Oak & Acorn: Kale Chips for Kids (and their Adults too!)

Garden Snacks, Kids and Kale

Kale also is really beneficial for our health. It’s high in Vitamin A, C and K. It’s high in calcium, rich in iron and packed with antioxidants… and make delicious cheesy kale chips! (Photo credit: Leslie Lynn Lucio)

It’s mid-October and things are starting to dwindle down in our plot at the community garden. We’ve been very well nourished from all the vegetables and herbs that we have grown. We have made so many jars of tomato sauce and have dried lots of herbs for the winter months. We have also eaten countless meals from the food we have grown. Western Massachusetts has such healthy and amazing soil that the things we plant always seem to promise us a good harvest. In return, we give great appreciation…

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5 Solutions to Packing a Waste-Free Lunch

Back-to-School with a Waste-Free Lunch

According to wastefreelunches.org, families can save nearly $250 per year PER PERSON just by packing a waste-free lunch! That’s $1,000 a year for a family of four!

You know that time between Memorial Day and Labor Day they call Summer?  It came and went so fast!  And now here we are again, with children preparing to go back-to-school, school buses slowing down morning commutes, and a buzz of conversation about after-school classes, where to find non-toxic school supplies, and idea swapping on the age old dilemma … what to pack for your kids lunch.  Just this past week I put a PB&J sandwich into my daughter’s PVC free sandwich bag for her first packed school lunch of the year… and she turned her nose up at it!  What’s a mom to do?

Solutions to what to pack for lunch are many, but what about a waste-free lunch? You know, a lunch that’s not filled with lunch-size-that or mini-this that build up your grocery bill (and landfill!). According to WasteFreeLunches.org, families can save nearly $250 per year per person just by packing a waste-free lunch.  With that thought in mind, I looked online to see what PVC-free products I could find that would help me pack a waste-free lunch.  Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: 6 Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

QUESTION AND ANSWERS

PB&J. Cheese stick. Yogurt. – (Snore!) – Does your inner chef have a fresh, creative idea to share for our back-to-school, lunch toting kids?

  • Leslie Lynn suggests, “Hummus and carrots, yum! Seaweed strips! Homemade granola bars!”
  • Hannah Monroe Litchfield suggests, “My kids love tortillas with just about anything rolled inside. Cream cheese and ham, hummus and lettuce, turkey and cheese, or Yes, even PB&J.”
  • Jessica Grant suggests, “Vegetarian sushi rolls are a big hit here!”
  • Beth Caissie suggests, “Peach leather made from Clarkdale Farm peaches the 1st day of school.”
  • Lauren Abend suggests, “Crunchy kale.”
  • Amy Kane-Coyne suggests, “Radiatori pasta tossed with (locally made) Ooma Tesaro Mariara (had to give a shout out–especially since Jackson–my picky eater–who does not like tomatoes–loves the Oomas).

[Photo credit: (ccl) Sean Kelly]

Act Now to Promote Healthy School Nutrition

The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts writes:

This Thursday, the State House will consider legislation that seeks to increase healthy and locally grown foods in schools across the Commonwealth. We need your voice now to encourage our Western Massachusetts representatives to support this bill. Children deserve healthy food choices at school!

Click HERE to learn more and act now.

Higher Financial Federal Support to Schools Serving Fresh Fruits, Veggies, Whole Grains

USDA Backs Rewarding Schools Serving Healthy Food
By Christopher Doering

Officials at the USDA are updating the nutrition and meal requirements used for school meals. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Schools that serve more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to pupils should see higher federal support rates than those serving less-healthier meals loaded with high fats and sugar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Tuesday. Child nutrition programs, which include school lunch and breakfast, are due for an overhaul but Congress is not expected to act before 2010. The government has targeted improving the nutritional quality and access to school meals amid rising child obesity rates.

“It is important for us to reward top performers,” Vilsack told the Senate Agriculture Committee. “We would encourage this committee and the Congress to take a look at reimbursement rates that would be linked directly to increased nutritional values.”

He did not suggest how large the bonus should be. Schools get $2.88 in cash and Agriculture Department-provided food for each lunch meal served for free to poor children this school year. School meal programs provide an estimated 40 million meals daily and more than half the student’s food intake during the school day. Students can receive free or subsidized meals if their family’s income is low enough. Some $16.9 billion was allotted for child nutrition in the fiscal year that opened on October 1, up $1.9 million from fiscal 2008.

Obesity rates among U.S. children have doubled in the last 20 years, and almost a third of American children are either overweight or obese. The epidemic of obesity is linked to a host of health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln told Vilsack she was willing to pay more to serve healthier foods.

Read more at Reuters.com

TAKE ACTION: “Back to School with Better Milk” Day of Action

Today is “Back to School with Better Milk” Day of Action

Our kids deserve the healthiest food possible, and parents deserve to have a say in what their kids eat. Milk is a staple for many of our nation’s youngsters, and it’s crucial that the milk served in schools be safe, healthy and free of artificial hormones. The artificial growth hormone rBGH is on its way out. Consumers are rejecting it at the marketplace, and many stores have stopped selling it completely. Now we need to make sure our public-school children have the same choice.

On September 16th, 2009 we’re having our first annual National “Know Your Milk” Day of Action to urge our Congressional Representatives to make the right choice for our kids, our cows and our future. Calls are easy to make and will make a big difference! Can you take 30 seconds now and make a call?

  • To find out how you can take action go HERE.

Revolutionize Your School Lunch Program

Lunch Room Updates

School Lunch Updates:

Lunch Lessons by Ann Cooper.  Remember how simple school lunches used to be? Youd have something from every major food group, run around the playground for a while, and you looked and felt fine. But today its not so simple. Schools are actually feeding the American crisis of childhood obesity and malnutrition. Most cafeterias serve a veritable buffet of processed, fried, and sugary foods, and although many schools have attempted to improve, they are still not measuring up: 78 percent of the school lunch programs in America do not meet the USDAs nutritional guidelines.  Chef Ann Cooper has emerged as one of the nations most influential and most respected advocates for changing how our kids eat. In fact, she is something of a renegade lunch lady, minus the hairnet and scooper of mashed potatoes. Ann has worked to transform cafeterias into culinary classrooms. In Lunch Lessons, she and Lisa Holmes spell out how parents and school employees can help instill healthy habits in children.  They explain the basics of good childhood nutrition and suggest dozens of tasty, home-tested recipes for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. The pages are also packed with recommendations on how to eliminate potential hazards from the home, bring gardening and composting into daily life, and how to support businesses that provide local, organic food.  Yet learning about nutrition and changing the way you run your home will not cure the plague of obesity and poor health for this generation of children. Only parental activism can spark widespread change. With inspirational examples and analysis, Lunch Lessons is more than just a recipe book—it gives readers the tools to transform the way children everywhere interact with food.

"Lunch Lessons" by Ann Cooper.

How the USDA Helped Bring Processed Food to School Lunch

Most adults don’t have glorious memories of school lunch. It was sloppy Joes, shepherd’s pie, spaghetti with meat sauce, and it was usually on the bland side. But the food wasn’t bad, and it was almost always cooked from scratch by an army of school lunch ladies. Read more at School Lunch Talk.

Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children

Remember how simple school lunches used to be? You’d have something from every major food group, run around the playground for a while, and you looked and felt fine. But today it’s not so simple. Schools are actually feeding the American crisis of childhood obesity and malnutrition. Most cafeterias serve a veritable buffet of processed, fried, and sugary foods, and although many schools have attempted to improve, they are still not measuring up: 78 percent of the school lunch programs in America do not meet the USDA’s nutritional guidelines. Chef Ann Cooper has emerged as one of the nation’s most influential and most respected advocates for changing how our kids eat.

In Lunch Lessons, she and Lisa Holmes spell out how parents and school employees can help instill healthy habits in children. They explain the basics of good childhood nutrition and suggest dozens of tasty, home-tested recipes for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. The pages are also packed with recommendations on how to eliminate potential hazards from the home, bring gardening and composting into daily life, and how to support businesses that provide local, organic food. Yet learning about nutrition and changing the way you run your home will not cure the plague of obesity and poor health for this generation of children. Only parental activism can spark widespread change. With inspirational examples and analysis, Lunch Lessons is more than just a recipe book—it gives readers the tools to transform the way children everywhere interact with food.

American Lunchroom: A Photo Essay

Check out American Lunchroom for a photo essay of what our kids are eating at school: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  Viewers are invited to send in a photo of what their school lunch looks like too.

TAKE ACTION: Healthy, Local & Organic School Food

Healthy, Local & Organic School Food Now

School food: It’s never had a reputation for being good, but these days, it’s downright unhealthy. Obesity and a host of diet-related diseases are linked to the school lunch menu, which is loaded with over-processed starches, fats, genetically modified ingredients, and meats laced with hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Squeezed into buying on the cheap, school districts buy milk that has been produced with the use of genetically-modified bovine growth hormone and beef that gets recalled for the E. coli contamination that is inevitable in factory farm operations where corn-fed cattle wade in their own waste all the way to the slaughterhouse. Very few vitamin-rich fresh fruits and vegetables are part of the lunch menu, even though it’s universally understood this is the key to improving childhood and long-term health.

The 2009 Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act is an opportunity to change what kids eat at school and raise a generation of kids who understand good nutrition and value locally produced, fresh, organic food.

Obama’s New Chef Skewers School Lunches

Obama’s New Chef Skewers School Lunches

Before he agreed to cook for the Obama family in the White House, Chicago chef Sam Kass was already talking about changing the way American children eat.

During weekly Tuesday gatherings at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago, Mr. Kass hosted “Rethinking Soup,” which he described as “a communal event where we will eat delicious, healthy soup and have fresh, organic conversation about many of the urgent social, cultural, economic and environmental food issues that we should be addressing.”

In May, over a meal of locally-produced beef and barley soup, Mr. Kass lamented the sorry state of the National School Lunch Program, which provides low-cost or free lunches to schoolchildren. He noted that what gets served up to kids is influenced by government agricultural subsidies. As a result, he says, meals served to students are low in vegetables and disproportionately high in fat, additives, preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup. (He also links the high consumption of sugary foods and food additives to learning difficulties and attention deficit disorder, although the medical community remains divided on that issue.) …

Read more at NYTimes.com.

Encourage Oprah to Support Healthy School Lunches

Amy Kalafa of Two Angry Moms writes:

Recently, Oprah did a couple of shows focusing on the emotional toll of childhood obesity. The shows were touching, powerful, and an important step in rethinking how we nourish our kids.

We want Oprah to broaden this discussion to address the need to fundamentally change how we feed kids in America both in school and at home. We want to extend the conversation beyond obesity and diabetes and delve into the impact of poor nutrition on learning capacity, cognitive function, social adaptability, behavior issues, and general health and wellness. Even more importantly, we want to spark action to effect meaningful change in the school food environment to enhance our collective ability to create healthy, well-adjusted, thriving children.

Please take a moment to reach out to Oprah. Let her know we want to fill her audience with Angry Moms working to ignite the kind of positive change that will sustain our kids as well as the planet they will inherit.

Go to OPRAH.com, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and click on “contact us” [it’s in small print at the very bottom]. Under the heading “The Oprah Winfrey Show” at the middle of the page, there are prompts to either “send in your thoughts” or “send in your show suggestions.” Click on either one and encourage Oprah to join the Two Angry Moms movement and show her audience the inspiring people and programs that are already making a positive impact around the country. Let Oprah know that with her help, we can reach the tipping point in this movement.

Let’s keep our grassroots growing!

Not All School Lunches Are Created Equal

What’s For Lunch?
By CISA

As students of all ages go back to school this month, they all have one thing in common-school lunch. Not all school lunches are created equal, and some have come a long way from the days of mystery meat. As Local Hero members, several local schools and colleges are making great efforts to be sure that their students are eating healthier meals made with locally grown produce. UMass Amherst recently won the prestigious Ivy Award for excellence in food service-largely earned from their commitment to integrating fresh, local produce into the menu. Likewise, Northfield Mount Hermon, a private boarding school in Gill, not only makes it a priority to purchase locally-grown produce; they grow a portion of their cafeteria food on their school farm! At Northfield Mount Hermon, knowing where cafeteria food comes from is part of the curriculum, culture, and practice of the institution.

September 22-27th marks the second annual Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week. This week-long event is organized by the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, and is designed to highlight the work that schools all over Massachusetts are doing to serve local food to their students, and to help more schools get started serving local foods. Most schools will participate by serving up local fare and inviting local legislators and farmers to share the meal. Some schools may take field trips to local farms to find out exactly where their lunch comes from. Seeds of Solidarity Education Center, Inc. will celebrate the week by sowing 2,008 seeds in the school gardens they’ve helped to create.  Read the rest of this entry »

Local School District Offers Healthier Lunch Options

What’s for School Lunch? Making Popular Foods Nutritious for Kids
at the Gateway Regional School District

(Huntington, MA) – School meals are better then ever. Gateway kitchens are increasing the use of whole grains, lean meats, low fat cheese, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Nationwide, school nutrition professionals encourage healthy eating habits among students by offering high quality, low cost meals to over 30 million children each day.

All meals are required to meet strict standards that are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and set by the United States Department of Agriculture. Meals can contain no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and less than 10 percent from saturated fat each week.

Our schools may serve french fries, chicken nuggets or pizza. The strict standards are met because the items are baked, not fried, made with low-fat or lean ingredients and served with vegetables, fruit and other options that make each meal balanced and nutritious.

Wendy McCaul, Gateway’s Food Service Director, continually works with parents, students and other key stakeholders in the community to implement the local school wellness policy. McCaul recently attended an intense 3-day seminar “Healthy Cuisine for Kids”. The seminar was designed to promote healthier preparation practices in schools. Attendees actively participated in five culinary labs in which they worked under the direction of a professional chef to learn healthier ways of preparing food. The main focus was to “Get Back to Basics” by knowing how to prepare and serve healthful food that kids will enjoy eating. Gateway students and staff may look forward to new recipes on the menu this year that were featured in this seminar.

Gateway will participate again this year in the Massachusetts Harvest for Students week, Sept. 22-26th. This program urges schools to purchase local produce.

Parents are reminded that the new meal prices are: Breakfast $1.00 and Lunch is $1.75 for Elementary and $2.00 for MS/HS.

The Gateway staff is looking forward to a new school year!!!!!

ACT NOW: Support Healthy School Nutrition. Get Junk Food Out of MA Schools.

Support MPHA’s Efforts to
PROTECT OUR CHILDREN’S HEALTH!

House Bill 4376, An Act to Promote Proper School Nutrition

THE PROBLEM: Junk food and sugary drinks are contributing to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes among our children.

In Massachusetts, 26% of high school students are overweight or obese.

Rates of obesity among children have more than doubled in the past two decades.

Overweight children are at higher risk of developing diabetes, asthma, heart disease, depression and low self-esteem. Poor nutrition also reduces children’s ability to learn.

Children are over-eating food and drinks high in fat and sugar. One source of this problem is the sale of junk food in schools. The easy availability of candy bars, chips, and soda in school vending machines encourage unhealthy eating habits.

A SOLUTION: Healthy food choices for our children at school.

The time to prevent obesity is in childhood and schools are an excellent place to start. Children learn the habits of a lifetime in school – one of those habits should be healthy eating.

HOUSE BILL 4376, An Act to Promote Proper School Nutrition:

  • Directs the Department of Public Health (DPH) to establish healthy standards for snacks and beverages sold in vending machines, school stores, and cafeteria ala carte lines. These standards are to be in accordance with Institute of Medicine guidelines, which recommend that sodas be replaced with water, low- and non-fat milk, and juice; fat and sugar be reduced in snacks; and fresh fruits and vegetables be made available in cafeterias.
  • Establishes a Governor’s Commission on Childhood Obesity to develop a coordinated statewide plan to reduce childhood obesity.
  • Requires DPH and the Department of Education (DOE) to set guidelines for the training of school nurses to help children with diabetes and eating disorders and to collect and evaluate data on these conditions.
  • Calls for an investigation of how to make it easier for schools to purchase fresh foods from local farmers. One 20 ounce soda has 17 teaspoons of sugar and 250 “empty” calorie

ACTION: Your help is needed to pass this bill!

  • ENDORSE the bill by filling out and returning the endorsement form to MPHA (click here).
  • CONTACT your state legislators and urge them to support House Bill 4376, An Act to Pro-mote Proper School Nutrition. To determine who they are, visit www.WhereDoIVoteMA.com, or contact MPHA. Then call your legislators at the State House: (617) 722-2000.
  • SHARE copies of this fact sheet with your friends, family, and neighbors and urge them to contact their legislators.
  • ASK your school board members, PTA, church, or hospital to endorse this bill.
  • WRITE a letter to your local newspaper in support of this bill

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