact on both parents and schools.   Due to this new take on feeding children a more nutritious diet, many cafeterias have begun providing healthier options for students with a large focus on following the newly introduced MyPlate nutrition guide.  While this turn for the wholesome in the lunch room has been a step in the right direction, it seems to be apparent that there is still something missing in the equation as much of the healthier choices are being wasted or overlooked.  So what is the key to getting children to eat their vegetables?  While parents have been wondering this for years, recently teachers, cafeteria workers and even chefs have begun discovering what might just be the key to solving the mystery.

One huge push coming from everyone from Mrs. Obama to Chef Jamie Oliver is that of educating children on what they eat while involving them in the process of how it comes to be.   A big reason for the average child’s aversion to eating healthier items could be that they simply don’t know what it is.  Chef Oliver found out the hard way that currently children aren’t getting the food education that they need as a base to grow as health eaters.

The answer to this problem could be as simple teaching students about the different foods available.  In today’s society with schools being required to tighten budgets and raise scores on standardized tests, many nutrition programs have disappeared.   However, several institutions aren’t giving up and instead have found new ways to both educate and involve their students while incorporating nutrition in the daily curriculum.

file00067364915In an article from Natural Vitality Kids, one example of food and education was discovered at Abernethy Elementary School in Portland, Oregon.  The school has a garden classroom and a “harvest of the month program” that allows students to get first-hand experience on various levels with a particular crop each month.  While a local farm provides the crop to serve in the cafeterias, the students also grow it in the school’s garden and learn about it in the classroom.

The nutrition education program has been taken a step further at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in New York.   At this school for 6th through 12th graders, they recently took on the topic of food, because as Principal Damon McCord told Serious Eats, “Food is a great lens through which to look at history, nutrition and science.”  For six-weeks, students learned about nutrition by doing things like studying crops around the world in Social Studies, learning about the growing process and diseases caused by food in Science, reading and writing about industrial meat production in English and even starting their own community garden.   The school’s goal is for students to learn about topics covered in standardized testing while at the same time providing them with nutritional information that can be carried on with them into the real world.

A final move for educating students about nutrition is the national movement Chefs Move to School (part of the Let’s Move! Campaign), run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.   This program helps schools partner with local chefs to help their schools meet dietary guidelines and budgets and at the same time educate students on nutrition and healthy choices.  According to My West Hartford Life, three charter schools in West Hartford, Connecticut are currently testing this program out with a fair amount of success among students.   In this case, while students are already currently learning about food as part of their curriculum, it seems the cafeteria staff is receiving more of an educational benefit from the program.  Local chef Hunter Morgan has come in to teach cafeteria staff members how to make meals that are healthy in all aspects, like spinach lasagna and broccoli, in order to provide them with the skills and recipes it will take to keep the healthy food coming once he goes back to his usual job as executive chef of local restaurant Max Downtown.

While not every school has the money and resources to do a complete overhaul like many of these schools have, there are still plenty of ways to help bring nutrition education in at some level.  Check out low-cost educational programs like Veggiecation or research grants and resources at The Lunch Box for more information on improving or building a program at your school.

What does your school do to educate about food and nutrition?  Please share your comments below. 

Central’s Week in Brief: October 14, 2011

Every Friday Central brings you stories from the week that you might have missed, but that are definitely worth a look. We’ll feature food news covering everything from the weird to the wonderful in the world of restaurants, schools, the military and more.  It’s our way to help you go into the weekend with a little extra knowledge and maybe even a project or recipe to try out!

1.With the NBA commissioner cancelling the first two weeks of the basketball season due to the lockout, it’s not just the owners and teams feeling the effects.  Restaurants all over the country are struggling with the current situation and fear what could happen if the lockout doesn’t end soon.  For example, in Indianapolis, Mayor Greg Ballard told WTHR between 10,000 and 15,000 people visit the downtown area 50 times per year for basketball.  One pub owner told them he’s already lost six employees.  Hopefully the lockout will end soon and the hospitality industry can get back to business as usual.

2. As a part of her Let’s Move! campaign, First Lady Michell Obama teamed up with  National Geographic Kids for the Let’s Jump! event.  The October 11 event kicked off an attempt to break a Guinness World Record®.  What record? The most people doing jumping jacks in a 24 hour period.  She started Let’s Jump! on the White House’s south lawn, along with 400 local children.  The goal was to exceed over 20,000 people from all over the world and those who participated had to record and document their jumping jacks then send it in for review.  It’s still unknown whether or not the record was broken, but we’ll be sure to share the information as it becomes available!

3. The holiday season is just around the corner, which means restaurants are gearing up for sales.  In this NRN article, they said the National Retail Foundation “projected that retail industry sales for the months of November and December will increase 2.8 percent.” While that is an increase, it doesn’t quite match up to last year’s 5.2 percent increase. However, as they mentioned in the article, improvement is improvement and some restaurants are already pushing out their LTOs (limited time offers) to be in the minds of consumers.

4. San Antonio’s J. Anthony’s Seafood Cafe had quite the interesting experience this week when they were robbed by three women, one of which whom got stuck in the drive-thru window while attempting to make her escape.  The incident happened around 1 a.m. on October 12.  The other two women have not yet been found.  Read more about this story at the KENS5 news website.

5. Sometimes restaurants create some real head-scratching policies.  Zagat picked out 10 of the most controversial restaurant policies then took a look at both the pros and cons in this article. Take a look at these 10 and let us know which ones you stand by and which ones you don’t!

What’s Been Going On with National School Meal and Fitness Programs?

Even though students have been out of the classroom and cafeteria for the summer, the national programs have kept themselves busy.  Much has been going on and as students are heading back, here is a recap of a few important events.

SNA’s “The State of School Nutrition 2011”

Image from SNA website

The School Nutrition Association (SNA) released their “School Nutrition Operations Report: The State of School Nutrition 2011,” and it looks like many schools will be guiding their students in a healthier direction.

They reported in this press release, “…more than 69 percent of the 1,294 directors surveyed consider implementing recently proposed nutrition standards for school meals, which require more of these healthy options, to be their top concern.” The lack of healthy foods was caused by a combination of funding limitations and food costs.  Now, schools all over the country are working hard to serve more nutritious meals. Click here for the full press release.

The USDA Grants Over $7.5 Million To National School Meal Programs

Stemming from SNA’s “The State of School Nutrition 2011,” many schools claimed monetary issues as the reason behind a lack of healthier foods.  Well, it looks as though the USDA has recognized this issue, and found aiding this cause to be a great investment.

On August 18 they announced this grant, (stated in this press release), and said by granting this money, it will “improve efficiency and accuracy of National School Lunch and Breakfast programs.” States awarded grants include Hawaii, Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Washington.  They mention grant periods will be between one and three years.  To find full information, click here for their full press release.

Let’s Move! Holds Family Fitness Day

First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative has been inspiring schools, children, parents, etc. to live a healthier lifestyle filled with nutritious foods and exercise.   On August 22, they held a Let’s Move Outside! Family Fitness Day at Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.

According to the Let’s Move website, there were around 400 children and their parents in attendance.  The event held their first “Spectacle Island 5K Race and Kids Fun Run,” and also included various exercise and activity programs and workshops.

Resources

Below are a list of resources to bookmark to keep informed during this school year:

Afterschool Snacks

Let’s Move! Blog

National School Lunch Program

National School Breakfast Program

School Nutrition Association News

USDA Newsroom

School’s Back in Session! Top Five Resources for Your School Cafeteria

It’s August and many students are headed back to the classroom which means they’re heading back to your cafeteria. Now, more than ever, schools across the country are re-evaluating menus and updating standards to make students healthier and to promote food safety. Here are five great resources to get your cafeteria on the right track, or to help you improve current procedures.

Image from Let’s Move! website

Let’s Move!

What it’s about: First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to help raise a healthier generation of children.

How it can help your school: They provide guidance for everyone in the school from the principal to foodservice staff. Let’s Move! has brought on changes and updated standards to the National School Lunch and National School Breakfast programs and have also launched other initiatives such as Chefs Move to Schools and HealthierUS School Challenge

Important links:

Let’s Move! Healthy Schools

Chefs Move to Schools

The HealthierUS School Challenge

Five Simple Steps to Success

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Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)

What it’s about: FAAN is a credible and trusted source of information, programs and resources for food allergies and anaphylaxis. Their mission is “to raise public awareness, to provide advocacy and education, and to advance research on behalf of those affected by food allergies and anaphylaxis.”

How it can help your school: They assist schools in food allergy training and protocol.  They also provide detailed information about the different types of food allergies.

Important links:

Safe at School Resources for Schools, Camps and Child Care Centers

Education for School Professionals

School Guidelines for Managing Students with Food Allergies

Food Allergy Action Plan

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National Coalition for Food-Safe Schools (NCFSS)

What it’s about: They improve food safety in America’s schools.

How it can help your school: NCFSS provides information specifically for foodservice staff on safely handling food.

Important links:

Food Safety for Foodservice Professionals

Action Guide—Materials for Each Team Member

Responding to a Food Recall

Food Safety Checklist (Word)

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School Nutrition Association (SNA)

What it’s about: SNA provides high-quality, low-cost meals to students and have been “advancing the availability, quality and acceptance of school nutrition programs as an integral part of education since 1946.”

How it can help your school: For one, if you aren’t already a member, you may want to consider becoming one (click here for information).  SNA has some information available to the public on their website, but membership includes extensive education and training.  SNA sets standards through certification and credentials, gathers and shares several kinds of important school nutrition news, legislation, etc., and represents the nutritional interests of all children.

Important links:

Resource Center

Preparing School Meals

Menu Planning

Teaching Kids About Nutrition

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Other Initiatives

What it’s about: The government and other programs have updated standards and have released new information about nutrition in schools.

How it can help your school: These resources will keep your cafeteria current with the latest initiatives and standards and/or will give you ideas for improvement.

Important links:

MyPlate

Cafeteria Composting Plan

World Health Organization (WHO) Global School Health Initiative

USDA School Meals

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Advertising to Children: Harmless Fundraising or Obesity Threat?

Remove; Image from MorgueFileWe’ve all seen them, whether it was when we ourselves were kids or just last week:  Advertisements featuring happy, healthy kids running into the kitchen for a meal or snack.   It sounds harmless enough until you factor in that many of these ads are pushing items like sugary cereal, drinks with copious amount of food dyes and other items with way more than the daily recommended amount of fat, calories, etc.   While that may be bad enough, it gets worse when you realize that many (if not most) of the commercials for sweetened or fatty food and drink are geared towards school-aged children.  The Federal Trade Commission stated that, “The food industry spent more than $1.6 billion in 2006 alone to market messages to kids promoting foods that often are high in calories and low in nutrition.”  Taking into consideration that one in three children in the U.S. is overweight or obese, what can be done to make sure that future generations have a fighting chance against food advertisers?

In recent years, there has been at least a glimmer of hope on this front in the form of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign.   Although her terms are voluntary, she has put out a plea to food manufacturers to reexamine how they market to kids up to age 17.  Mrs. Obama gave this message to manufacturers saying, “It’s going to be so critical to increase marketing for foods that are healthy. And if there is anyone here who can sell food to our kids, it’s you. You know what gets their attention…You know what gets them to drive their parents crazy in the grocery store.”  According to Obama Foodorama, Mrs. Obama’s Principle can be broken down into two areas.

1)      Food advertising and marketing aimed at children up to age 17 should encourage them to choose foods that “make meaningful contributions to a healthful diet from food groups including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products, fish, extra lean meat and poultry, eggs, nuts or seeds, and beans.”

2)      Saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, and sodium in foods marketed to children should be “limited to minimize the negative impact on children’s health and weight.”

In order to really make a difference, the Federal Trade Commission is shooting for all of the food industry to join in with the saturated fat, trans fat and sugar guidelines by 2016 and the sodium guidelines by 2021.  A forum will take place to discuss the Principles on Tuesday, May 24 with public comments being considered.

But while Mrs. Obama’s Principles are a huge step forward in admitting that there is a problem and making an attempt to fix it, it’s crucial to know that at the same time children are now being faced with advertisements in a place that is unavoidable: schools.   Because kids must attend school, advertisers have begun targeting the education system as a way to gain a captive audience while kicking a little money back for learning costs.

While some school advertising could be inconspicuous and never even seen by students (According to Time Magazine, a Massachussets school has been approached about placing advertising on the roof for planes to see while passing over), most are right within the eyesight and impressionable minds of students.  One of the biggest proponents of this, according to the Center for Commercial-Free Public Education, is a program seen in many schools each morning called Channel One.   The Center says that Channel One currently reaches 8 million middle and high school students each day, showing two minutes of advertising during a single news broadcast.  And while many would think of encouraging kids to watch the news every day as educational, it may actually be costing more than it is worth.  According to a 1998 study on the Analysis of Commercialism in Education, it was found that $26,333 is spent by the average secondary school on just the commercials shown during a year’s worth of Channel One programming.

Advertising in schools isn’t all just on the TV though.  In school districts like the one in St. Francis, Minnesota, 10-15% of the lockers are covered in ads.  In many townships, extra money has been awarded for struggling programs like art and music by putting ads on the sides of school buses (sometimes up to $1,000 per bus).   There have even been lessons to teach students about wildlife and architecture promoted by companies such as Exxon and McDonald’s.

In these cases, it seems there are only a few choices.  Instead of waiting for Mrs. Obama’s Principles to become a reality, there is  always the opportunity for communities to rally together to ensure local schools are not promoting products, especially those for foods that could lead to increased obesity and related health issues.   It’s also imperative to explore all options of raising money when a district is presented with the option of combining advertising and education.  Finally, it’s important to educate children about eating healthy and making decisions based on that instead of a commercial or signage.

Are unhealthy foods used in your or your child’s school?  What are your thoughts on advertising to children both in and out of school?  Please share your comments with us below.

Central Restaurant Products Helps Schools Across the Country In Support of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” Campaign

Indianapolis, IN March 10, 2011

Since Day One, Central Restaurant Products has supported First Lady Michele Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative by providing the foodservice equipment and supplies essential for healthy school meals.

Central encourages all schools to get on board with Let’s Move! Starting on March 7, schools all across the country will receive Central’s latest 96-page School Nutrition Guide with School Specials running through the end of June 2011. This catalog features salad bars, combi ovens, compartment trays and a new line of Victory warming cabinets and refrigeration. In addition, the new catalog includes extended warranties for schools from the industry’s top leading vendors such as Vulcan, Jackson and Duke.

The inside front cover highlights an exclusive promotion and buying guide for compartment trays stressing the importance of choosing the right one for any school. There are five different types of trays (ABS, Melamine, Polycarbonate, Polypropylene and Co-Polymer) in this catalog—each having many different variables such as break resistance and temperature range every school must consider before purchasing.

Customers can browse through over 3,000 commercial foodservice products useful to all school foodservice facilities ranging from Kitchen and Cafeteria to Concession/Athletic Department and Janitorial.

Schools, who would like a copy of Central’s latest School Nutrition Guide, may call 888-893-9998. They can also ask to speak with a Product Consultant with questions about product information or support.

Also, everyone can read the latest industry news, including information in support of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, at Central’s Blog and join in on the conversation on Facebook (Central Restaurant Products) and Twitter (@CRPRestaurant).

About Central Restaurant Products

Established in 1981, Central Restaurant Products is a provider of commercial foodservice equipment and supplies to more than 250,000 customers in a number of segments including restaurants, schools, hospitals, bars, pizzerias, bakeries, correctional facilities and more. Central offers same-day shipping, free expert solutions and wholesale pricing on thousands of products from the leading manufacturers in the foodservice industry. Central is a wholly-owned subsidiary of TAKKT-AG, the leading B2B mail-order company for business equipment in Europe and North America.

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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.