School Breakfast Trends, Peanut Allergy Facts and Keeping Students Safe

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According to the Food and Research Action Center’s February 2020 Breakfast Scorecard, “14.6 million children ate breakfast at school on an average day in the 2018–2019 school year.” This is an increase of over 46,000 students per day from the previous year. Much of the growth has been outside of the traditional before-school breakfast in the cafeteria – using a variety of alternative models including breakfast in the classroom, grab-and-go breakfast carts/kiosks, and mid-morning breakfast breaks. Changes in location have led to changes in menus with increases in self-stable, packaged, and easier-to-transport items. While there is nothing inherently wrong with packaged foods (which must meet National School Breakfast Program regulations), some districts are struggling with the perception of school breakfast as lots of sugars and other carbs.

School Breakfast Trends: The expectations and perceptions of student customers, especially teenagers, is also changing. Based on the breakfast choices they enjoy in fast food and quick-serve locations, they expect to also see options like protein boxes, grain bowls and fruit smoothies at school. Savvy school nutrition directors are upping their breakfast game to be more restaurant-like with everything from omelet bars and overnight oats to homemade cinnamon rolls and specialty parfaits. Many of these new school breakfast items are specifically created to decrease sugar while enhancing protein content. Looking for ways to make breakfast stick, school chefs are focusing on the right balance of protein, fat and fiber.

PB&J Greek Yogurt Parfait https://healthyschoolrecipes.com/recipes/pbj-greek-yogurt-parfait/

The Peanut Butter Solution: With those criteria, it is not surprising that the “peanut butter solution” comes to mind. Peanut butter is popular with students and is an affordable source of protein with healthy plant-based fiber (6% DV) and good fats. Peanut butter is also very versatile from a culinary standpoint – easy-to-use in baked goods, blended items and spreadable applications. However peanut is one of the top eight food allergens so schools must implement strategies to keep students with allergies safe at school. While some studies estimate that 2% of children are allergic to peanuts, the good news is that as many as 20% of peanut allergies may be outgrown, while new treatments are being developed and tested. The peanut industry wants everyone with allergies to be safe so they support the latest research and resources at Prevent Peanut Allergies.org.

Keeping Students Safe: The goal of school breakfast is to offer as many healthy, appealing food options to as many students as possible, while ensuring that all customers with food allergies are protected. Three important ways to accomplish this goal are:

  • Training: Ensure that all nutrition staff receive regular training on all food allergies. Everyone who works with food or in the cafeteria needs to know how to avoid cross-contamination and how to recognize food allergy reactions.
  • Planning: Careful planning is the key to preventing problems. Each student with a food allergy should have an individualized plan that include school foodservice, nurses, classroom staff and coaches.
  • Labeling: Make certain that all products containing an allergen are clearly labelled with text, photo or colors, as appropriate for the age and reading level of students. Check any new products and recipes for proper labeling. 

Need helping with ideas, webinars, training videos and more? Visit Managing Peanut Allergies and click on the schools section. You can also visit the School Nutrition Association’s Food Allergy Resource Center.

Peanut butter granola bars https://healthyschoolrecipes.com/recipes/peanut-butter-granola-bar/

Peanut Butter Recipes: Delicious peanut butter recipes for school breakfast are available through a variety of sources, including the USDA Recipe Box, state department of education resources and Healthy School Recipes.  

Peanut Butter Vanilla Yogurt Dip: https://www.nationalpeanutboard.org/recipes/schools/peanut-butter-vanilla-yogurt-dip.htm

This blog post is sponsored by the National Peanut Board. Learn more about the benefits and practicalities of serving peanut products in K-12 at PeanutsinSchools.org.

California Cling Peaches: Delicious, Convenient and Kid-Friendly

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As we wrap up National Canned Food Month and look forward to National School Breakfast Week, I want to tell you what I learned on a tour of California peach country last summer. So what is the connection between canned foods, school meals and orchard visits?

The answer is really simple, smart and delicious: California Cling Peaches (#client) are picked at peak freshness and packed into recyclable steel cans within 24 hours of leaving the trees, meaning that canned peaches offer an out-of-orchard flavor when local fruit is not in season. Popular with kids, canned California peaches can also help school nutrition programs lower costs and reduce waste at mealtimes, including school breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner.

Peach Orange and other smoothies from Eisenberg and Castle Hills Elementary, Colonial School District, Delaware

Let’s explore what canned California Cling Peaches can do to make to National School Breakfast Week #FreshAsCANBe in any school nutrition program. March is a marvelous month to celebrate school breakfast (as well as Read Across America and Dr. Seuss’s birthday) – but US-grown fresh peaches are still at least two months away. No worries – canned peaches are perfect for breakfast parfaits and smoothies. They can also make tasty toppings for pancakes, waffles and French toast sticks. Peach cobblers and crisps are always popular – and if you want to get really innovative, be like Chef Becca from Minneapolis Public Schools Culinary & Wellness Services. When faced with lots of leftover cinnamon rolls due to a schedule miscommunication, she added canned fruit and created a Cinnamon Roll Breakfast Bake with Warmed Spiced Peaches. That’s a win-win-win for hungry students, school breakfast and reducing food waste.

Honestly, I see cans of California Cling Peaches almost every time I visit a school kitchen. They are often on the menu – but always in the storeroom because, as my colleague and fellow RD Neva Cochran says, they are Convenient, Affordable and Nutritious. The affordability of canned fruit allows Chad Elliot in Decorah, Iowa, schools to BuyAmerican.EveryoneWins. His schools then have the budget to serve local hamburger on a house-made bun, with local onions, cucumbers and milk, along with plenty of other veggies. Large districts, like those in the Urban School Food Alliance struggle with aging buildings and schools without kitchens. Canned fruits also help these schools with budgeting, With canned peaches as a fruit serving, Philadelphia Public Schools can serve Chicken Cheese Steak on authentic, local Philly Amoroso’s Bakery sub rolls!

Lunch trays from Decorah Community Schools, Iowa (L) and Philadelphia Public Schools, Pennsylvania

During much of the year, canned California Cling Peaches can be an even better choice than fresh fruit. For fall seasonal celebrations like Halloween and Thanksgiving, fresh USA peaches are unavailable but canned peaches are the perfect color and flavor. Layered with canned pineapple and yogurt, parfaits like these are student favorites for school breakfast, lunch and supper. When I toured California peach orchards last summer, I enjoyed the perfect flavor and texture of just picked fruit. I also saw how quickly those same peaches are packed in light syrup or 100% fruit juice to maintain as much of the fresh-picked quality as possible. When districts BuyAmerican.EveryoneWins. canned fruit from California orchards, the products are easy to store and handle, consistently high in quality and have little or no waste.

California Cling peaches on the tree and canned peaches in Yogurt Parfaits, Austin ISD, Austin, Texas

Include plenty of California Cling Peaches on your USDA Foods purchases for 2020-2021—because when you BuyAmerican.EveryoneWins. The best way to help students learn to love fruits and vegetables is to always #HaveAPlant! Questions? Answers: Buy American Provision Toolkit at https://californiaclingpeaches.com/buy-american

Donna Martin’s #FarmtoSchool Success in Burke County, Georgia

2017-04 Policy To Plate Donna

Donna Martin, EdS, RDN, LD, SNS, addresses the 2016 Policy to Plate meeting in Washington, DC

On June 1, 2017, Donna Martin, EdS, RDN, LD, SNS, FAND, became President of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. In this prestigious volunteer position Donna will lead over 100,000 credentialed practitioners including registered dietitian nutritionists, dietetic technicians, registered, and other dietetics professionals, into the second century of the Academy – focused on a global vision of “A world where all people thrive through the transformative power of food and nutrition.”

Donna’s day job is equally important: She is Director of the School Nutrition Program for Burke County Public Schools, Georgia. Donna’s passionate belief in the transformative power of nutrition is deeply felt in Burke County, which has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the US. She has brought local produce – and local whole grain grits – into the cafeterias and started farmers markets for families and school staff. Her work to transform school nutrition in rural Georgia was recognized the White House and, in April 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama and Al Roker visited Burke Middle School to help plant the school garden. Her efforts to reduce food waste and support local farmers were recognized with top honors in the 2016 Georgia Organics Gold Radish Awards.

I was fortunate to visit Burke County Schools in April 2017 to personally see (and taste) the fruits (and veggies) of Donna Martin’s labors. My day started with a delicious grab-n-go breakfast Yogurt Parfait featuring blueberries, strawberries and bananas at Burke County Middle School, followed by a classroom Charlie Cart nutrition-cooking lesson. The fourth graders made delicious mini-strawberry shortcakes from scratch – with local berries, of course. My next stop was the best – a Georgia Grown lunch at Waynesboro Primary School, featuring local White Acre peas, collards, strawberries, cornbread, chicken and milk. This was Southern school food at its best and, if you are ever near Waynesboro, Georgia, I highly recommend that you visit for lunch.

Waynesboro Lunch

Waynesboro Elementary School Georgia Grown School Lunch

Donna Martin has long been a role model for everyone in the Georgia School Nutrition Association. Now she is an inspiration to all Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics members who want to be actively involved in transforming food systems across the country and around the world.

You can follow Harvest Bright, Burke County’s Farm to School Program on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.