Friday, May 22, 2009

Is there a free lunch?

I wanted to pass along this article from Gourmet online about the Red Cloud Indian School, their history of food self-sufficiency and the path to their current lunch service under the National School Lunch Program. I think the author does a good job of describing the complexity around things like child labor issues under the old system and decisions based on what’s available through the commodity program in the new system. I think it’s worth a read.

One interesting passage challenges a common belief that cutting out unhealthy snacks and vending machines will reduce revenue in schools, or that they’ll just bring snacks from somewhere else:

“Then, three years ago, Red Cloud administrators made the difficult decision to eliminate soda pop, candy, and processed snacks in campus vending machines, and that had expensive repercussions. “Our high school students used to hang out in their lounge eating chips and soda for lunch,” explains school superintendent Robert Brave Heart Sr. “When we took out the machines, those students starting showing up in the cafeteria, and that increased the number of lunches we had to provide every day.”

(Note that for the article presents increased lunch participation was an increased expense for the school, but for most, increased participation means more reimbursable lunches, more paid lunches sold, and more money to put back into improving the lunch program)

The article mentions Senator Harkin and the Farm Bill, but doesn’t bring up the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR). The CNR is the federal law that is updated every five years and is where the nutrition guidelines and reimbursement rates for the National School Lunch Program are set, among other child nutrition decisions. It is currently being debated and hearings are being held in DC now.

The National Farm-to-School Network has partnered with Community Food Security Coalition and School Food FOCUS to summarize the Farm to School Initiatives and their policy priorities for the current Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Some of their priorities are specifically to support farm to school programs, and others are for general improvement of the lunch program by higher reimbursement amounts, funding food service training, strengthening nutrition standards and improved nutrition education. Their document “Nourishing the Nation One Tray at a Time” contains a good overview and history of farm to school, the Child Nutrition Act and then outlines the policy priorities to make it easy for people to contact their legislators to make their opinions known.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A garden grows

'Classroom in Bloom' is a half acre garden shared by two schools in Winthrop. The garden lets the students (K-12) experience growing their own food and the cycles of food production hands on. The teachers have incorporated the whole gardening experience into the curriculum which increases the learning and gardening aspects for everyone.
Anaka Mines and Lexi Koch are the founders and co-coordinators of the program, which has been supported by the schools since the spring of 2004. Participation in the garden means young people can experience the satisfaction of working with the soil, understand the pleasure and disappointment of caring for a garden that produces food - from preparing and enriching the soil to planting and nurturing the plant to harvesting and consuming to converting the waste back into the soil.
There is a wonderful video on their web page that recounts a lot of their philosopies and experiences.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Gardening tips

Although many may have already seen this article from Seattle’s Child magazine last fall, it has a wealth of information about the process of making a school garden. Eric Boutin, Auburn’s child nutrition services director, was interviewed about the challenges that he and other Washington school districts face as they strive to “eat local”: The interview is a blueprint and a must-read both for schools that want to start a garden and for others that would like to take advantage of his wealth of knowledge. The merits of the garden for community relations, better food, parent involvement, and school learning opportunities as well as the common pitfalls of contacting farms and securing financial support are all touched upon here.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Cafeteria Trays

For colleges, ditching the tray may reduce impulsive choices and overeating and encourage students to take fewer sugary drinks, in addition to saving money for foodservice! It also improves the cafeteria atmosphere, making it feel more like home. This article from the New York Times examines the latest college cafeteria fashion and where it's happening.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Senate bill on competitive foods in schools.

A recently introduced federal bill, Senate (S.) 934, from Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and eight bipartisan co-sponsors, regarding competitive foods in schools is the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act. It would improve the school lunch and breakfast programs by updating nutrition standards for foods and beverages sold outside of school meals. It would establish minimum nutrition standards and prohibit the sale of food of minimal nutritional value, as defined by the Secretary of Agriculture, in areas where school meals are sold or eaten.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Peninsula and South Sound Farm-to-Table Regional Workshop

There's a great event coming up next Monday, May 11th, to bring together farmers with potential buyers for their food. As farm-to-school programs become more popular, I hear from many school nutrition services directors and buyers that they love the idea of supporting local farms and providing more fresh food for their students, but are having trouble finding farms to buy from. This event will provide a friendly, fun and casual venue for meeting with farms and learning about local purchasing.

It's the Peninsula and South Sound Farm-to-Table Regional Workshop at the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton, WA from 12:30-5pm, attendance is free.

Light refreshments will be provided by local farms.

We invite you to strengthen our local food system by connecting farmers with buyers and discussing new market opportunities.

Contact Information: Mark McIntyre

New grants available - Concept papers due May 21st

The WSDA has announced $2.5 million is available in grants for specialty crops. The grants will be given to projects that aim to enhance the production of and access to Washington specialty crops. Specialty crops are defined by USDA as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).
They are looking for concept papers now. If you have an idea and want to apply this link at the WSDA website gives all the details. Since the initial concept papers are due May 21st, there isn’t much time, but the process is relatively easy and we would be glad to help If your project is chosen you will have additional time to complete the solicitation process.
If you have any questions or require clarification send an email to

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cereal helps brain

A Telegraph article reports that eating cereal can boost brain power. A study conducted by Kings College London has shown that cereal is quite beneficial for breakfast. Long reputed as the most important meal of the day, these finding show that within that, cereal is actually the best breakfast choice.
In the study some children were given a glucose drink, and others cereal, and others no breakfast at all. Those that got cereal fared significantly better.
Dr Katerina Campbell, one of the researchers, said: "Breakfast cereal consumption has a potentially significant role in improving morning cognitive performance."