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The School Food Revolution:

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner
301-686-3075 Ext.
media@schoolnutrition.org

The School Food Revolution:

More schools cooking from scratch and serving healthier pre-prepared foods, but limited equipment, funds and staff resources are a persistent challenge.

National Harbor, MD (April 20, 2011) – School nutrition programs across the country are preparing more school meals from scratch or serving healthier pre-prepared entrees and sides.

  • Thanks to Jefferson County Public Schools’ (Ky.) central kitchen facility, students can dine on homemade soups, chili, tacos, chicken potpies, turkey roasts and other entrees, as well as fresh, whole grain dinner rolls and other breads, some prepared with locally produced flour and cornmeal.
  • Thomas County’s (Ga.) school nutrition professionals are known for their fresh whole grain French bread and sweet potato rolls. They also prep fresh vegetable soup, lasagna and a special treat called “Wacky Cake” - plum puree is the secret ingredient.
  • In Gooding, Idaho’s school cafeterias, many entrees are prepared from scratch, and students get in on the fun too, creating their own masterpieces with locally-grown potatoes and toppings from the potato bar, including low-fat cheese, fat-free sour cream, salsa, olives, chopped broccoli, home-made chili, ground turkey and beef.
  • Other districts are using student-raised or locally grown foods in their recipes, or are working with chefs in their communities to help train school cooks to prepare healthy new meals.

However, school nutrition programs face enormous hurdles in their efforts to scratch cook. In the early years of the National School Lunch Program, schools received financial assistance to help cover the cost of expensive commercial grade equipment purchases. But the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 eliminated that assistance and slashed other support for school meals.

Since then, as food prices have climbed, many school nutrition programs have struggled to break even, let alone invest in new equipment, hire the additional staff necessary to scratch-prep meals and train cooks on proper handling techniques for raw meat in accordance with strict school food safety standards.

As a result, school nutrition programs must have access to healthy, pre-prepared foods that meet the nutrition requirements for school meals. Food companies are meeting this critical need, and have made tremendous progress in improving their foods using healthier preparation methods, leaner meats, whole grain ingredients and less sodium and sugar.

Many of these companies have made noteworthy commitments to provide healthier products, including the multi-industry agreement with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to help schools serve healthier meals at more affordable prices and The Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation’s pledge to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign to reduce calories by 1.5 trillion a year. Food industry efforts in schools and in the commercial market where families and restaurants rely on pre-prepared foods will be critical to helping America's families improve their diets.

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SNA, (schoolnutrition.org ) the School Nutrition Association, is a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 53,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country. Founded in 1946, the Association and its members are dedicated to feeding children safe and nutritious meals.

SNA is issuing a series of articles highlighting the School Food Revolution occurring nationwide and the ways schools have raised the bar for school meals. To read the first article in this series, visit schoolnutrition.org/Blog.aspx?id=15266&blogid=564.

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The School Food Revolution: The Healthy Changes in School Cafeterias You Haven’t Seen on TV

 Permanent link

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner
301-686-3124 Ext.
media@schoolnutrition.org

The School Food Revolution: The Healthy Changes in School Cafeterias You Haven’t Seen on TV

National Harbor, MD (April 13, 2011) – Despite limited resources and rising food costs, school nutrition programs across the country have made tremendous progress in offering healthier meals in school cafeterias.  But don’t expect to see these successes on television – good news about school meals just doesn’t bring in the ratings. 

School Nutrition Association’s 2010 Back to School Trends Report found that schools are serving more whole grains and fresh produce, while working to reduce added sodium and sugar in foods served on the lunch line.  Many school districts are bringing in more locally-grown produce, encouraging extra helpings of fruits and vegetables or offering salad bars.  To get kids excited about these healthy choices, schools are experimenting with kids cooking competitions, partnerships with local chefs and nutrition education programs.

Many schools are cooking up more menu items from scratch, and schools with limited ability to scratch cook, due to staffing, equipment or cost challenges, are using higher quality pre-prepared foods.  Food companies have been using leaner meats, more whole grains and less salt and sugar to make the pre-prepared foods served in schools healthier than ever.  These days, baked sweet potato “fries” or wedges are common choices, while school pizza is often served on whole grain crust with low-fat cheese and low-sodium sauce.  Meanwhile, local dairies have been working with school nutrition programs to reduce the fat and sugar in flavored milk choices, which leading health and nutrition organizations support keeping in schools.  

These changes are being achieved through the perseverance of school nutrition professionals who must contend with paltry budgets, burdensome regulations, strict food safety standards or insufficient equipment and support.  Often, critics of school nutrition programs and advocates for healthier food choices fail to acknowledge these cost constraints and the complexity of the rules governing the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. 

Over the next several weeks, School Nutrition Association will issue a series of articles highlighting the School Food Revolution occurring nationwide and the ways schools have raised the bar for school meals.


SNA, (http://www.schoolnutrition.org ) the School Nutrition Association, is a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 53,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country. Founded in 1946, the Association and its members are dedicated to feeding children safe and nutritious meals.

 

 

 

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