Whole Grains Health Shift For School Lunches

Tart Cherry Juice Lowers Blood Pressure

School’s in session and more kids are learning, growing, and playing fueled by good-tasting whole grains!

Lately, there have been big wins in the movement to improve school lunches, and Community Grains is proud to be doing their part.

Oakland Unified School District has decided to go all in with Community Grains’ California-grown, 100% whole grain pastas,now on cafeteria lunch menus in 85 Oakland public schools!

And in yet another fantastic move, OUSD is set to adopt a Good Food Purchasing Policy — a purchasing standard that demonstrates its commitment to better sourcing, sustainability, fair labor, and quality whole foods.

On the national front, the USDA recently formalized new school nutrition rules under the groundbreaking Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act. There’s much work to be done, but it seems clear that the local school wellness policies are making a big difference.

Parents who remember their school lunches may be jealous but this is great news for kids. We’re so pleased and encouraged, we could hit the playground ourselves!

Longer School Lunches Lead To Better Food Choices

School Salad Bar

Longer School Lunches Lead To Better Food Choices, Say Researchers

More research to inform industrial education. Less time to eat definitely makes an impact. Not only on food choices, but the amount of food chosen that gets eaten. More food waste.

I guess there’s a big difference between 20 and 15 minutes to eat lunch. What’s wrong with this picture? School salad bars are one of the easiest options available for teaching healthy food choices and learning life long values. If we don’t allow enough time to eat lunch, what’s the point?

→  Read full article by  Elliot Beer

At These Public Schools, Cafeteria Food Is Healthy, Tasty—and Locavore

October 25, 2013 / Written by Hannah Wallace

Portland, Oregon

It turns out that kids can actually tell when food tastes good.  Portland Public Schools, which feeds roughly 20,000 students a day, launched “Harvest of the Month” in 2007, featuring an Oregon-grown fruit or vegetable on the menu twice a month. Today, 32% of the food served in Portland cafeterias is regionally sourced—and nutrition services director Gitta Grether-Sweeney plans on increasing it even more with the help of two recent grants, one from the USDA. This is a typical meal of homemade pizza with whole-wheat crust (made from wheat harvested by Shepherd’s Grain cooperative in Washington), multi-hued cauliflower (this year from a farm in Northern California), and a Hood River pear.

 School cafeteria food gets a bad rap. But the truth is, as the national farm to school movement has taken off over the past few years, schools have begun sourcing the sort of high-quality ingredients you see at your local farmers’ market. At public school lunch rooms around the country, it’s now possible to taste dishes like shrimp cocktail (with homemade cocktail sauce), grass-fed burgers with roasted potatoes, and burrito bowls with local veggies and antibiotic-free chicken. Realizing how vital farm-to-school programs are to local economies, state governments from Alaska to Texas are encouraging regional purchasing, in some cases doling out grants to districts that want to buy more local and regional food.

The Obama administration has stepped up its support, hiring a director of farm-to-school at the United States Department of Agriculture and, last fall, allocating $4.5 million in grants to 68 projects that connect school cafeterias with local agricultural producers. In fact, according to just-released Census figures from the USDA, 38,629 schools across the U.S. are buying local food and teaching kids where their food comes from. And then there are nonprofits like FoodCorps, which deploys idealistic young service members—125 of them at last count—to 15 states to teach kids about healthy food, instruct them in gardening and cooking, and help school food directors get more local food into schools (including, sometimes, the very produce kids grow themselves).

Since October is National Farm to School Month, we decided to showcase some of the yummiest locally sourced cafeteria meals out there. We bet you’ll take a second look at your kid’s cafeteria—and maybe even join her for lunch some day soon.

School Snacks Get U.S. Gov’t Makeover

school vending machine wall

Photo/The Wichita Eagle, Mike Hutmacher, File

What a concept, food education occurring in schools.  It sounds like it’s one small step for man and if things go well, maybe one big step for mankind, or at least for mankind’s children. Now if we can educate them about GMO foods we just might have something.

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Kids, your days of blowing off those healthier school lunches and filling up on cookies from the vending machine are numbered. The government is onto you.

For the first time, the Agriculture Department is telling schools what sorts of snacks they can sell. The new restrictions announced Thursday fill a gap in nutrition rules that allowed many students to load up on fat, sugar and salt despite the existing guidelines for healthy meals.

“Parents will no longer have to worry that their kids are using their lunch money to buy junk food and junk drinks at school,” said Margo Wootan, a nutrition lobbyist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest who pushed for the new rules.

That doesn’t mean schools will be limited to doling out broccoli and brussels sprouts.

Snacks that still make the grade include granola bars, low-fat tortilla chips, fruit cups and 100 per cent fruit juice. And high school students can buy diet versions of soda, sports drinks and iced tea.

But say goodbye to some beloved school standbys, such as doughy pretzels, chocolate chip cookies and those little ice cream cups with their own spoons. Some may survive in low-fat or whole wheat versions. The idea is to weed out junk food and replace it with something with nutritional merit.

The bottom line, says Wootan:  “There has to be some food in the food.”

Still, 17-year-old Vanessa Herrera is partial to the Cheez-It crackers and sugar-laden Vitaminwater in her high school’s vending machine. Granola bars and bags of peanuts? Not so much.

“I don’t think anyone would eat it,” said Herrera of Rockaway, N.J.

There are no vending machines at Lauren Jones’ middle school in Hoover, Ala., but she said there’s an “a la carte” stand that sells chips, ice cream and other snacks.

“Having something sweet to go with your meal is good sometimes,” the 13-year-old said, although she also thinks that encouraging kids to eat healthier is worthwhile.

The federal snack rules don’t take effect until the 2014-15 school year, but there’s nothing to stop schools from making changes earlier.

Some students won’t notice much difference. Many schools already are working to improve their offerings. Thirty-nine states have some sort of snack food policy in place.

Rachel Snyder, 17, said earlier this year her school in Washington, Ill., stripped its vending machines of sweets. She misses the pretzel-filled M&M’s.

“If I want a sugary snack every now and then,” Snyder said, “I should be able to buy it.”

The federal rules put calorie, fat, sugar and sodium limits on almost everything sold during the day at 100,000 schools – expanding on the previous rules for meals. The Agriculture Department sets nutritional standards for schools that receive federal funds to help pay for lunches, and that covers nearly every public school and about half of private ones.

One oasis of sweetness and fat will remain: Anything students bring from home, from bagged lunches to birthday cupcakes, is exempt from the rules.

The Agriculture Department was required to draw up the rules under a law passed by Congress in 2010, championed by first lady Michelle Obama, as part of the government’s effort to combat childhood obesity.

Nutritional guidelines for subsidized lunches were revised last year and put in place last fall.

school salad bar

Last year’s rules making main lunch fare more nutritious faced criticism from some conservatives, including some Republicans in Congress, who said the government shouldn’t be telling kids what to eat. Mindful of that backlash, the Agriculture Department left one of the more controversial parts of the rule, the regulation of in-school fundraisers like bake sales, up to the states.

The rules have the potential to transform what many children eat at school.

Prevention Of Poor Lifestyle Habits Best Tackled Before 13 Years

In addition to meals already subject to nutrition standards, most lunchrooms also have “a la carte” lines that sell other foods – often greasy foods like mozzarella sticks and nachos. That gives students a way to circumvent the healthy lunches. Under the rules, those lines could offer healthier pizzas, low-fat hamburgers, fruit cups or yogurt and similar fare.

One of the biggest changes will be a near-ban on high-calorie sports drinks. Many beverage companies added sports drinks to school vending machines after sodas were pulled in response to criticism from the public health community.

The rule would only allow sales in high schools of sodas and sports drinks that contain 60 calories or less in a 12-ounce serving, banning the highest-calorie versions of those beverages.

Low-calorie sports drinks – Gatorade’s G2, for example – and diet drinks will be allowed in high school.

Elementary and middle schools will be allowed to sell only water, carbonated water, 100 per cent fruit or vegetable juice, and low fat and fat-free milk, including nonfat flavoured milks.

Republicans have continued to scrutinize the efforts to make school foods healthier, and at a House subcommittee hearing Thursday, Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., said the “stringent rules are creating serious headaches for schools and students.”  (Not to mention county health agencies, the medical community, airline seat manufacturers, paramedics and the list goes on. Guess we better not mess with regulations when it comes to optimal health. We wouldn’t want to mess with somebody’s subsidy).

One school nutritionist testified that her school has had difficulty adjusting to the 2012 changes, and the new “a la carte” standards could also be a hardship.

The healthier foods are expensive, said Sandra Ford, president of the School Nutrition Association and director of food and nutrition services for a school district in Bradenton, Fla. She also predicted that her school district could lose $975,000 a year under the new “a la carte” guidelines because they would have to eliminate many of the popular foods they sell.  What, we’re worried that junk food manufacturer dollars going to the schools might dry up? Isn’t that the point here?  (I wonder how many by pass surgeries avoided that might work out to be.)

students enjoying their school salad bar Riverside, CA Unified School District had implemented a la carte school salad bars years ago. They discovered that the kids loved the a la carte option. They learned what foods to eat and how much. Once the district agreed to pay the farmers in 30 days, organic agriculture production went from two acres to over 40 in a matter of two or three years. Now when the middle school kids get to high school and there isn’t a salad bar, they’re educated and a little pissed off at the same time. Now that’s education.

In a report released at the hearing, the Government Accountability Office said that in some districts students were having trouble adjusting to the new foods, leading to increased waste and kids dropping out of the school lunch program.

The food industry has been onboard with many of the changes, and several companies worked with Congress on the child nutrition law three years ago.

Angela Chieco, a mother from Clifton Park, N.Y., sees the guidelines as a good start but says it will take a bigger campaign to wean kids off junk food.

“I try to do less sugar myself,” Chieco said. “It’s hard to do.”

Associated Press writer Stacy A. Anderson contributed to this report.

Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mcjalonick

Follow Connie Cass on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ConnieCass

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