Tag Archives: lets move

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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!

Central’s Week in Brief: October 7, 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)      Sadly, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passed away on Wednesday, at age 56, after fighting pancreatic cancer since 2004.   And while you might not typically associate Jobs with food (other than an apple), it seems that his influence has reached the dining world more than we may have realized.   In an article on the Miami New Times website, it’s made apparent that Jobs shaped the way we all find and discuss food.  The article sites everything from the growing popularity of using the iPad to order in restaurants to the many apps like OpenTable and Urbanspoon that are now always on-hand thanks to devices like the iPhone.  Along with these helpful items, Jobs also had a huge part in ensuring a healthy diet for his Apple employees, setting a precedent with an on-site cafeteria that provides everything from freshly made sushi to vegan fare (check out this cafeteria review from Mac|life for more on the offerings). 

 

2)      Michelle Obama had made her Let’s Move! Campaign even more interactive by using Twitter to personally speak with followers of the @LetsMove Twitter account.  Eighteen followers were invited to the Washington, D.C. this week for the White House Tweetup, a chance to view the harvesting of the kitchen garden, meet White House chefs and even chat with Mrs. Obama about the campaign and the fight to end childhood obesity.  And for those not lucky to be one of the eighteen chosen there was also an opportunity to post questions for the First Lady about the program using the #AskMichelle hash tag.

 

3)      A new machine could put an end to all of the foodborne illnesses that have seemed to run rampant over the past few months (including the current Listeria outbreak in cantaloupes).  According to a press release, “The ?Screen is a portable, rapid pathogen screener that could allow screening of up to 100% of food produced in processing plants, before it is delivered to the consumer.”   This groundbreaking invention, created by a group of students from Yale’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, just won the grand prize of $20,000 (to be put towards getting the product to the market) in the “Create the Future” Design contest.

 

4)      Betty Crocker has caught on to the rise in gluten sensitivities and allergies and is partnering with the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Celiac Research, The University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center and the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition to hold the Baker’s Challenge Gluten Free Recipe Contest. While the submission time has passed, voting will continue until October 15 when a $5,000 Grand Prize Winner will be chosen.  For more information on living gluten free, be sure to check out this post on the dietary restriction.

 

5)      And speaking of gluten free eating, Central had the chance this week to interview the infamous Mrs. Q of Fed Up With Lunch about her own gluten free lifestyle as well as her thoughts on schools going gluten free.   This week was a big one for Mrs. Q or as she can now be known Sarah Wu (and not just because of her interview with us).   Wednesday morning, after blogging anonymously for almost two years about her perspectives on the state of school lunch, the Chicago public school speech pathologist came out into the open to promote the release of her book “Fed up with Lunch: How One Anonymous Teacher Revealed the Truth about School Lunches – And How We Can Change Them”.  Check out her experience in this video from ABC News.

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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

Central’s Week in Brief: July 22

Every Friday Central brings you stories from the week that you might have missed, but that are definitely worth a look. We 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!

This week the unbearable heat might be on your mind. So we’re going to take that off your mind for a few minutes and inform you of all things healthy going on in the restaurant industry!

1. The Kids LiveWell program recently rolled out, which is a program that launched with the National Restaurant Association with a goal of providing healthier menu items for children when dining out. Currently there are over 15,000 restaurants on board.  Items in the program will “meet qualifying nutritional criteria base on leading health organization’s scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines,” the National Restaurant Association said.  For more information about the program including participating restaurants and nutritional criteria, visit the National Restaurant Association’s link.

2. On Wednesday July 20, in a press conference with many food retailers in attendance, Michelle Obama “made a pitch for the administration’s goal that all Americans have access to fresh, healthy, affordable food,” this United Press International article revealed.   This falls in part with her “Let’s Move!” campaign and is a start to a Healthy Food Financing Initiative.

3. This Huffington Post article, about healthier items in vending machines, said “studies have consistently shown that when people eat healthy food, they increase productivity at work and get better test performance in students while cutting the amount they cost the health care system.” It seems that more and more institutions are now implementing healthier items and give customers a chance to have real food, conveniently.

4. Is your breakfast lacking in nutrition or do you find it more convenient to get something to eat on the way into work? Don’t forget there are restaurant who serve healthy menu items.  Check out these 11 healthy fast-food breakfasts from the Delish website

5. Are you finding your restaurant struggling to keep up with the latest in healthy eating? Get a pencil and paper when pulling up this article from NBC Chicago’s Inc. Well. They feature Chicago’s Uncommon Ground, who is the first restaurant in the United States to have a certified organic rooftop farm. Then moving onto another restaurant, Sarah McKinnon, owner of Timothy O’Toole’s Pub, told them everything they serve is made in house.


 

 

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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.