Monday, June 23, 2008

School Nutrition

Despite all of the bad publicity taking place in the media over school lunches, there are some noteworthy good news that doesn't necessarily make its way into the media.

Vermont is one of the leaders in change for nutrition in schools. There has been a strong movement in bringing local foods to the cafeteria trays for several years now. We have a great group of "movers and shakers" that are increasing the whole grains, adding more fresh fruits and vegetables, and getting away from processed foods. Of course, the only way to make your budget float on very small shoestring budget, we have to serve some of the more popular processed meals to keep up the student participation.

Example: Chicken Patty on Bun is one of the more popular meals with my students. I've sought out purchasing a chicken patty that has whole grain breading, and serve it on a whole wheat bun. Had I presented a meal like this when I first took over the position of Food SErvice Manager, I might have been lynch mobbed and strung up the flag pole. Change is hard, and takes time. I try to focus my attentions on the younger, more impressionable students. By the time students reach middle school, they have already gained their strong opinions about food and nutrition. Changes I am making to the program today won't be seen as a widespread change for at least another 7 years.

I work in a K-12 school. What appeals to younger students doesn't necessarily appeal to the older students and vise versa. Trying to find balance and targeting both sides of the school can be extremely challenging at times. Sometimes I've had to create different versions of meals to appeal to the different age groups.

When the Jr & Sr. High students had exams in January, I held a beach day for the Grade School Students. They brought in sunglasses and beach towels and we had sack lunches and a rare ice cream treat for everyone. We played beach music, and had a lot of fun. As it turned out, the weather was really awful but the anticipation of fun at lunch time erased any ugly feelings about what was taking place outside.

Here are some great links about school nutrition. I would encourage you to become involved with your School Food Service Director. Find out what their needs are. Oftentimes those who are running the programs are made to feel as though they are dangling out in left field by themselves. Your help (small or large) just might be what your school food service program needs.

School Nutrition

Team Nutrition

Training Grants

Vermont focus

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