By: Heidi Stimac
This blog has been republished with the permission of Salad Bars to Schools.
Roasted chickpeas and fresh pomegranates are items you probably don’t expect to see in an ordinary school cafeteria. But luckily for the students at Vista Unified School District (VUSD) in Oceanside, California, Director of Child Nutrition Services Jamie Phillips is not interested in creating an ordinary school cafeteria experience.
District Enrollment: 21,500
Number of Schools in District: 26
Free and Reduced rate: 64%
District ADP (Average Daily Participation): 53%
Director Phillips and his team at VUSD are salad bar experts, with seemingly endless events and strategies to keep their bars relevant and healthy. One of their most engaging events, “Fear Factor,” includes a booth set up with the help of parent volunteers that offers students tastings of unique, fresh foods that will later be incorporated into the salad bar, like roasted chickpeas and local pomegranates. If students can guess what foods they tried, they earn an “I Conquered the Fear Factor” sticker. Director Phillips says that when they host these events, “kids get engaged with trying new things, and then they see them on the salad bar and are familiar with them.”
Along with the “Fear Factor” events, Director Phillips continues to engage the school community by incorporating tons of locally sourced produce into their bars. Proud of their commitment to local farmers, last year alone the district procured 78,000 lbs of fresh produce exclusively from California. Currently, the district is in the process of creating a large banner with the state of California on it that will have markers to show the location of each farm that provides produce to the district. Director Phillips believes that the students are more excited about eating off the salad bar when they have a visual of where the produce came from, and this banner will be a testament to the locality of VSDU’s procurement.
This commitment to local produce and engaging students continues to have a significant impact on VUSD’s salad bar program. Phillips admits that he can be “a little competitive” and does want to be a leader in certain areas of school food. This explains why VUSD is hiring a part-time driver and purchasing a truck to deliver fresh produce to all school sites, as local farmers cannot always deliver to so many locations. For Director Phillips, having produce in the schools without chemicals and waxes is worth the extra labor, and we couldn’t agree more!
Along with the procurement of California produce, VUSD has found a way to get even more local by incorporating produce grown in their school gardens into the salad bars. One of Phillip’s favorite memories regarding salad bars at VUSD is when he worked with a K-6 teacher who taught Aeroponics, or the growing of plants without the use of soil. Phillips recalls students in the class cutting and washing the lettuce they grew, then watching its incorporation into the salad bar. He says the kids were very enthusiastic about heading to lunch knowing that they’d get to consume the fruits (or in this case, lettuces) of their labors off their school salad bars.
With a little commitment and creativity, Vista Unified School District is bridging the gap between students and their food sources, resulting in more successes at the salad bar.]]>
The application process to receive grants or to participate in school food reform projects can be overwhelming and sometimes disappointing. But with some good advice, you can achieve grant success!
Our Programs Manager, Emily Gallivan, compiled a list of tips and tricks to share with you to make sure that you submit strong applications that help you get the funding and resources you need to improve your district’s meal program. All kinds of grant submissions we receive pass by Gallivan’s desk, so get ready for some expert advice:
Grants are a great opportunity for districts to get additional funding and resources to increase scratch cooking in their meal programs. Look for grants that meet your specific needs, from getting equipment or marketing materials to providing educational programming. We offer all kinds of grants too! Check out the Programs & Grants page to stay up to date on when grants open and what you can achieve for your program.
Bonus tip: once you get your grant, you might be asked to submit evaluations, feedback, or some kind of report on your grant implementation. Don’t be shy! These communications are an excellent opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your funder. Share powerful quotes from all kinds of participants: students, teachers, parents, food service staff, administrators—anyone connected to the grant in some way—can share their story and provide meaningful feedback. Also, don’t forget that pictures are worth 1,000 words! Take good photos and share them with your funder too. They will remember your success, be proud to share your achievements, and will remember you positively.]]>
May We Have Your Attention, Please!
Announcing Project Produce 2018 Grantees
Project Produce helps schools get more fresh produce into their menus by granting schools $2,000 to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and whole ingredients used in recipe testing. The program encourages schools to get creative and develop nutrition education activities that involve peer-to-peer marketing that gets kids eating their fruits and vegetables. Districts can apply for up to five schools to receive the grant. Check out our Case Studies from the Field to see what previous grantees have accomplished.
And now please give a hearty round of cheers to these 2018 Project Produce Recipients:
Arkansas School for the Deaf – Little Rock, AR
Augres-Sims Schools- Au Gres, MI
Bendle Public Schools- Burton, MI
Charlottesville City Schools- Charlottesville, VA
Conway School District – Conway, AR
DC Bilingual Public Charter School-Washington, D.C.
DC Public Schools- Washington, D.C
Greenville County Schools- Greenville, SC
Malvern Public School District – Malvern, AR
Medford Public Schools- Medford, MA
New London Public Schools- New London, CT
Shandon Joint Unified Schools- Shandon, CA
We are very excited to support these schools through Project Produce grants, made possible by Walmart Foundation. Programming varies from school to school, each designed by school leaders based on their needs and capabilities. One school will be using their grant to cover costs of fresh produce and supplemental nutritional programming that gets kids thinking about where their food comes from and what they eat in and outside of school. Other schools will be celebrating farm-to-school week, hosting monthly tastings, and highlighting local produce on the lunch line with their Project Produce grant.
We are looking forward to seeing these schools make their projects happen!]]>
On May 16, 2018, we brought our Real School Food Challenge to Denver’s Zeppelin Station for an evening with top-notch chefs and delicious dishes. Every challenge is rewarding for competitors, guests and hosts. Read on for a recap of Denver’s dishes, the inspiration behind them, and find out whose dish was deemed school-lunch worthy.
Anyone who wants to help improve school lunch nutrition can compete in a Real School Food Challenge. Parents, children, home-grown chefs, foodies, and executive-owner chefs all compete to serve up a delicious, nutritious meal that meets USDA nutritional guidelines…all on a school food budget of $1.25 per meal.
“Schools receive roughly $3.25 reimbursement for a free lunch,” explains Danielle Staunton, our Director of Strategic Partnerships. “After wages and other overhead, about $1.25 is left for food.”
What a challenge! Our four Denver competitors were ready for it though.
Hosted by Andra and Kyle Zeppelin at Big Trouble, a hip, chic upstairs bar in Denver’s latest edition to the food hall scene, Max MacKissock (Bar Dough, Señor Bear), Cindhura Reddy (Namkeen, Spuntino), Paul Reilly (Beast & Bottle, Coperta), and James Beard-winning chef Alon Shaya (opening Satfa in soon) brought their A-game and delivered four budget-friendly and creative dishes. But only one took home the winner’s plate.
Host Andra Zeppelin welcomed guests to the Challenge while the chefs put their finishing touches on their dishes and guests enjoyed signature cocktails and beverages from Suerte, Scarpetta, Infinite Monkey Theorem, and Blue Moon Brewery. And then the tasting and judging began.
MacKissock brought a team to help plate up his Yogurt Marinated Chicken dish that included a salad of greens, faro, and carrots two ways.
“We had to make a dish for $1.25, and we came in at $1.08. I thought back to what I liked to eat as a kid, and I loved carrots!”
MacKissock is one half of a well-known Denver duo with a large presence in the restaurant scene. He and his wife have nearly 10 restaurants and kitchens throughout the city.
Another big presence in Denver’s restaurant scene, Reilly prepared a Pork Gyro with Yogurt Sauce, and served apples and sunflower butter alongside it. He was happy and excited to bring his team to the Challenge, especially because he has children of his own, who inspired his dish:
“We’re here to help support school lunches. I think every kid has got to have a healthier lunch, and we can help be a part of the solution of that. I thought of my own kids and what they could be eating at school to create my dish.”
Reddy took a creative approach in presentation by plating up each guest’s dish as they came to her table.
“I want you to have the real lunch line experience, and get to eat hot, fresh, good food from it,” Reddy explained. Taking influences from both Namkeen, where she serves Indian street food inspired dishes, and Spuntino, which captures the essence of Italian simplicity and home, Reddy prepared a Braised Chicken Thigh with Creamy Polenta.
But the kudos of the night go to Shaya, who whipped up hummus topped with a flavorful hearty stew made from tomatoes, chicken, and peas. To round out the dish he served it with a thick slice of fresh whole grain bread and finished the meal with a banana “ice cream,” made from frozen blended bananas with a dash of milk. Children at the event came back for seconds, and at one point, the line backed up while Shaya prepared more hummus.
Shaya is no stranger to school food. Not feeling a pull towards college, he found his home in culinary school, and then decided to share his story with high schoolers. He started the Shaya Barnett Initiative to help bring culinary education back to high school and to make sure high schoolers know of this viable career path. Shaya recognizes the benefit of teaching students how to eat and how to cook from a young age.
“I’m so excited to help figure out creative ways to get really healthy school lunches for every single child in America.”
We celebrated the winner with dessert from Gelato Boy and thanked our guests for their support in our work to help schools serve the best meals possible made from fresh, whole ingredients.
Competitor Reddy said it well: “School funding is an important topic right now, and if you’re going to start somewhere, why not start with nutrition?”
When we feed our children well, they do better in school, they are set up for success in life, and they learn how to eat well for the rest of their lives.
You can host a Challenge of your own to raise awareness and support for changing the way we feed our kids! Gather competitors together, use our toolkit to provide them with the guidelines needed to make a school meal, invite your guests, and then eat, drink, and let guests decide which meal makes the grade. Visit the Real School Food Challenge page to learn more and contact us today to get involved.]]>
By: Kate Olender
People from all walks of life value school salad bars, which allow students to choose a variety of healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables to fill their plates. But there’s one group that lives and breathes fresh fruits and veggies all day, every day – and they’ve turned raising money for school salad bars into an annual event.
This year, the fresh fruit and vegetable industry celebrates its fifth annual Tour de Fresh bike ride, a four-day, 275-mile cycling event that engages those who work in the produce industry to donate toward bringing more salad bars to schools across the country. The California Giant Foundation hosts the event, working closely with the United Fresh Start Foundation, a founding partner of the national Salad Bars to Schools initiative.
“Everyone in our industry is committed to working hard, so families and children across the country can easily access fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables,” said Cindy Jewell, Vice President of Marketing for California Giant Berry Farms and current Chairman of the United Fresh Produce Association. “Tour de Fresh is just one way our industry has come together to make sure kids can select and enjoy those fruits and veggies at school,” she says.
Through Tour de Fresh, the fresh fruit and vegetable industry has raised more than $600,000 for school salad bars since 2014, and aims to finance at least 50 more salad bars through the upcoming July 2018 ride. This year, riders are concentrating the impact of their contributions by raising funds to support salad bars in four school districts in different parts of the country: California, Colorado, Texas, and Virginia. These districts have requested 10 or more salad bars, allowing the industry to increase children’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables across an entire district.
“No one – especially kids – should have to struggle to think about where their next meal will come from, and from our perspective, giving kids the ability to choose fresh fruits and veggies, whether from a school salad bar or elsewhere, is an important step toward better nutrition,” says Andrew Marshall, Director of Foundation Programs & Partnerships at the United Fresh Produce Association. “Tour de Fresh harnesses the power of the produce industry, companies and individuals, to give back in a way that’s fun and that also makes a real impact, once the salad bar is installed in a school.”
Tour de Fresh showcases the magic of partnerships at their best. Together, Tour de Fresh riders and supporters, are helping ensure children grow up knowing the joys and benefits of choosing fresh fruits and veggies.]]>
With applications from school districts across the country, the selection process for our Get Schools Cooking 2018 cohort was difficult. We had many districts to choose from and spent time closely reviewing each application and interviewing top candidates. Each selected district demonstrates the passion, drive and ability to create real school food change. As the school year wraps up, Chef Ann Foundation is looking forward to school food transformation with a new cohort of districts. We are excited to announce the recipients of the 2018 Get Schools Cooking program. Read on to learn a little more about the program and each of the selected districts.
Get Schools Cooking is Chef Ann Foundation’s most comprehensive program. Through this program, we work with school districts to transition their food service operations from heat-and-serve processed foods to whole foods that are cooked from scratch. The program supports districts through this process starting with a workshop in Boulder, CO, followed by an assessment of their current operations, strategic planning to develop next steps, continued support and more. You can read more about program details here.
In collaboration with our partners at Whole Kids Foundation, we look forward to working with the following school districts on improving their meal programs:
Caroline County Public Schools operates a food service program with an emphasis on local food and manages a Culinary Arts Center that offers culinary classes and catering for the district. Get Schools Cooking and the assessment process will provide the district with a fresh set of eyes and guidance on how the district can do even more.
“I feel with your organization’s expertise and passion, we will able to propel my district to the next level.” ~Beth Brewster, Food Service Supervisor
With a central kitchen that preps and cooks all food for their nine school sites, Goleta is looking forward to the support the program can provide them in furthering their scratch cook operation. The district already offers some scratch items but hopes that Get Schools Cooking will help them reach their goal of a fully cook from scratch operation.
“I want to elevate school food and change the way people view food in the cafeteria.” ~Kim Leung, Registered Dietitian, Food Services Director
After spending the last five years making big changes to their program, Marysville Joint Unified School District feels they could use Get Schools Cooking’s support on improving their program even more. They are excited to enhance their menus and expand their number of scratch cooked offerings!
Having recently moved to a self-operated model, Napa Valley Unified School District has already made great strides in their meal program including the implementation of salad bars in all 30 schools. However, as they begin work on a central kitchen and adding more scratch cooked options, Get Schools Cooking will help them continue their work, leading to better food for students.
“The GSC grant will give us the support and mentoring that we need to move our program to the next level and continue to focus on only the best food for the Napa Valley Unified students.” ~Brandy Dreibelbis, Director of Food Services
The Get Schools Cooking partnership is excited to welcome these four districts to the program and looks forward to starting our work together on school food reform. They are joining a group of dedicated and passionate school districts leading the way in school food change. These previous cohorts already show progress and success, such as implementing salad bars, removing chicken patties and nuggets, and increasing their amount of local purchases. When it comes to makeovers, the Get Schools Cooking program is the initiative that takes school districts all the way, supporting them in bringing delicious and nutritious food to students.]]>
What makes for a good partnership? After spending many years of my career helping create and maintain strategic business partnerships, I find that there’s one thing that makes for a really good match, the kind that seems like a natural fit and gels together easily: aligning missions. When missions are in alignment, everything else flows organically, and collaborations are set up for success. Three years ago, Chef Ann Foundation began a partnership with Life Time Foundation built on common missions, and what a success it has been!
Both organizations play pivotal roles in school food reform, which didn’t necessarily mean we would get along easily or that our missions would align nicely. Our mission is to provide school communities with the tools, training, resources, and funding that enables them to create healthier food and redefine lunchroom environments. When we met the Life Time Foundation team, we learned about their mission to remove the Harmful 7* from school food because they believe that school food should feed children’s brains and bodies, not harm them. We quickly realized we were on the same page when it comes to school food reform—both of us care about what goes into the food our children eat.
One way we fulfil our mission is by helping school districts transform their school food operations. We break down the process into smaller, achievable goals and support schools as they say goodbye to serving highly processed heat-and-serve school lunches and hello to cooking on site and serving meals made from scratch. Once schools make that switch, they open themselves to the power of purchasing; when schools prepare food themselves, they get to decide what does—and doesn’t—go into those meals. Another way to look at this is when schools cook from scratch, they have a much easier pathway to removing the Harmful 7.
Consider the chicken nugget, for example. When schools that operate a heat-and-serve production purchase chicken nuggets, they get the nugget along with a panel of 30 ingredients they didn’t get to choose, like preservatives or artificial flavors and colors. But, if schools prepare their own chicken entrees in-house, they can chose their raw meat provider, use whole muscle chicken, and avoid those Harmful 7!
Now how is that for mission alignment!
With only about $1.25 per meal for food costs, cooking from scratch and removing the Harmful 7 is quite the tall order. Without much to spend, our pocketbooks often require us to rely on those harmful ingredients to cut costs. Nevertheless, as soon as we met, we were all determined to see how Chef Ann Foundation and Life Time Foundation could team up and make it happen. Since then, we’ve been working together to help schools switch to scratch-made meals and gain the ability to control their ingredients and eliminate the Harmful 7.
One of the biggest ways Life Time Foundation contributes to our successful partnership is by keeping The Lunch Box updated, running and free for all schools. The Lunch Box is an online treasure chest of resources and tools, like recipes, marketing materials, business forms, and how-to guides, available to schools working to cook from scratch and serve healthier, fresher, better food to our children. The Lunch Box is a key ingredient for school food success, but it wouldn’t be available to schools if Chef Ann Foundation and Life Time Foundation didn’t have a great partnership!
Cheers to finding those perfect mates and collaborating to carry out common missions!
*The Harmful 7 Ingredients of Concern are: trans-fats and hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, hormones and antibiotics, processed and artificial sweeteners, artificial colors and flavors, artificial preservatives, and bleached flour.]]>
While working to serve better meals in schools, food service programs face a wide range of challenges. One of the biggest needs is equipment to ensure food is properly stored, cooked, cooled, and transported. This equipment can be costly for schools to procure and maintain. If schools want to prepare meals using ingredients like fresh greens, vegetables, whole grains, raw proteins, and dried legumes, they must have the right tools for the job. And when schools have the proper equipment, all kinds of positive results emerge.
Equipment used in school kitchens is often very different than what you might find in an average home kitchen. School districts require equipment that can handle much larger quantities of food such as industrial-sized food processors, walk-in refrigerators, tilting braising pans, and various types of ovens. When schools purchase new equipment to support their programs they can boost staff efficiency, increase student participation, reduce staff stress, and even increase their ability to purchase local ingredients and expand menus. This blog highlights how 5 districts were able to up the ante in their food service department thanks to new kitchen equipment.
At St. Tammany Parish in Covington, Louisiana, a new food processor means staff can now chop more fresh vegetables faster and more uniformly. The rotisserie ovens at Riverside Unified School District in California enable staff to “set it and forget it.” Staff can load up to 35-40 whole chickens for the district’s middle and high schools and leave the ovens to do the work while they prepare other dishes.
The ovens also provide an additional benefit that is a testament to the power of providing high quality food to students every day: the smell of freshly cooked food! Students love the home-cooking aromas that flood the lunchroom when those ovens are working. Nutrition Services Interim Director Kirsten Roloson, reported that students, “feel like they are important and that we care about them.” The time and effort staff put into their meals really show students that they are valued and that someone cares.
Similar to the new food processor in Louisiana and the ovens in California, a new soak sink at Dallas Independent School District in Texas increased their ability to wash fresh lettuce for salads. With their increased efficiency, Dallas Independent increased their power to purchase local ingredients and now sources greens from local hydroponic farmers.
Hinsdale Public Schools in Montana also increased their local purchases when they solved a stressful workplace problem: their equipment was terribly unreliable. As a result, extra work was needed to monitor the equipment, even when school was not in session. This problem was solved with the purchase of a new walk-in cooler/freezer. With a new walk-in cooler/freezer, staff are confident about the quality of the food they are serving and don’t have to worry about food spoiling or equipment breaking down in the middle of service. Their cooler/freezer shut the door on workplace stress and opened doors to stocking up on local ingredients. They now serve 100% local beef and pork. And the best part? They cut down on food waste! Instead of throwing away left-over meat, they now store it in their new cooler/freezer and use it in soups and stews.
New, fully-functional equipment can also help drive program participation. When schools have to cook with inadequate or dysfunctional equipment, they are forced to serve lower quality food that is unappetizing to students, and participation rates drop. Mountain View Whisman School District in California faced this problem due to poorly functioning ovens. With new ovens that cook food consistently, their food has more flavor and is visually appealing to students. The new equipment has also allowed the district to expand their menu to include omelet egg rounds, roasted meats, and pasta dishes.
When districts have the ability to purchase kitchen equipment, food service programs can incorporate more scratch cooking into their operations, and the impact of one single purchase extends throughout school food operations. Schools increase their ability to make local purchases and make their workplaces less stressful and more efficient. They can also serve better food and expand their menus, which means students are eating more freshly roasted produce, locally braised meats, and produce from colorful salad bars. As a 2013 PEW Charitable Trusts study pointed out, “schools would be better able to serve meals that meet nutrition requirements if investments were made in new equipment.” And these stories from school districts across the country show just that. Equipment might be only one factor schools need to consider as they incorporate more fresh and whole ingredients into their menus, but it is an essential component with far-reaching impacts.
Photos Courtesy of Riverside Unified School District, Hinsdale Public Schools and St. Tammany Parish School District
By Faith Akgun
This blog has been republished with the permission of Salad Bars to Schools. View the original post here.
When Kayla Leu joined Iowa’s Bettendorf Community School District as Director of Nutrition Services, there were already existing salad bars in the district’s middle and high schools. She quickly set out to provide the same resource for the district’s elementary schools as well. By 2017 she had made great progress, receiving four salad bars from Salad Bar to Schools and successfully incorporating them into the district’s meal program.
When the idea of salad bars at the elementary schools was first in the works, a meeting was held with cafeteria staff. Initially, the staff had concerns, worrying they wouldn’t have enough time to prep or that they would have trouble ensuring students were taking appropriate portions of fruits and vegetables. However, they took solace in the fact that the middle and high schools had experienced such success with their salad bars. As the salad bars were implemented at the elementary schools, staff quickly realized their work load did not increase. In fact, the salad bar allowed them to prep fruits and vegetables in bulk rather than in pre-portioned plastic cups. By eliminating the pre-portioned cups, they were also able to reduce their waste stream.
When the district introduced the salad bars to the elementary schools, Director Leu strategically organized the salad bars to keep students moving through the lines as quickly as possible. First, students receive their main entrée. Then they go through the salad bar line and serve themselves a variety of fresh produce. A staff member stands at the end of the line to make sure students take the appropriate portions of fresh fruits and vegetables. At first, the line moved slowly as the students got used to the salad bar. Within a few days though, the students got the hang of the salad bar, and the line returned to normal speed. Director Leu recounts, “The staff and the students took to the salad bar line quickly. We were all pleasantly surprised to see how quickly the operation picked up speed amongst our elementary schools.”
The district also cycles out their menus throughout the schools to help streamline their service and procurement process. Monday’s menu at the elementary school is Tuesday’s menu at the middle school and high school. Each day, there are at least two varieties of fruits and two varieties of vegetables at the salad bar. Some of the students’ favorites include fresh strawberries and grapes.
Director Leu has been very pleased with the Salad Bars to Schools grant experience and the way the students have responded to the new salad bars. They love exploring the choices available to them on the salad bar and having the agency to serve themselves. She explains, “They enjoy making their own choices. This is something they get to control and do on their own. If they want all grapes, or if they want strawberries and broccoli, they can make that decision. The kids love the independence to choose what they want to put on their tray.” Director Leu is in the process of applying for Salad Bar to Schools grants for the remainder of the district’s elementary schools, and she looks forward to having salad bars in all schools.
Salad bar donations were made possible by Warden Hutterian Brethren and Potatoes USA.]]>
2018 rushed in with quite a bang. The Chef Ann Foundation team hit the ground running with an ambitious agenda to reach more. More districts, more schools, more kids.
As I started to write this blog, I took stock and realized just how incredible it is that we have a team and organizational structure capable of taking on the quality and quantity of work that is instore for us in 2018. I can remember back to when I started my work here in 2013. Four of us were working remotely from our homes trying to build awareness for school food reform and keeping up with the demand from district leaders who were passionate about a new way of looking at school food operations. And now we are nine team members strong and it’s no longer a small group of schools leading school food reform in our country.
Charging into 2018 we are raring to go and ready to take on the following work in 2018:
Looking at the work ahead of us in 2018, we are inspired and motivated that schools across the country are so engaged in making change. We know that the tide is continuing to move because we see how many people visit the Lunchbox.org for support materials, we see how many schools are applying for our grants, and we hear from schools that are pushing forward with change.
Schools in our Get Schools Cooking 2016 cohort are making big progress:
Buford City Schools in GA reduced their flavored milk offerings.
Watertown Public Schools in MA eliminated all ice cream and frozen desserts, and they replaced some processed meat products by introducing whole muscle chicken.
Bellingham Public schools in WA made a commitment to serving better school food through Bellingham Good Food Promise, a comprehensive outline that articulates the district’s key food values, and they are working to implement them through food education campaigns, by placing salad bars in every schools, and purchasing whole muscle chicken, and they are building a central cooking kitchen scheduled to open in 2019.
Our Project Produce grantees are using the lunchroom fruit and vegetable educational tasting as the impetus for change in their food program:
Diamond Lake School District in IL demonstrated to district administration the importance and impact of fresh fruits and vegetables and proved that students will eat them, which prompted the scheduling of a strategic planning session to implement more scratch cooking and continued fruit and vegetable tastings.
Cincinnati Public Schools in OH used their grant to support Cultural Celebration Days, which offered students the opportunity to expand their palates, lean about unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, and explore world cultures. Because of the celebrations, the district added new items to their salad bars, like jicama, avocado, and beets, they shifted away from steamed vegetables and now offer fresh roasted vegetables, and they made a commitment to serving more diverse options to students, including Mediterranean, Indian, and German cuisines.
Having supported the donation of now over 5,000 salad bars in schools we are also seeing great trends here. In our most recent evaluations, 70% of schools reported seeing an increase in school lunch participation after implementing salad bars. 65% of schools decreased their canned fruit and vegetable purchases, and 85% of schools increased their fruit and vegetable procurement.
The train is moving. If your school district is not talking about healthier food, you probably want to hop aboard and keep up the pace. Don’t fall behind and miss out on opportunities to improve school food and play a powerful role in leading by example to create change.
We are not even through the first quarter and 2018 already has a lot going on across the country. With so much happening, we have great need to remain focused on our long-term goals, no matter what change we are supporting and creating. My team and I remain focused on school food reform because of the need to continue supporting long-term solutions. We have many immediate needs right now in our country, and we know that small bandages do not help heal the gaping wounds. If we dig in deep to create systemic change, we can heal those wounds, and we won’t find ourselves with the same problems to solve in 10 or 15 years.
Fixing school food is not an overnight endeavor. Nearly eight years have gone by since the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act passed. It was the most progressive school food nutrition legislation we’ve seen, and getting it through congress took dedication, patience, persistence, and collaboration. But we did it. Our next steps will take just as much work and just as much time.
We all know that a balanced diet filled with fresh healthy food gives you the foundation to support success. We all know that when you eat a piece of broccoli, as opposed to canned pears in syrup, your body will perform better. We all know that children are born into circumstances, and that ALL kids deserve access to food that will help them thrive and meet their potential. This work will and should continue, and the Chef Ann Foundation will stay focused and determined to ensure all children have daily access to fresh, healthy food in schools.
Bring on 2018!]]>