Sunday, June 20, 2010

Potpourri: School Food News Roundup

Here's an interesting report from Jane Black at The Washington Post about how small changes--such as putting better lighting on the fruit display--can get kids to eat healthier foods at school. One finding: kids who use debit cards in the cafeteria are more likely to purchase desserts and junk food, while kids who pay cash will more likely go for the fruits and vegetables. Maybe we should limit what kids can buy with those debit cards?


Are you agonizing over how to get your kids to eat more healthfully? Here are 10 tips from Rodale, the people who brought you organic farming, on how to encourage children to eat more vegetables.


For some years, Philadelphia schools have enjoyed a wonderfully paper-free environment around their cafeterias. Meaning, kids attending schools with high enrollment of needy students ate free without having to fill out a lot of paperwork demonstrating they fall within the federal guidelines for free or reduced-price meals.

Well, that meal ticket may be about to end. Proposed federal guidelines would use participation in programs such as food stamps or welfare as "direct certification" for school meals. While that change might mean more free meals for students elsewhere in the country, it threatens to cut more than 50,000 from the free lunch rolls in Philadelphia.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture last year threatened to end Philadelphia's unique way of enrolling students for free meals, but there was such an outcry from the Pennsylvania congressional delegation that the USDA backed down.


Meanwhile, budget problems threaten food services in New York City schools. The city is bracing for up to $500 million in reduced aid from the state. Schools will bear the brunt of budget cuts, with thousands of teachers potentially losing their jobs.

School food services alone face a shortfall of nearly $24 million. Officials plan to reduce the variety of foods offered in cafeterias to save on the staff needed to prepare and serve the food. The plan is to reduce food service staff by 276. The city will also reduce the number of schools that participate in a program that provides free meals to all students.


Here's a rare report from the mainstream media detailing the difficulties schools have getting kids to eat healthier food.

Vegetables and whole grains have always been at the bottom of the list of things kids like to eat at school. But reporters rarely spend enough time in schools to witness what kids actually choose to eat in the cafeteria. In this report from a school district in Utah, kids walk right past a display of fresh fruits and vegetables in order to get to the chips. Other kids lick the whipped cream off the fresh blueberries but spit out the fruit. Meanwhile, kids wolf down Ding Dongs and wash them down either chocolate milk, or sodas they bring from home.

It sounds so familiar. Now, Utah parents and teachers alike are beginning to question the quality of food being served in schools there and the need to serve chocolate milk with every meal.

"If we got chocolate milk out of the school system, it would be my career ultimate moment," said one teacher.


Finally, here's a school district in Colorado that spent the last three years making the switch from the usual menu of frozen processed foods to salad bars and food cooked from scratch. They've also eliminated the chocolate milk. And so far, the reviews are good. Some kids would like to see the chocolate milk back, but overall, the changes seem to be paying off.

Yes, Virginia. It is possible to serve real food at school. But you have to try harder.

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