Results tagged “Healthy School Lunch”

Next Stop: A Healthier Generation

Alex Tipton

The road to providing healthy foods in our nation's schools began in 1946 and continues today.  From its origin in the 40's, the legislation concerning school foods has been developed to regulate what schools can and cannot feed students to ensure maximum health. 

FoodMarketing-VendingMachines.jpgCracking Down on Junk Food in Schools
In 2010 the
Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act was passed, which allowed further regulation of school meals as well as a way to regulate snacks offered in schools.  The "All Foods Sold in Schools" standards released in addition to the 2010 Act mandated that vending machines and other sources of "junk foods" be unavailable to students during the school day.  Any food available to students must meet several nutrition requirements including being "whole grain-rich"; having a fruit, vegetable, dairy product, or protein as the first ingredient; containing 10% of the Daily Value of one nutrient of public health concern; and limiting calorie, sodium, fat, and sugar levels. The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act also requires schools to implement a local wellness policy to oversee healthy practices. Recently, the USDA proposed further guidelines for implementation of these wellness policies. 

Embracing Wellness on Campus
Under the proposed rule, each local educational agency participating in the school lunch program must create a written wellness policy detailing specific goals for nutrition promotion, nutrition education, physical activity, and other activities to promote student wellness. Each agency must establish leadership for the wellness policy including school officials and members of the general public must be permitted to participate in the process. The policy must ensure that each school is abiding by requirements stated under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act and the Smart Snacks in School standards. 

Next Up: No More Junk Food Marketing in Schools
Additionally, the rule limits marketing in schools to only that which promotes foods that meet the nutrition standards discussed above.  Until now, marketing has not been regulated which, some say, can undermine parents' attempts to encourage healthy choices by kids.  The idea here is to "ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices," states USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

The proposed rule is currently open for public comment specifically concerning this marketing component. The USDA wants to hear our thoughts and ideas about this.  If you wish to join the fight for a healthier school environment please make your voice heard.  The comment period will end April 28. 

Speak out about this critial issue hereLearn more about the proposed policies at

Tips for a Healthy Halloween

Jenna White

Gracie-flourkids.jpgThis week, Gracie weighed in on a heavy issue for a cover story in Houston Community News - avoiding processed, sugary treats during the holidays, starting with Halloween. It can be tricky, especially with kiddos, but is not an impossible feat! 

Read the full story by Kim Hogstrom in yesterday's Here Entertainment section of your Houston Community News or online here

Scientific American Weighs In

Gracie Cavnar

Happy salad eating kid.jpgWe are delighted to learn that the venerable Scientific American has pulled their chair up to the table and begun a regular blog and column called "Food Matters."  In their first article, Patrick Mustain maintains that "It Is Not True That Kids Won't Eat Healthy Food: Why The New USDA School Food Guidelines Are Very Necessary."  We couldn't agree more . . .but read for yourself and let us know your thoughts on the new school lunch guidelines.

TX Lawmakers Undermine Health

Gracie Cavnar

junk-food.jpgIn a recent article by Marion Nestle, a nationally respected food policy expert, some heavy news for childhood obesity battle in Texas:  "The Texas governor signed a bill this summer that was supposed to allow Texas high school students to buy "competitive" (because they compete with federally funded school meals) fast foods.  But a mistake in the wording allows them to buy "foods of minimal nutritional value"--candy, sodas, and the like in conflict with long-standing USDA regulations."  Read more.

And a more indepth look at this fiasco by Bettina Siegal on The Lunch Tray who broke the story.  Time for concerned citizens to reach out to our legislators and remind them that our children's health is more important than the financial health of junk food maker and sellers.

This is a huge setback in our work to make school meals healthier for all our kids.  To think that under Susan Combs as Texas Agricultural Commissioner, Texas was one of the first states to ban vending machines and foods of minimal nutritional value in our elementary schools statewide.

School Meal Rules Cut Obesity

Gracie Cavnar

An Apple a Day.jpg"New federal school lunch regulations that require more servings of fruits and vegetables, more whole-grain content, less salt and fat, and limits on calories could yield a legion of children from low-income families who escape a trend of childhood obesity.

A study published Monday online in JAMA Pediatrics looked at states that cracked down on the content of school meals even before new federal school meal standards, which took effect this school year. A smaller share of students who received free or reduced-price lunches that had to meet these higher nutritional standards--about 12 percent--were overweight than was the case for students who did not eat school lunches." 

Read more in this article for Education Week by Nirva Shah

The Lunchbox Gets a Makeover

Adrienne Ryherd

bentobox.jpg     How do you define school supplies?
     Of course there are the ubiquitous backpacks, pencils, crayons, rulers, scissors and all the other quintessential necessities for the classroom.
     But what if we expand the accepted definition of "school supplies" to include what children tote around in their lunch boxes? The lunchroom is just as much of an educational setting as the classroom and the lunchbox is a powerful tool that can either help or hinder your little one's lunchtime experience.
     How do you achieve optimal lunchbox success? Here a few tips to help you get started.
·      Choose brightly colored fruits and veggies to create a visually pleasing plate
·      Make sure all food is kid-friendly size so it is easy and fun to eat
·      It's not all about the food; packaging can be just as important! Check out the new bento box lunchboxes for kids (and adults); brightly colored and differing in sizes so as to help with portion control
·      Step out of the box when it comes to the ever-present sandwich; use cookie cutters for fun shapes or just scratch the sandwich entirely and try meat and cheese roll ups!
·      Have your children help you pack the lunchbox; the more your children participate in food preparation, the more likely they will be to eat what is in their lunchbox
     Your colorful, creative and (hopefully) collaborative lunchbox will make your child the star of the lunchroom. Gone are the days of trading mushy bananas for a shrink-wrapped twinkie.
"The kids are loving this program!  I know they are cooking the recipes at home because they come back to school the next day and tell me about it!!" says a 5th grade teacher at EA Jones Elementary
     Recipe for Success' integrative Seed-to-Plate Nutrition EducationÔ teaches kid-friendly recipes, easily adapted for the dinner plate or the lunch box.
     Make your child's lunchbox "lunchroom ready" with the following Recipe for Success recipe.
A Recipe for Success:  Paprika Cauliflower Pita Pockets
Serves 4
1       head fresh cauliflower (2 pounds), cut into bite-size florets
3       tablespoons olive oil
2       tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
½       teaspoon ground black pepper
½       teaspoon fine sea salt
1       medium red onion, diced to = 1 cup
1       clove garlic, minced
½       cup low-sodium vegetable broth
2       tablespoons lemon juice
4       pita bread rounds, halved and warmed
Assemble and measure all your ingredients to create a mise en place
1.    Using a saucepan with steamer insert set over high heat, add cauliflower, cover and steam for 7 to 9 minutes, or until fork tender.
2.     Remove cauliflower to a colander or strainer and set aside to drain.
3.    While cauliflower is cooking, set a non-stick skillet over medium low heat.
4.    Add olive oil, paprika, pepper, and salt to the skillet and sauté, stirring constantly for 2 minutes, or until fragrant.
5.     Add onion and garlic, to the skillet and sauté 2 minutes longer.
6.    Stir in cooked cauliflower and broth to the skillet, and simmer 3 minutes.
7.    Remove skillet from heat, and stir in lemon juice.
8.    Allow to cool.
Serve inside pita halves for a nutritious lunch.
Get Adventurous!
·      Try adding fresh tomatoes, chopped black olives, and some low-fat Parmesan cheese to the stuffed pita pockets.
·      Experiment with using different seasonal vegetables in place of cauliflower.
·     Add any leftover filling to a salad.  It's just as good cold!

First Lady Michelle Obama, catalyst and creator of the "Let's Move" campaign (focused on eliminating childhood obesity epidemic within a generation) and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack just announced the first big changes to school lunches in 15 years.

"Improving the quality of the school meals is a critical step in building a healthy future for our kids," Secretary Vilsack.

Recipe For Success Foundation's mission statement - combating childhood obesity by changing the way children understand, appreciate and eat their food- is firmly aligned with the new USDA ruling.  Both campaig for those who do not yet have the power to advocate for themselves: children.

The rule - which phases in changes so as to allow all children (grades K-12), schools and food supply chains to adapt- will require most schools to "increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat fluid milk and reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat and trans fat" (Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, Vol. 77, No. 17).

The government ruling, although widely praised and long sought after, isn't necessarily a "eureka" kind of moment for many; the results of the ruling  - largely based on recommendations and backed by research issued by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science- outline changes that could be viewed simply as common sense, describing a simpler diet with an emphasis on vegetables and fruits rather than processed foods high in saturated fat and sugar. While this seemingly novel diet may be relatively easy to achieve on an individual level, it is a mammoth of a task to accomplish on a national level, especially in a sector where the consumer (in this case, schoolchildren) gains most of his or her food knowledge and eating habits from a very limited environment - the school lunchroom.

With public figures such as First Lady Michelle Obama and celebrity chefs from Alice Waters to Rachel Ray crusading for this national cause, a glimmer of hope - in the form of brightly colored veggies and fruits - seems to be peeking through the obscurity that was once a mound of colorless mystery meat.

A lot of children - especially those who qualify for school meal programs- eat two meals a day in the school lunchroom.  In Houston ISD alone that means 80% of our students (or 161,600 children) will benefit.   This mostly untapped corner of the education world can have a major impact on a child's relationship with food, introducing healthier dishes in a familiar setting, but the 16,000 children who have participated in RFS Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program in the last six years will be ready.  They already love their veggies!
The school cafeteria will soon become an extension of our RFS classrooms.

Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

Gracie Cavnar
     Yesterday President Obama signed into law the new Child Nutrition Bill.  Named the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act, the $4.5 billion law will give powerful new tools to those of us in the field that are focused on reducing Childhood Obesity.  While it isn't a silver bullet, I am ecstatic about the passage of this law, which will:
•    Give USDA the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods regularly sold in schools during the school day, including vending machines, the "a la carte" lunch lines, and school stores.
•    Increase the reimbursement rate for school lunches that meet updated nutritional standards for federally-subsidized lunches. This is an historic investment, the first real reimbursement rate increase in over 30 years.
•    Help communities establish local farm to school networks, create school gardens, and ensures that more local foods are used in the school setting.
•    Improve nutritional quality of commodity foods that schools receive from USDA and use in their breakfast and lunch programs.
•    Expand access to drinking water in schools, particularly during meal times.
•    Sets basic standards for school wellness policies including goals for nutrition promotion and education and physical activity, while still permitting local flexibility to tailor the policies to their particular needs.
•    Promote nutrition and wellness in child care settings through the federally-subsidized Child and Adult Care Food Program.
•    Expand support for breastfeeding through the WIC program.

     We still have our work cut out for us.  For instance, I am troubled that a school district as large and influential as Houston Independent School District has neglected to include health awareness in its strategic vision.  What that means is that even with new ammunition, grassroots advocates will have to pay close attention and fight for meaningful programs that not only meet the federal guidelines, but that will have a true impact on the long term health of our kids. 
     It will still be up to you and me to make sure that our districts go beyond paying lip service to the letter of the law. Our schools need to incorporate broad-based, repetitive nutrition education that has lasting lifestyle impact and we need to launch that education the moment a child enters school.   We must focus on establishing a culture of through to every student.  We need Recipe for Success!

Read further about the bill and its effects.

See how a typical week's school menu can change
View image

Back to school means back to the drawing board for fresh lunch box ideas.
     To keep your kids from trading their PB&J for their lunch buddy's slice of pizza, creativity is a must!
      Feeling stumped?  The Recipe for Success Culinary Team has done the work for you by creating a week's worth of flavor-packed menus that are healthy, delicious and simple.

      Put those little hands to work and let your kids assist in the preparation of their own lunch.  They will be more likely to eat it.
Happy Cooking and Bon Appetit!

Monday: Baked Falafel Pita with Cucumber Yogurt & Veggie Dippers
by Chef Nicole Livezy
Download the recipes:
Baked Falafel Pita with Cucumber Yogurt Dip.pdf

Tuesday: Roasted Succotash with Greens
By Chef Ruth Gonzales Riojas
Download the recipe:
Roasted Succotash with Greens.pdf

Wednesday: Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups
By Chef Ronnie Alford
Download the recipe:
Chicken Salad & Lettuce cups.pdf

Thursday: Mini Garden Greens Frittatas
By the RFS Culinary Team
Download the recipe:
Mini Garden Frittatas.pdf
Friday: Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich and Strawberry Salad
Chef Molly Graham
Download the recipes:
Peanut Butter Bannana Sandwich.pdf

Any Day: Fruit & Yogurt Parfait
By Chef Ruth Gonzales Riojas
Download the recipe:
Fruit Salad.pdf

Tip from the RFS Team: Package lunches in an insulated box or bag with a re-useable ice pack.  Or make your own ice pack by including a smoothie or fruit juice frozen in a sealed container.  It will keep your other dishes cool and by lunch time it will be ready to drink.
Some of our favorite lunch boxes:
Go Green Lunchbox  Laptop Lunches  Re Use It  Lunch Sense  Planet Box  Lunch Bots  Kids Konserve
Do you have a tip for a healthy packed  lunch?  Please share it by submitting a comment!
Obesity is "the single greatest threat to public health in this century," an expert panel declared in a report Tuesday that urges Americans to slash calories and increase their physical activity.The report calls for many changes in the food environment, including:

  • Improve nutrition literacy and cooking skills, and motivate people, especially families with children, to prepare healthy foods at home.

  • Improve the availability of affordable fresh produce through greater access to grocery stores, produce trucks and farmers' markets.

  • Encourage restaurants and the food industry to offer health-promoting foods that are low in sodium; limited in added sugars, refined grains and solid fats; and served in smaller portions.

At Recipe for Success Foundation, we are working hard on the first two recommendations, with great success.  Our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education Program™ introduces children to healthy food in fun experiential ways that change their eating patterns for life, and Hope Farms will supply fresh healthy produce to Houston neighborhoods that are marooned in food deserts.  See for more information.
"The food is very good, Madame. The meat is 100% French," the official said, picking up a brochure from her desk. I knew this brochure well, having e-mailed it to friends in the U.S. last year as a this-could-only-happen-in-France conversation piece. It lists in great detail the lunch menu for each school day over a two-month period. On Mondays, the menus are also posted on the wall outside every school in the country. The variety on the menus is astonishing: no single meal is repeated over the 32 school days in the period, and every meal includes an hors d'oeuvre, salad, main course, cheese plate and dessert. (See nine kid foods to avoid.) There is more: the final column in the brochure carries the title "Suggestions for the evening." That, too, changes daily. If your child has eaten turkey, ratatouille and a raspberry-filled crepe for lunch, the city of Paris suggests pasta, green beans and a fruit salad for dinner.