31 Days of #RealSchoolFood: @SchoolLunch now served in Twitterverse

A mere 12 months ago you would have been hard pressed to find #SchoolLunch on Twitter. The School Nutrition Association has been tweeting from @SchoolLunch since August 2008 and they have an impressive 20,600+ followers and nearly 5,600 tweets to show for it.

One of the most recent #SchoolLunch tweeters is @FTStarExpress from Star Express Child Nutrition Department, Indianapolis, Indiana. While they only have 18 followers and 50 tweets, they has destined for great things based on the photo they tweeted today of their holiday food displays. WOW is pretty much all we can say!

Great job with tweet + photo

Great job with tweet + photo

@FTStarExpress is definitely smart to tweet photos. A 2013 study of random selected tweets revealed that ones with photos were almost TWICE as like to be retweeted. @AmyNichols15, School Food Director in South Haven, Michigan, has been serving #RealSchoolFood on Twitter with some great photos. Here’s what was on the #SchoolBreakfast cart this morning!

Great 'action' shot of a #SchoolBreakfast cart

Great ‘action’ shot of a #SchoolBreakfast cart

Sharon Schaefer, SNS (and classically trained chef) tweeting @westside_lunch for Westside High School, Omaha, Nebraska, has been doing a great job with eye-appealing #SchoolLunch meals that are worthy of an upscale bistro. She now has 338 tweets and 142 followers – with more to come soon, we are certain!

Mandarin Salad Lunch in Westside Cafe, Westside High School, Omaha, Nebraska

Mandarin Salad Lunch in Westside Cafe, Westside High School, Omaha, Nebraska

Since there’s no way to show ALL the #SchoolLunch Twitter accounts that we follow here, we’ve created a TWITTER LIST of all the #RealSchoolFood folks. It is called, not surprisingly, RealSchoolFood – you can subscribe by going to this link: https://twitter.com/SchoolMealsRock/lists/realschoolfood. Hope to meet you for #SchoolLunch in the Twitterverse!

31 days of #RealSchoolFood: Pinterest is THE Place

Every time there’s a wave of ‘bad school lunch’ photos, like #ThanksMichelleObama (which mostly backfired due to a poor choice of hashtags), people look to School Meals That Rock to respond. Now, thanks to our packed Pinterest page, we can! Thanks to lots of photos from across the USA, we now have 86 boards, 2,618 pins and 1,618 followers.

While we are proud of these numbers, we are not just trying to brag. School food Pinterest boards, like ours, can be incredibly useful when promoting #RealSchoolFood. Just today, a client wanted to know what school salad bars look like, so I directed her to our board School SALAD BARS That Rock. There she could see 40 colorful produce bars in schools from Washington state to Florida. (You could use this page to get some inspiration for upping the game on your local salad bar too!)

School Meals That Rock PINTEREST, School SALAD BARS That Rock (12-2014)

School Meals That Rock PINTEREST, School SALAD BARS That Rock (12-2014)

Or say someone asked you about the fruit choices available in schools? Our most recent pin is the incredible fruit display you see below from one of our district boards CANYONS SCHOOL DISTRICT, Utah, Rocks. This district, along with 17 others and The John Stalker Institute (Massachusetts) have boards on our page. They can pin photos directly to the board and then share their unique URL, like this one for Gooding Idaho Schools (www.pinterest.com/schoolmealsrock/gooding-idaho-school-meals-that-rock/) with their customers and colleagues.

High School Fruit Prep, Canyons School District, Utah

High School Fruit Prep, Canyons School District, Utah

If you’d like a board on School Meals That Rock Pinterest page, send an email to SchoolMealsThatRock@gmail.com WITH the email address used in your Pinterest account. We’ll get you set up with a board asap and you can pin away.

The good news is School Meals That Rocks is not the only Pinterest page in the school food game. Here are three recommendations – if you know of others that we should be following, please let us know.

Dear Katie Couric: Let’s Do School Lunch

Dear Katie Couric,

My friends and I would like to invite you to lunch in some very trendy, very healthy – but clearly undiscovered – dining rooms around the country. We heard your recent Good Morning America comments that “50% of school districts serve junk food for lunch, fast food for lunch. Kids are getting terrible choices.” We are delighted to tell you that nothing could be farther from the truth.

The real news about school lunch is that 30+ million students enjoy amazing choices every day. Thanks to the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, dedicated school nutrition professionals and thousands of health, nutrition and community partners, kids now have access to a truly amazing variety of:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, sometimes organic, often local or even ‘hyper-local’ – straight from school garden
  • Whole grains, including quinoa, brown rice and other gluten-free options, as well as freshly baked whole wheat rolls and whole grain pizza crusts
  • Lean proteins like hummus, black bean salad and grilled tofu, boat-to-school salmon in Alaska and Montana beef for Montana schools
  • Delicious dairy products, such as Greek yogurt parfaits, berry smoothies and artisan cheeses, in addition to low-fat/fat-free milk at every meal

But, please don’t take our word for it. Come see the amazing variety and taste the deliciousness that is school lunch in America today. We’re so sorry that the Fed Up researchers did not dig deeper into the revolution in schools meals (breakfast, lunch, snacks and suppers) growing in thousands of districts.

School Nutrition Professionals make daily salads. El Monte City Schools, California (May 2014)

El Monte City Schools, California: School nutrition professionals make daily salads (May 2014)

Here are a few tasty tidbits showing how well fed our children are in schools today:

  • USDA Farm to School Census: In USDA’s most recent survey (SY 2011-12) schools invested $354,599,266 in local economies by purchasing local foods.
  • National Farm to School Network: More than 1,000 local food champions recently met in Austin to celebrate and ‘power up’ for expanding programs.
  • USDA HealthierUS School Challenge: 6,730 schools in 49 states and DC have met rigorous nutrition and physical activity criteria for these awards.
  • Food Corps: This nationwide team of 140 passionate service members and fellows in 108 sites connects kids to real food to help them grow up healthy.
  • Chefs Move to Schools: Hundreds of chefs now work in school programs, as directors, leaders and regular volunteers to train staff and energize kids.
  • Salad Bars Move to Schools: 1.7+ million students are eating up produce packed into 3,400+ new salad bars donated to schools from coast to coast.
  • CIA Healthy Kids: The nation’s top chefs offer culinary resources to schools so they can continue serving tasty, appealing, nutritious food to children.
  • Vermont FEED: This is one example of regional efforts with a nationwide reach to provide nutrition education and culinary training to schools.
Portland Public Schools (OR): Local grilled Asparagus on Whole Wheat Pizza Crust (May 2014)

Portland Public Schools (OR): Local grilled Asparagus on Whole Wheat Pizza Crust (May 2014)

Many of us have admired your work for years – and now we would like to share ours with you! Lunch is on us – we just want you to see, and more importantly taste, the amazing changes being served up in America’s school kitchens and dining areas.

You name the date and location – and we will be there to show you how hard School Nutrition Association members work to ensure that children are well nourished and ready to learn!

Sincerely,

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

President
Nutrition for the Future, Inc.
Billings, MT 59102

MOBILE:    406-698-8868  
EMAIL: EatWellatSchool@gmail.com
FACEBOOK: School Meals That Rock                                                                TWITTER: @SchoolMealsRock                                                                                  

 

 

School Breakfast Makes Sense for School Success

As a mom, registered dietitian (RD) and national school nutrition expert, I’ve been a broken-record about breakfast for decades. I can honestly say that I talk about breakfast at school in every one of the many presentations I give every year from coast-to-coast. The reasons are both simple and profound:

  • Breakfast helps fuel smart brains by improving students’ ability to focus and pay attention in class. Hungry children cannot listen to their teachers because they are listening to their stomachs. A 2012 Share Our Strength survey reported that 3 out of 5 teachers say they have “children in their classrooms who regularly come to school hungry.”
  • Breakfast helps build strong bodies by providing nutrients most American children are currently missing. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identified four nutrients of concern – calcium, vitamin D, potassium and fiber. A nutrient-rich school breakfast helps students grow strong and play hard – and it turns out that physical activity also helps them perform better in the classroom.
Erza enjoys breakfast in the classroom, Minneapolis, MN

Erza enjoys breakfast in the classroom, Minneapolis, MN

Schools across the Midwest are serving up breakfast to thousands of hungry kids every day in school cafeterias, classrooms, and even hallways – where students can pick up a nutrient-rich, grab-n-go breakfast to kick-start their morning. It’s been such a pleasure to work with Midwest Dairy Association’s School Nutrition Institute this year, helping school nutrition professionals learn creative ways to revitalize breakfast so that every student is ready to learn in the classroom.

National School Breakfast Week – March 4 through 8, 2013 – is the perfect time to find out what’s happening with school breakfast in your community. I know you’ll be impressed with the quick, simple, delicious choices – like yogurt parfaits with fruit and granola, whole grain cereal with low-fat milk and fresh fruit, or breakfast burritos with eggs and cheese. It’s so reassuring to know that school breakfast programs across the Midwest are dedicated to building smart brains and strong bodies for school success.

Breakfast Bar in Parkside Elementary, Grants Pass, OR

Breakfast Bar in Parkside Elementary, Grants Pass, OR

Originally published on Midwest Dairy’s blog, Dairy Makes Sense on Monday, March 4, 2013

Being a BFF of Child Nutrition

Receiving the Friend of Child Nutrition Silver FAME Award from SNA is one of the greatest honors of my professional career. As is the case with any honor, I believe that this one comes with serious responsibility.

Ever since I found out about this FAME award last fall, I‘ve been thinking about how to be the best possible friend of Child Nutrition Programs moving into 2012 . It’s sure to be an intense year – with the new USDA meal patterns, more rule proposals in the pipeline, and continued scrutiny from all sides of the childhood health debate.

To be perfectly honest, I toyed with the idea of giving up my work in child nutrition to reinvent myself as a yoga teacher or dog whisperer. By the end of 2011, I was really worn down by the pizza-as-vegetable food fight, the ongoing debate over flavored milk, and the whole war on childhood obesity.

So, I have taken a few weeks to thoughtfully consider the issues, as well as my own beliefs and actions. I asked myself tough questions about my work with the food industry, my laser focus on the positives in school meals, and – frankly – my own deaf ear to some foods reformers. Although I didn’t always like the answers that I found, I did find my own, independent way through this very divisive – and very important – issue.

First, while I firmly believe that reasonable people can disagree, IMHO the current battle mentality and war analogies are not in the best interest of our children’s future.  I believe that our children deserve our best efforts to work together – as school nutrition professionals, school food reformers, school food manufacturers, and school food regulators. Only by reaching across the divides among us can we find solutions for School Meals That Rock – in all districts across the US – given the realistic limitations on resources of money, time, and space.

So, here is my simple manifesto for 2012 – to be the BFF for Child Nutrition that I can. I promise to:

Consider all the evidence.

  • I promise to look carefully at the science as well as the passion for change. I will share my own views and potential conflicts of interest as honestly as possible.
  • While vigorously supporting outstanding programs, I will also document ways to implement changes in those districts where school meals definitely don’t rock.

Search for common ground.

  • Both the letter and spirit of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and new USDA regulations for meal patterns and competitive foods are critical for kids.
  • Given the realities of federal, state, and local budgets, it is going to take creative collaboration to implement changes in school food programs.

Celebrate every success.

  • School Meals That Rock started as a way to showcase the amazing everyday things that school nutrition heroes are already doing – that will continue.
  • With additional School Meals That Rock formats like this blog and Twitter, I will be able to share more in-depth information with more diverse audiences.

So, thanks for your likes and follows, but most of all, thanks for everything you do for kids. The most important reason for expanding School Meals That Rock is to offer even more ways for you to share the wonderful things that are happening in your school.