Category Archives: Nutrition

Offered healthy food by servers, school kids take the bait.

Sally Squires:

You know how hard it can be to say no.
But our tendency to accept what we’re offered may have positive value when it comes to encouraging children to choose — and eat — healthier food at school. A new report suggests that there’s a simple, low-cost approach: Just offer it to them.
That’s the conclusion of a pilot program in Guilford, Conn., where school cafeteria servers were trained to ask elementary school students, “Would you like fruit or juice with your lunch?” Ninety percent of the children said yes. What’s more, 80% then consumed the fruit or juice that they put on their trays.
Compare those numbers with students at a nearby school who also participated in the study. At lunch, the same fruit and juice was available, but it wasn’t personally offered to the kids. The difference? Just 60% of these students reached for fruit or juice on their own.
These findings “have pretty significant implications,” says the pilot program’s designer, Marlene Schwartz, director of research and school programs at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. They suggest, she says, that if the National School Lunch Program were to modify its regulations and had servers actually encourage children to eat fruits and vegetables, their consumption might increase.

A Note on Wellness & PE

Via a reader’s email message:

our school banned all vending machines 1 1/2 yrs. ago. Did it help? ABSOLUTELY NOT! The kids are now bringing sodas and candy in their back packs and eat it at lunch time. They do not eat in the lunchroom. Elementary students have snack time around 9:30 to 10:30 each day depending on what grade you are in. They have 30 min. What do they eat? They bring candy, chips, sweetened tea, sodas and kool aid bursts. The school lost money and yet the kids are still eating poorly.
What could be done?
Ban the sodas and snacks from home and take away the snack time and replace it with 30 min. of instruction time. or better yet, replace it with 30 more min. of PE time.

A Surprising Secret to a Long Life: Stay in School

Gina Kolata:

James Smith, a health economist at the RAND Corporation, has heard a variety of hypotheses about what it takes to live a long life — money, lack of stress, a loving family, lots of friends. But he has been a skeptic.
Yes, he says, it is clear that on average some groups in every society live longer than others. The rich live longer than the poor, whites live longer than blacks in the United States. Longevity, in general, is not evenly distributed in the population. But what, he asks, is cause and what is effect? And how can they be disentangled?
He is venturing, of course, into one of the prevailing mysteries of aging, the persistent differences seen in the life spans of large groups. In every country, there is an average life span for the nation as a whole and there are average life spans for different subsets, based on race, geography, education and even churchgoing.
But the questions for researchers like Dr. Smith are why? And what really matters?

Why Not Walk to School Today?

Brian Lee and Jared Cunningham:

By applying GIS analysis, University of Kentucky undergraduate landscape architecture students have found ways to make it safer and easier for children to walk to school. Concerns with the growing childhood obesity epidemic, increased costs in driving children to school, and fostering the perception that it is more normal to drive rather than to walk to destinations have made walking to school an issue. With ArcView 9.1 and the ArcGIS Spatial Analyst extension, these students identified dangerous walking and bicycling areas, proposed design safety solutions, and evaluated alternatives for improving adverse conditions.
The immediate safety, as well as the long-term health, of children walking to and from schools has become an important topic of discussion in communities. The doubling of the childhood obesity rate over the past 30 years has raised concerns about short- and long-term health costs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommend that children and adolescents frequently participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, preferably on a daily basis. A short recess period during school does not provide enough physical activity for a growing child. One way to increase physical activity is to incorporate it into the child’s daily school commute. However, neighborhoods have often been designed with the automobile exclusively in mind. Consequently, children walking or bicycling to school is not always a safe alternative to the car or school bus.

Oregon School Cafeteria Makes It from Scratch

Jane Greenalgh:

Thanksgiving is a time to savor good food, something you don’t expect to find in a school cafeteria. In fact, most schools across the country serve reheated, premade food that is trucked in from central kitchens. Daily offerings are often uninspiring: chicken sticks, macaroni and cheese, and pizza.
But there is a move in some parts of the country to bring real cooking back to school kitchens. Last year, Abernathy Elementary School in Portland, Ore., bought a second-hand stove and a big mixer and started cooking all its food from scratch.

Markets in everything: unhealthy school dinners

New Economist:

he parents claim they are taking action because pupils are turning up their noses at what they describe as “overpriced, low-fat rubbish”.
Four of them are using a supermarket trolley to make daily runs with fish and chips, pies, burgers, sandwiches and fizzy drinks from local takeaways.
Staff at Rawmarsh Comprehensive School, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, have called in environmental health and education officials. They are looking into whether the women are allowed to sell food without an operating licence and whether they are covered by food hygiene regulations.

The End of Cupcake Days

Eric Zorn:

There were some two dozen of us in the 4th grade classroom at parent orientation night this week, and not one of us looked the least bit disappointed when the teacher, Mrs. Rand, announced “absolutely no cupcakes this year!”
She’d done the math. Naturally. And she figured that if every child had a little birthday party — where a parent brings in treats, drinks, maybe goodie bags — she’d lose roughly 10 hours of total classroom instruction time over the course of the year.
Parents have done the math too. The one responsible for buying the treats (usually the mother and usually cupcakes) and making sure they get to school at the right time and that kids with dietary restrictions are provided with edible options also loses an hour or so.

Mississippi Free School Fruit Pilot Program


Results of a pilot program in Mississippi hints that distributing apples, oranges and other fresh fruit free of charge at school may be an effective part of a comprehensive program aimed at improving students’ eating habits.
During the 2004-2005 school year as part of the Mississippi Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program, 25 secondary schools gave out free fresh fruit and vegetables during the school day and provided nutrition education to promote and support the program.
Initial results based on 851 participating students in grades 5, 8, and 10 from 5 schools suggest that the program significantly increased the variety of fruit and vegetables tried by the students in all three grades.
The program appeared to be most effective among students in grades 8 and 10, report Doris J. Schneider from the Child Nutrition Program, Mississippi Department of Education and colleagues in the current issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Candy isn’t Dandy in Madison Schools”

Susan Lampert Smith:

Expect details of the Madison School District plan in the coming week. Here’s what my sticky fingers were able to pry out of Mary Gulbrandsen, student services director:
Soda pop has already vanished from Madison school vending machines. Candy is no longer sold in school, and in two years, no school group will be allowed to sell candy for fundraising.
(Horde your hockey team candy bars – soon you can sell them on eBay as collectors’ items!)

Schools Find Free Veggies a Hard Sell

Mike Stobbe:

Bad news – but probably no surprise to parents – when it comes to young children and vegetables: A government study showed fifth-graders became less willing to try vegetables and fruits when more were offered as free school snacks.
Older kids in the same study upped the amount of fruit they ate, but there was no change in their vegetable consumption.
The study results are somewhat disappointing for champions of getting more fresh produce into school lunchrooms.


Chocolate & Zucchini:

Cantine is French for school cafeteria*, and it is hard to find a grown-up that doesn’t have a story or two to recount about his cantine days. These memories are often a mix of the bitter (the food was less than stellar, and the atmosphere was one of constant struggle for social survival) and the sweet (petit-suisse fights were fun, and if you knew what strings to pull, you could lay your hands on an extra serving of fries — du rab de frites), but in both cases, they are an integral part of how personalities and palates were formed.
A book called Cantines came out yesterday in France, based on these very premises. Food writers Sébastien Demorand and Emmanuel Rubin have selected sixty dishes that used to be were served, with varying degrees of gastronomic success, at school cafeterias when we were kids — from friand au fromage (a puff pastry envelope with a creamy cheese filling) to petit salé aux lentilles (salted pork and lentils), by way of macédoine de légumes (a mayo-laden salad of peas, potatoes, and carrots) and hachis parmentier (a sort of shepherd’s pie).

Millions on The Breakfast Table

Roger Thurow:

Twenty-nine million children, most from low-income families, eat federally funded lunch in school. But only nine million eat school breakfast. To federal and state officials, that gap is a big reason for the persistence of childhood hunger in America.
To entrepreneur Gary Davis, it’s also a business opportunity. Those 20 million unserved breakfasts translate into nearly $2 billion in federal money that could be claimed from school-feeding programs, but has been left on the table each year. In the summer of 2004 Mr. Davis wondered: What if he could get all the children who eat lunch in school to eat breakfast, too?
His answer: a grab-and-go meal of cereal, crackers and fruit juice, in small boxes that could be distributed on buses, in the cafeteria or in the first-period classroom. He launched his product at the beginning of last school year, and by the end, he says he was selling three million of them a month.
Long-neglected, school breakfast is becoming a sought-after market for business. At the same time, that business is driving participation in an underused government social program. Earlier this month, Kellogg Co. began selling its own breakfast-in-a-box to schools, which includes cereal, a Pop-Tart or graham crackers, and juice. Tyson Foods Inc. is adapting its popular lunchtime chicken nuggets and patties into smaller sizes for breakfast. Scores of other companies also are pitching breakfast items to schools.

A Better Breakfast Can Boost a Child’s Brainpower

Allison Aubrey

Attention, children: Do not skip breakfast — or your grades could pay a price.
Evidence suggests that eating breakfast really does help kids learn. After fasting all night, a developing body (and brain) needs a fresh supply of glucose — or blood sugar. That’s the brain’s basic fuel.
“Without glucose,” explains Terrill Bravender, professor of pediatrics at Duke University, “our brain simply doesn’t operate as well. People have difficulty understanding new information, [they have a] problem with visual and spatial understanding, and they don’t remember things as well.”

No More Mystery Meat

Stacy Finz:

Schools weren’t always citadels of health. For years, they were more like junk food coliseums. Now, as this school year begins, cafeteria menus are being scrutinized as closely as the curriculum in preparation for compliance with recently passed legislation to better students’ diets. School officials from Santa Clara to Sonoma counties are planning inventive programs to rid their halls of high-calorie and fatty foods.
Profile of Ann Cooper, Berkeley school nutrition director.
But for four people in the Bay Area, changing the way kids eat has become their life’s mission.

PCRM: A Veggie Laden Lunch Line

Maria Glod:

This week, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a District-based group that promotes a vegan diet (one that excludes all animal products) and healthful, low-fat food options for children, awarded the Fairfax County school system an A in its School Lunch Report Card. None of the other 17 large U.S. school systems the group surveyed scored as high.
“Everybody is responsive to the childhood obesity epidemic, but Fairfax really pulled out all the stops,” said Jeanne Stuart McVey, a spokeswoman for the group.
The Montgomery County schools, the only other local system in the report card, received a B.

Details here.

Dodging Land Mines at the School Lunch Table

Karen Batka:

I puttered around the kitchen as Grace munched on her calcium-added Goldfish and worked on long division. “Mom, what does high fat content mean?” she asked.
“Why?” I asked, choosing to answer a question with a question.
“Paige said that Lunchables aren’t healthy because they have a high fat content.” Once again, reality refused to cooperate with my script. I’d now lived in California long enough to witness the witch hunt mentality of the nutrition evangelists. But I had failed to consider that this school of thought had already penetrated the minds of young children.
“Well what does Paige bring for lunch?” I asked. It was time to wave the white flag of surrender.
“She brings Sushi or veggie wraps, yogurt or fruit and vitamin water.”

See also Kidchow – some fabulous items on their menu [].

Improving School Food

Lisa Belkin:

By any health measure, today’s children are in crisis. Seventeen percent of American children are overweight, and increasing numbers of children are developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes, which, until a few years ago, was a condition seen almost only in adults. The obesity rate of adolescents has tripled since 1980 and shows no sign of slowing down. Today’s children have the dubious honor of belonging to the first cohort in history that may have a lower life expectancy than their parents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted that 30 to 40 percent of today’s children will have diabetes in their lifetimes if current trends continue.
The only good news is that as these stark statistics have piled up, so have the resources being spent to improve school food. Throw a dart at a map and you will find a school district scrambling to fill its students with things that are low fat and high fiber.
But there is one big shadow over all this healthy enthusiasm: no one can prove that it works. For all the menus being defatted, salad bars made organic and vending machines being banned, no one can prove that changes in school lunches will make our children lose weight. True, studies show that students who exercise more and have healthier diets learn better and fidget less, and that alone would be a worthwhile goal. But if the main reason for overhauling the cafeteria is to reverse the epidemic of obesity and the lifelong health problems that result, then shouldn’t we be able to prove we are doing what we set out to do?

“Big Mother & Kids Lunches”


While programs like these have a solid premise, we envision kids making friends for more than just social reasons as middle-school cafeterias turn into fast-paced trading blocks to circumvent the system as connector children smuggle in junk food from the outside world. Or maybe we’re just letting our imaginations get away with ourselves again.

The Complex Relationship Between Nature, Nurture, and Intelligence

After the Bell Curve
David L. Kirp
The New York Times
When it comes to explaining the roots of intelligence, the fight between partisans of the gene and partisans of the environment is ancient and fierce. Each side challenges the other’s intellectual bona fides and political agendas. What is at stake is not just the definition of good science but also the meaning of the just society. The nurture crowd is predisposed to revive the War on Poverty, while the hereditarians typically embrace a Social Darwinist perspective.
A century’s worth of quantitative-genetics literature concludes that a person’s I.Q. is remarkably stable and that about three-quarters of I.Q. differences between individuals are attributable to heredity. This is how I.Q. is widely understood — as being mainly “in the genes” — and that understanding has been used as a rationale for doing nothing about seemingly intractable social problems like the black-white school-achievement gap and the widening income disparity. If nature disposes, the argument goes, there is little to be gained by intervening. In their 1994 best seller, “The Bell Curve,” Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray relied on this research to argue that the United States is a genetic meritocracy and to urge an end to affirmative action. Since there is no way to significantly boost I.Q., prominent geneticists like Arthur Jensen of Berkeley have contended, compensatory education is a bad bet.
But what if the supposed opposition between heredity and environment is altogether misleading? A new generation of studies shows that genes and environment don’t occupy separate spheres — that much of what is labeled “hereditary” becomes meaningful only in the context of experience. “It doesn’t really matter whether the heritability of I.Q. is this particular figure or that one,” says Sir Michael Rutter of the University of London. “Changing the environment can still make an enormous difference.” If heredity defines the limits of intelligence, the research shows, experience largely determines whether those limits will be reached. And if this is so, the prospects for remedying social inequalities may be better than we thought.

Santa Clara district eases junk food ban

Becky Bartindale:

The all-out junk food ban proposed earlier this year in the Santa Clara Unified School District has gone through a process not unlike what Goldilocks experienced when she visited the three bears’ house and saw three bowls of porridge on the table.
The first proposal — which banned unhealthy food sold or given away on campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week — was seen by some as extreme. Others thought a reworked version was lax. Now, district officials hope, they have come up with something that is just right: a ban on selling or giving away unhealthy foods during the school day, while encouraging organizations to choose healthy options for half the food and drinks at after-school events.
“Nothing is ever perfect,” said board member Teresa O’Neill, a nutrition committee member who would have liked a stricter policy. “This is the reality.”

Schools Go Local for Better Food

The NewsHour:

While most efforts to encourage better health in schools focus on removing fat and sugar from the cafeteria and by offering a second vegetable with each meal, there are a growing number of school districts that have turned to local farms for a solution.
By using local farms, schools hope to offer their students fresher food that tastes better while financially supporting small businesses in their communities.
“Locally grown food is fresher and tastier,” said Anupama Joshi of the National Farm to School Network, which helps set up the farm-supply programs.

Well-Intentioned Food Police May Create Havoc With Children’s Diets

Harriet Brown:

Earlier this year, our small Midwestern school district joined the food wars, proposing a new policy that would discourage all food in classrooms, ban nuts and sugary foods and do away with vending machines.
So much for peanut butter sandwiches, snacks for kindergartners and birthday cupcakes.
Like the policies put in place by school systems around the country, this one was driven by anxiety — about food quantity, quality and safety — and by the ever-increasing pressure for children to look a certain way and to weigh a certain amount.
Unlike the earlier “mommy wars” or the “war on drugs,” which centered around simpler black-and-white divides, the 21st-century food wars are fuzzier, though the feelings run just as deep.

2006 / 2007 MMSD Food Service Budget Discussion

28 minute video excerpt of this evening’s discussion of the MMSD’s food service budget (the food service budget is evidently supposed to break even, but the operating budget has apparently been subsidizing it by several hundred thousand dollars annually).

This sort of excellent citizen oversite is essential to any publicly financed organization, particularly one that plans to spend $332M in taxpayer funds next year and hopes to pass referenda in the near future.
Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin made a similar case today when he discussed our fair city’s water problems:

It’s funny how progressives forget their history and the reason for doing things. The idea is to have a citizen board, not a board with public employees. That is part of the checks and balances. In fact the progressive left in Madison went though considerable time over the years gradually removing city staff from committees so they would not dominate and squelch the citizens who are more likely to be ‘whistleblowers.’

In the water example, a citizen spent years chasing this issue, finally getting the attention of the traditional media and the politicians.
A number of board members have been asking many questions (the video clip will give you a nice overview of who is asking the questions and what the responses are). You can check the action out here (Each “Tab” is a question to the Administration, with their response”). For example, we learn in tab 11 2 Page PDF that the district spent a net (after 200K in gate receipts and 450K in student fees) $1,433,603 on athletics in 2005/2006 and plans to spend a net $1,803,286 in 2006/2007, a 25% increase. The overall budget will grow by more than 3%.
This is quite a change from past years, and provides some hope for the future.

Let them Eat Kale

The Economist:

Plans to improve school meals are causing havoc
JUST over a year ago, Jamie Oliver, a camera-friendly chef, called for a revolution in school kitchens. In a television series, he chronicled the decline in school lunches and showed that junk food-addicted children could be taught to tuck into what he calls “pukka nosh”. It proved a traumatic experience for the young gourmands, some of whom demonstrated for the return of chips and burgers. Mr Oliver’s antics have also tweaked the government, upset some dinner ladies and shaken the catering market.
“Jamie’s School Dinners” galvanised parents, who demanded that schools ditch grotesque inventions such as the Turkey Twizzler and adopt wholesome fare such as shepherd’s pie and lentil soup. Worried about a looming general election, the government hastily responded to Mr Oliver’s demands. Ruth Kelly, who was then the education secretary, promised to ban junk food in schools and asked a panel of experts to suggest nutritional guidelines.

Continue reading Let them Eat Kale

Tipping the Scales


One in five Wisconsin children are overweight or obese. That number jumps to 1 in 4 when you look at Wisconsin’s high schools. Perhaps more disturbing, almost half of those overweight kids here in Wisconsin, are at risk for developing Type II Diabetes or Coronary Artery Disease.

Cut Soda Demand with Education

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

The most effective way to improve the diets of young people is to educate them to make healthful choices.
That’s worth remembering in the aftermath of last week’s announcement that sugared sodas will be banned from U.S. schools by the 2009-2010 school year.
The ban, voluntarily agreed to by the nation’s largest beverage distributors, addresses the public health problems that have accompanied the soaring consumption of sodas in the past generation.

The WiSJ is correct – education is key. I imagine that there will be “underground” soda suppliers once these changes are implemented.

Most Soda Sales in Schools to End

Samantha Gross:

The nation’s largest beverage distributors have agreed to halt nearly all soda sales to public schools, according to a deal announced Wednesday by the William J. Clinton Foundation.
Under the agreement, the companies have agreed to sell only water, unsweetened juice and low-fat milks to elementary and middle schools, said Jay Carson, a spokesman for former President Bill Clinton. Diet sodas would be sold only to high schools.

American Beverage Association

Food Policy and Physical Education

To those concerned about the success of the Madison Schools,
I am writing to express my support for the positive changes proposed by the district with respect to food policy. It is exciting that the district has been proactive in including students, parents, health providers, educators, and policy makers. As a pediatrician working with childhood obesity and childhood diabetes, I believe our schools do- and can have an even more positive influence- on the health of our children. 
We are all struggling with the epidemic of childhood obesity, its costs, ramifications, and its effect on children and their families. We need to address this problem though our families, through our communities, and definitely through our schools. We continue to “leave many children behind” when it comes to healthy nutrition and physical activity. The State of California has shown that children with greater fitness levels, also have greater academic levels. Supporting an environment for achieving this is imperative for our children.
Healthy food choices should always be offered even if it means different fund raising methods in our schools including removing soda, and other unhealthy food practices.  It is time for the Board to look carefully at how they can help be part of the solution regarding this problem and the long-term health of our students. 

Continue reading Food Policy and Physical Education

Coke’s CEO on Soda in Schools

Chad Terhune:

WSJ: How well is the company responding to the obesity issue?
Mr. Isdell: We are in what I would call the bull’s-eye of public opinion with regard to calorie consumption. It’s something I inherited and something as an industry we have not been able to rebut effectively at this point in time. It’s something we are working diligently on as an industry…. We really need to widen the debate. For example, Diet Coke, a zero-calorie beverage, is actually in the obesity debate because there has been a demonization of carbonated soft drinks. But if it’s really about obesity, why would you not want people to drink a diet soft drink?
WSJ: Why should any regular sodas be sold in middle or high schools?
Mr. Isdell: It’s high schools where the current policy we have is 50% noncarbonated drinks. In the middle schools [full-calorie sodas are sold from vending machines] only after school [according to an industrywide agreement.]
I saw this interesting piece on a guy in California who came out very strongly and said, “Why am I allowed to vote and I can own a gun, but I can’t choose my own soft drink?” I think when you reach high school, you do have a level of sophistication and you can be allowed to choose what you wish…. There are some schools where some kids are making good money bootlegging soft drinks in and selling them to students…. I think that is not all bad for us. After all, every kid likes being rebellious.

Lawmakers Try to Expel Junk Food From Schools


Trying to shrink the growing waistlines of children, lawmakers want to expel soda, candy bars, chips and other junk food from the nation’s schools.
Dangerous weight is on the rise in kids. This week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the rate of obese and overweight kids has climbed to 18 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls. Four years ago, the number was 14 percent.
Lawmakers blame high-fat, high-sugar snacks that compete with nutritious meals in schools.
“Junk food sales in schools are out of control,” Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said Thursday. “It undercuts our investment in school meal programs and steers kids toward a future of obesity and diet-related disease.”

Bill Strikes at Low-Nutrition Foods in School

Marian Burros:

Under the bill, an amendment to the National School Lunch Act, high nutritional standards would be required of all food sold on school premises. That means not just in cafeterias but in vending machines, school stores and snack bars as well, even at fund-raising events.
The measure, which has strong bipartisan support in both houses, would do on a national level what many school districts have been trying to do for years: require that the schools set an example by providing only healthful food and so perhaps reduce the incidence of childhood obesity.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, has watched what goes on in the school her two teenage sons attend.

Wellness Initiatives

Jamaal Abdul-Alim:

Black pedometer in hand, Greendale Middle School Spanish teacher Barb Rampolla hits the track behind her school to do three or four laps a few times a week.

Last summer, she joined an area fitness center. Over Christmas vacation, she abstained from her favorite holiday treats – and won a contest for not gaining any weight over winter break.

Fruits and vegetables are now a regular part of her diet. She’s feeling better, too.

“And I have to say that my clothes fit better,” said Rampolla, 58. “And for a woman, that’s really good.”

Madison Schools’ Proposed Comprehensive Food Policy

Madison Metropolitian School District News Release:

Community asked for feedback on proposals, Board will begin to consider next month
As the next step in developing a Madison School District comprehensive food policy, recommendations are being released today by a student work group for consideration by the Board of Education.

There’s been quite a bit of discussion on this topic here.

Continue reading Madison Schools’ Proposed Comprehensive Food Policy

Nutrtitional Battle Lines Form at Schools

Brenda Ingersoll:

Mindful of the obesity epidemic and nutritional goals, the Madison School District is thinking of banning soda sales in its high schools, and candy in elementary and middle schools.
In the DeForest School District, a committee is mulling giving students more whole- wheat bread and switching to lower-fat milk.
In Mount Horeb, a similar “wellness” committee is pondering phasing out the chips and candy bars available in vending machines, and replacing them with fresh fruit and granola bars.
And Oregon is considering offering raw carrots, broccoli and celery daily, instead of a few times a week.

Madison Schools’ Potential Food Policy Update


A new controversial, food policy proposal in the Madison Metropolitan School District could take food out of children’s mouths and funding for clubs, activities and supplies.
The district’s Board of Education will consider district-wide recommendations on food policy within the next few days that might include a ban on candy, soda and snack food sales during school hours, according to the student representatives to the board.
The administrator writing the final recommendations refused to reveal if a ban will be part of the proposed policy, WISC-TV reported.
Supporters of the proposal argue that the food policy is to promote healthy eating and food safety.
A ban would impact food sales in school cafeterias and vending machines, as well as fundraisers sponsored by school clubs and extracurricular activities.

UPDATE: Bill Novak has more:

The school sale of junk food, candy and sugar-filled soft drinks could be affected by food policy changes to be considered by the Madison School Board.
The School Board is expected to consider new food policy recommendations within the week.
Madison Metropolitan School District spokesman Ken Syke confirmed the food policy is on the table but wouldn’t release details on what recommendations are in the new report.
“It’s a comprehensive food policy, and many different groups weighed in on it,” Syke said. “Does it ban junk food? I can’t say.”

Some schools, including Sherman, will get fresh fruit & vegetables

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster issued the following press release:

Students will crunch on carrots or cauliflower, or whip up a fruit smoothie while learning the importance of eating fresh produce in 25 schools throughout the state, thanks to a federal grant that brings Wisconsin into the successful U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
“This grant allows us to offer more fresh produce to all students as a supplement to the school breakfast and school lunch programs,” said State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster. “Many schools will offer the fresh fruits and vegetables at times during the day when children would otherwise be hungry, or might need an energy boost to improve their attention in the classroom. We know that hungry children can’t learn, so this program supports our efforts to boost achievement for all students and close the achievement gap.”

Continue reading Some schools, including Sherman, will get fresh fruit & vegetables

Maya Cole endorses healthy Homegrown Lunches

The following commitment by Maya Cole seems particularly important to post given the lively discussion on healthy food:

I enthusiastically endorse the Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch Food Policy Recommendations, and I will work to win adoption of the recommendations if I have the opportunity to serve on the Board of Education of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD).
Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch is a grassroots program whose goal is to enhance the Madison public schools’ existing meal programs by introducing fresh, nutritious, local and sustainably grown food to children, beginning in the city’s elementary schools. The program, like similar “farm-to-school” programs around the country, will provide an opportunity for children to reconnect with their natural world and will help establish a stable market for local farmers and processors.

Continue reading Maya Cole endorses healthy Homegrown Lunches

More-healthful school menus fatten districts’ food bills

Ofelia Madrid:

chool lunch has definitely changed from the days of mystery meat slapped onto a tray.
Some students now have their choice of chicken Caesar wraps, chocolate covered bananas and fruit and yogurt parfaits.
Schools across the Valley are making the switch to more-healthful foods on the lunch menu in anticipation of a state law banning junk food and a federal wellness mandate requiring more-healthful lunches starting July 1.
School district nutrition directors must figure out how to meet the nutrition guidelines and offer more-healthful foods, which are more expensive. Students, who are noticing and liking some of the new foods, could be asked to pay more than the average $2 for lunch.
“They’re . . . giving us healthier sides,” said Scottsdale student Jessica Charchedi. “Now we get fruit instead of fruit rollups,”
Food broker David Glutz remembers getting into the school-lunch business 20 years ago.
“The school wanted to spend 40 cents an entree. That hasn’t changed,” said Glutz, who works with most Valley school districts.

West High Event to Focus on Fast Food Companies’ Responsibility

Given all of the interest on the District’s proposed food policy, the following event might be of interest to SIS readers in the West attendance area:
To what extent should fast food companies be held responsible for their customer’s health? West High School Students for an Informed Response (SIR) invite you to hear opposing viewpoints, debate, discuss, and learn about this question at SIR’s Family and Community Town Supper this Thursday evening, March 2, at 7:00 p.m. We’ll host David Schwartz of the UW Law School and Pete Hanson of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, and they will discuss obesity lawsuits, nutrition, and other related matters. The audience will get a chance to join in the discussion and ask questions. We’ll provide a dinner: a choice between pizza or bagels, along with drinks, salad, chips, and a dessert of some kind.
This should be a very informative and interesting event and hopefully some of you or others you know may be interested. For those with students interested, we are selling tickets through Thursday afternoon before and after school in the Ash Street entrance for $5.00. If you are interested in coming but don’t have a means of purchasing tickets at West, feel free to email me ( and let me know that you are interested; you may pay at the door. However, we do need a count beforehand of how many people are coming for calculating the amounts of food.
Thanks for your interest!
Reuben Henriques
Students for an Informed Response

Eating for Credit

Alice Waters:

IT’S shocking that because of the rise in Type 2 diabetes experts say that the children we’re raising now will probably die younger than their parents — the result of a disease that is largely preventable by diet and exercise. But in public schools these days, children all too often are neither learning to eat well nor to exercise.
Fifty years ago, we had a preview of today’s obesity crisis: a presidential council told us that America’s children weren’t fit — and we did something about it, at great expense. We built gymnasiums and tracks and playgrounds. We hired and trained teachers. We made physical education part of the curriculum from kindergarten through high school. Students were graded on their performance.

Go with Your Gut

Harriet Brown:

LAST week’s reports that low-fat diets may not reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer have left Americans more confused than ever about what to eat. I’d like to make a radical suggestion: instead of wringing our hands over fat grams and calories, let’s resolve to enjoy whatever food we eat.
Because, as it turns out, when you eat something you like, your body makes more efficient use of its nutrients. Which means that choking down a plateful of steamed cauliflower (if you hate steamed cauliflower) is not likely to do you as much good as you think.
In the 1970’s, researchers fed two groups of women, one Swedish and one Thai, a spicy Thai meal. The Thai women — who presumably liked the meal more than the Swedish women did — absorbed almost 50 percent more iron from it than the Swedish women. When the meal was served as a mushy paste, the Thai women absorbed 70 percent less iron than they had before — from the same food.
The researchers concluded that food that’s unfamiliar (Thai food to Swedish women) or unappetizing (mush rather than solid food) winds up being less nutritious than food that looks, smells and tastes good to you. The explanation can be found in the digestive process itself, in the relationship between the “second brain” — the gut — and the brain in your head.

Continue reading Go with Your Gut

The FruitGal

Sam Whiting:

nstead of getting employees to eat junk food on breaks at work, the company buys them fruit. They put that in the break room and the employees snack on that instead of junk and they feel good and they work hard and they don’t call in sick.
On cost
It’s about $60 for a 40-serving box of seasonal fruit that’s guaranteed to please. If it’s not of the quality you want, we’ll replace it. There’s no contract.

Thinning the Milk Does Not Mean Thinning the Child

Gina Kolata:

It’s not that no one has tried. In the 1990’s, the National Institutes of Health sponsored two large, rigorous studies asking whether weight gain in children could be prevented by doing everything that obesity fighters say should be done in schools — greatly expand physical education, make cafeteria meals more nutritious and less fattening, teach students about proper nutrition and the need to exercise, and involve the parents. One study, an eight-year, $20 million project sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, followed 1,704 third graders in 41 elementary schools in the Southwest, where students were mostly Native Americans, a group that is at high risk for obesity. The schools were randomly divided into two groups, one subject to intensive intervention, the other left alone. Researchers determined, beginning at grade five, if the children in the intervention schools were thinner than those in the schools that served as a control group.

Janesville School District’s Proposed New Food Policy


The proposal would require schools to offer healthier options, like flavored water instead of juices and soda high in sugar. It would also discourage using candy for classroom rewards or for school fundraising.
Steve Salerno, principal of Marshall Middle School said schools should show nutritional responsibility.
“When we see things about childhood obesity, as we do in the news, how are we as a school practicing what we preach?” said Salerno. “We educate good nutrition, we need to be able to put our backing behind that.”
Julie Ruef, the kitchen manager at Marshall, emphasized the importance of the family meal.

School Foods Policy Meeting

I took the opportunity to attend the meeting for health professionals on the development of a school foods policy for the MMSD.
Americans seem to take an “all or nothing” approach to nutrition (either “on” a diet or “off”; restrained with eating all day and anything goes in the evening)–I’m afraid most of us know what I’m talking about. I’m hoping food policy doesn’t take a similar dichotomy.
There is concern that school food service will not be able to operate in the black if they don’t sell food that “students will actually buy and eat”. I think there can be a moderate approach that is healthful. Yes, pizza can still be served, but how about a smaller portion as part of a meal that includes fruit/vegetable/salad and milk?
Here are the recommendations from our clinic–in short, we want to encourage normal meals at mealtimes (a good mix of foods, appropriate portion sizes, reasonable time allotment). Much of what has gone wrong with our eating is this country can be traced to the breakdown of meals and the huge increase in snacking/grazing on processed snack foods. Correcting this accomplishes the first big step in changing our consumption patterns and disease risk.

Continue reading School Foods Policy Meeting

Nutritionist campaigning against junk food

Anne Wallace Allen:

Stephanie Rose walked into the lunchroom of the Idaho Falls High School with a homemade chart and tallied what she found: Canisters of potato chips. Heaps of candy. Cellophane-wrapped cakes. High-caffeine sports drinks.
Twelve percent of the foods offered by the district a la carte program were granola or cereal bars, fruits, vegetables, or low-fat chips or pretzels. The other 88 percent included nachos, corn dogs, chips and cookies.
“For 25 cents you can buy 310 calories,” said Rose, a nurse and diabetes educator who attended Idaho Falls High in the 1980s, when she had to take a helping of beans on her plate whether she wanted them or not.
These days, the school promotes “Corn dogs: two for a dollar,” she says. “Good Lord, what are you trying to do here?”

UW Health Nutritionist Marcy Braun participated in a recent Forum on Nutrition and Schools audio / video

New York City Eliminates Whole Milk from The Menu

David Herszenhorn:

For generations of children, a serving of whole milk, customarily in a red and white carton, has been as synonymous with school as a yellow No. 2 pencil. When President Harry S. Truman signed the National School Lunch Program into law in 1946, a half pint of milk was one of five dietary staples required by the bill.
But children today are fat, or at least too many of them are, and to cut the risks of obesity, diabetes and other health problems, New York City — the nation’s largest school district — has decided to cut whole milk from the menu.
That feat, no small one in a system that serves a half-million half pints of milk a day, is already under way, with whole milk banished from cafeterias in the Bronx and in Manhattan. To the ire of the dairy industry, which has lobbied fiercely against the change, the other boroughs are following suit and, by the end of this month, officials say, whole milk will be gone for good.

Oregon Kids Getting Heavier

Tim Fought:

Because Oregon kids are growing out faster than they are growing up, public schools must get students exercising and remove the temptation of junk food, child advocates say.
Nearly one in four Oregon children meet the definition of overweight or obese, in adult terms, according to the annual Kids Count report.
It said this is part of a national trend: More than twice as many children and three times as many adolescents are overweight today than was the case 30 years ago.
The leader of the group that issues the report, Children First for Oregon, said overweight children are part of an epidemic.

Student Posting on District Food Policy

I am a member or the MMSD’s Student Senate. I am currently involved in a group discussing a draft of a proposed food policy which I feel is rather Draconian. The draft has not yet been made public (I am told this is because it is a “draft” and thus not ready for release) and that the issues have been publicized. However, I am concerned about some measures of the policy and feel that they have not been highlighted for interested parents. I think some of you might have concerns as well. Here are some of the propositions that my committee has voted against altering as well as what parents were told at the January 17th meeting about the policy
“When beverage vending is available, the only beverages that be offered for sale [not me wording] or permitted in schools at all sites accessible to students will be water, milk, fruit juices composed of 100% fruit juice with no added sweeteners of caffeine, and electrolyte replacement (“sports”) beverages that do not contain caffeine or more than 42 grams of added sweetener per 20 oz serving.”
“No food will be sold to students in vending machines”
This is currently true of all elementary schools and most middle schools, but not the high schools. Vending sales at the four major high schools bring in roughly $15-20 thousand a year for the school (some of a principal’s only discretionary income). Personally, I feel eliminating all sales of soda and snacks seems extreme, especially considering the current financial pressure schools are under. The “cold turkey” elimination of all of these sales starting with the 06-07 school year seems like too much.
“Candy will not be given or sold to students nor offered for sale at school or to the community by the school during the school day. The sale of candy and snacks [this language will be revised to be more specific] is not permitted on school grounds during the school day.”
This would mean that clubs that rely on sales of such items would have to search for new methods. Bake sales would be eliminated. Students would be able to buy a giant cookie in the lunchroom, but not a small one in support of a club.

Continue reading Student Posting on District Food Policy

Nearly 38% of Arkansas Children Overweight

Andrew DeMillo:

Thirty-eight percent of Arkansas’ public school children are overweight or at risk of being overweight, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said in a report issued Thursday.
The finding was the same as last year’s when UAMS also studied the effects of a 2003 state law that called for mandatory and voluntary changes in the schools to address health issues among Arkansas’ children.
Health officials said Thursday they hope to see obesity numbers decline as more schools offer healthier food choices.

Learn more about this issue here and by watching the recent Nutrition and Schools Forum.

Charter Schools And Healthful Foods

A Nation at Risk: Obesity in the United States

American Heart Association:

The report is that nearly one sixth of young people between the ages of 2-19 are said to be overweight. While this is alarming, it is perhaps even more important to appreciate that the 16% overweight rate represents the nationwide average. Local rates vary widely depending on gender, race, socioeconomic status, educational background, and probably more, as yet, undetermined factors.
Among Mexican Americans ages 6-19, nearly one in four boys, and one in five girls are overweight. Over one fifth of African American females ages 6-19 are overweight. Combining these figures with those at risk for being overweight, we learn that excessive weight threatens the health of between a third and a half of children in these groups. And, the situation continues to worsen.

Soft Drink Sales Down in US Schools?


the American Beverage Association sounds almost proud when it declares in a report being released Thursday that the amount of non-diet soft drinks sold in the nation’s schools dropped more than 24 percent between 2002 and 2004.
The trade group’s report is an effort to deflate threats of a lawsuit against soft drink companies, which face mounting pressure as childhood obesity concerns have led schools to remove sodas.
During the same two-year period, the amount of sports drinks sold grew nearly 70 percent, bottled water 23 percent, diet soda 22 percent and fruit juice 15 percent, according to the report, which is based on data from beverage bottling companies.
Regular soda is still the leader within schools, accounting for 45 percent of beverages sold there this year. But that’s down from 57 percent three years earlier, the industry said, citing additional numbers based on 2002-2005 data.

Joy Cardin and Marcy Braun: Nutrition and Schools

Wisconsin Public Radio:

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 6:00 AM
What our kids are eat at school can send the wrong message about health and nutrition. So says Joy Cardin’s guest, today after six. Guest: Marcy Braun (“brown”), nutritionist with the UW Health – Pediatric Fitness Clinic. She is a panelist at tonight’s Nutrition and Schools Forum in Madison.

UPDATE: MP3 Audio of this broadcast

The Golden Carrot

CBS News:

At Seven Hills Elementary School in Cincinnati, Ohio, Hartman finds a cafeteria renowned for its great-tasting, healthy school lunches.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine awarded the cafeteria for overhauling the way they prepare food. Translation: they tossed out the deep fryer.
One worker was asked how the foods are fried and replied, “We don’t fry. We bake.”
And you know what that means: the food has less fat, of course, and there’s less salt and sugar, and everything’s cooked from scratch using organic meats, vegetables and whole grains.
“Some of the things we have here, I can’t even pronounce,” says one kitchen worker.

Rafael Gomez and volunteers from are hosting a Nutrition and Schools Forum Wednesday night, from 7 to 8 in the McDaniels Auditorium. Participants, topics and directions are available here.

Are school lunches helping kids develop a healthy relationship with food as well as a healthy body?

Early in my career, I had to make a paradigm shift. Starting out, I thought my job was to tell people how to eat and I expected that they would eat as they “should”. Now I know that eating is a matter of taste and style and depends, for most people, to a lesser extent on nutrition facts. Although I’d love to be able to control what my clients eat, I have settled with the reality that I can’t even control what my dog eats! I buy Whole Foods dog food…he eats the white bread our neighbors toss on their lawn for the birds.
The point here is that your child’s eating style will be as unique as his appearance. It’s important that kids are provided with regular, fairly balanced meals and can choose what and how much to eat. It’s also important that they eat with others because meals are not just about consuming food. Once kids have meals that provide a framework for eating a variety of foods at predictable times, then the tendency to snack will lessen and cravings for processed foods will fade. Your child’s diet won’t be perfect, but he or she can still be perfectly healthy.

Continue reading Are school lunches helping kids develop a healthy relationship with food as well as a healthy body?

Harlem School Uses Regionally Grown Food

Reader Barb Williams forwarded this article by Kim Severson:

But perhaps no school is taking a more wide-ranging approach in a more hard-pressed area than the Promise Academy, a charter school at 125th Street and Madison Avenue where food is as important as homework. Last year, officials took control of the students’ diets, dictating a regimen of unprocessed, regionally grown food both at school and, as much as possible, at home.
Experts see the program as a Petri dish in which the effects of good food and exercise on students’ health and school performance can be measured and, perhaps, eventually replicated.