Monday, April 28, 2008

Local Farms-Healthy Kids Article by WSDA's Director

Valoria Loveland will be retiring as Director of the Washington State Departmetn of Agriculture as of next Monday, but she took the time to write an article about Local Farms-Healthy Kids Act and it's benefits for the state of Washington. See it in Saturday's Yakima Herald-Republic.

Here's a quote:
It's so gratifying to find solutions and build connections to address seemingly unrelated priorities. This farm-to-school opportunity will help support the profitability of Washington farms and preserve those beautiful open spaces that we all love. And every parent knows that good habits start early. With Local Farms, Healthy Kids, we'll help young people make the right choices for a lifetime.

Friday, April 25, 2008

2 Angry Moms Coming to Seattle! (on film)

Bastyr University, Whole Foods Market of Redmond and Washington State University King County Extension Farm-to-School Connections Team have partnered to host a FREE screening of the documentary, “Two Angry Moms." Check out the film and the women behind it at

7pm, May 1st
Bastyr University Auditorium
14500 Juanita Drive, Kenmore, WA 98028
Free Admission
A panel discussion featuring local nutrition and food service experts will follow the screening.

The film addresses nutrition concern issues surrounding the food served in school cafeterias across the country and offers strategies for overcoming roadblocks to replacing unhealthy school lunch menus with nutritious meal options. A conversation about how to bring nutritious meals and fresh local food into school cafeterias will follow the screening. The panel discussion will include:

Anita Finch, Seattle Public Schools
Barb Lloyd, Edmonds School District
Elise Hart, Parent, Laurelhurt Elementary Nutrition Advisory
Pete Soucy, Bastyr University
Clayton Burrows, Growing Washington
Kerri Cechovic, WA Environmental Counsel

For more information about this event, call 206-205-3206.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Auburn School District's Fabulous Garden Project

Auburn High School has a great fruit tree and greenhouse garden project and it's in the news!

The garden project is the brainchild of Eric Boutin, School Nutrition Services Director at Auburn School District (and regular attendee of the Farm to School Connections Team meetings). Inspired by the Edible School Yard project in Berkeley, he's working with community partners like Bastyr University and Cascadian Ediuble Landscapes to make it happen. With greenhouses and a dwarf fruit tree orchard, the garden inhabits a one acre lot between Auburn High School and an elementary school. Food from the gardens will be included in school lunches. I hope this project can serve as a model for other schools--we'll watch the progress and hopefully create a more detailed case study soon!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Direct Quote from Seattle PI

The Seattle PI Editorial Board responded to the WA Post article about high food costs and school lunches. Since it's short, I'm posting it in its entirety. Enjoy!

School Lunches: It's still good food
Last updated April 15, 2008 5:24 p.m. PT

Rising food costs, which already have hit home, are going to school, too. But it's important to maintain schools' increasing emphasis on healthy eating.

A Washington Post report says some school districts are cutting costs and even switching back to less-healthy but popular fatty items for snacks. Here is the new reality: Food in general, and healthy food in particular, will cost more. That includes school lunches.

Seattle Public Schools' David Tucker said budget discussions have raised the possibility of increasing prices next year. That may well be the financially responsible course.

Just as important in our view, Tucker said there are no plans for changes in nutrition content for lunches or the exemplary rules on healthy vending products. We hope that becomes the standard across a state where the Legislature has recently approved new efforts to get fresh, local foods into cafeterias. At a time when childhood obesity threatens an explosion of health problems, cutting corners on healthier menus would be a mistake, no matter what the cost pressures.
© 1998-2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Monday, April 14, 2008

Higher Food Prices Challenge Schools' Efforts to Provide Healthier Meals

As prices for milk and other basic food items increase, schools have to make decisions and cut corners, and just at a time when movements like Farm to School and school nutrition committees are pushing for more local, fresh ingredients and less processed and ready-made food. Maria Glod writes about the concessions schools are making in the Washington, DC area as they struggle to keep lunch programs from going in the red. In her article, Schools Get A Lesson in Lunch Line Economics: Food Costs Unravel Nutrition Initiatives, she notes:
Each year Uncle Sam, in an effort to ensure the neediest children get healthy meals, gives schools a little more cash to help feed students. But school officials nationwide say the federal share hasn't kept pace with rising costs. This year, the U.S. Agriculture Department is giving schools $2.47 per lunch to serve free meals to children from the poorest families, up from $2.40 last year, a 3 percent increase. In the same time, milk prices rose about 17 percent and bread nearly 12 percent.

This serves as an excellent reminder that work at the local and state level must be balanced by support at the federal level. It may also mean that states may need to start kicking in some funds to increase budgets for food in schools. As School Nutrition Directors have told us again and again, they cannot serve healthy fresh lunches without reasonable funding.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Privatizing School Lunches is Not the Solution

A study at University of Michigan looked at the realities behind a trend toward privatizing school lunch service. The study, conducted by Roland Zullo, assistant research scientist at the U-M Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, found that private lunch services offer more selection, but the additional offerings tend to be in the categories of less nutritious foods, and this affects school performance.

...the study shows that private food service is associated with a reduction of 1 percent to 3 percent in scores on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP tests for grades 3-9), after controlling for affluence, school resources and student traits.This is especially true for students in grades 3-5 and with the English, reading and writing tests. The culprit? Private food services tend to serve more high-fat and high-sugar foods on their a la carte menu.

Schools often choose to contract with private food service companies to provide meals, hoping to save money that can then be directed to classroom education, but Zullo's study found that they don't save much at all. He also discovered that schools with privatized food service have an average of 1.1 student more per classroom. There are undoubtedly other factors at play and it's not a direct causal relationship, but as Zullo says, ".... the results do not indicate that privatizing food services liberates resources for the classroom."

Here's a link: Privatized School Food Service and Student Performance in Michigan: A Preliminary Report

Food for thought: privatizing school lunches may impair learning. University of Michigan News Service