Fresh Combinations to LOVE this Season


Judi Hunter, Northridge Local Schools Food Services Supervisor, and her staff are always looking for ways to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in their school meal and snack programs. In January, the Northridge staff tried something new and tossed freshly picked herbs into their fruit and vegetable snacks.

Minty Fresh Combinations

The unique fragrances and textures of herbs add something fun and unexpected to a snack. Herbs also add flavor to food without adding salt or fat – increasing student acceptability.

“Any kitchen, whether at home or school, smells fabulous when working with fresh herbs,” explains Hunter. “Just begin chopping them and you draw the attention of every nose in the area!”

northridge_thesnackposter

A sign of this week’s items builds excitement for the fresh fruit and vegetables.

Raspberries with Mint

Spearmint is a light, sweet herb. Staff tossed raspberries with chopped spearmint and served the combination in cute white serving cups.

Mint can also be added to tea, mixed with fruit salad or sprinkled on top of yogurt. Hunter suggests planting some mint in containers, along a border or near pathways. As students brush up against the plant, the minty fragrance spills into the area.

Fingerling Potatoes with Chives

Chives look a lot like lawn grass – the stems are tall and spikey. Chives add a light oniony taste and can be added to most vegetables as a lighter alternative to onions.

“Our students love potatoes – yet the oblong shape of this potato was new for many of the students. They were eager to try this version,” commented Hunter. The potato/chive combination was very popular. In the future, the staff will offer the cooked version of fingerling potatoes during lunch the same week for further exploration by the budding foodies!

Tomatoes with Basil

Basil is the most commonly used herb in the United States. It adds a peppery, sweet flavor to items and pairs well with tomatoes. The combination of chopped tomatoes served with fresh basil was easy to prepare, and a big hit. Basil is also an easy plant to grow and gives off a nice fragrance in the garden or indoors.

Tomato Salsa with Cilantro

Cilantro is a unique herb – folks tend to love it or not. The flavor is described by some as bright and citrusy; to others it is soapy. Northridge staff made a fresh Pico de Gallo that students loved. It went over so well, plans are being made to add the item to the school lunch menu.

Cilantro appears in many international dishes like chutneys, salsas and pho. Try adding it into one of your taste test events!

Herb plants.

Fresh herb plants are front-and-center in the cafeteria serving line. Students are encouraged to touch and smell the plants.

Taste, Smell & Touch

Herbs really vary in their appearance, smell and taste – each plant is unique. Hunter offers these tips for getting students to experience the beauty of herbs:

  • Encourage students to touch and smell the herbs. Place baskets of fresh herbs in the serving area, available for kids to touch and smell.
  • Use signage to highlight the unique features of each herb. Draw attention to the shape and color of the leaves, as well as list key words that describe the flavor.
  • Build excitement. Each week, Hunter posts the fresh fruits and vegetable snacks on a sign in the lobby. The sign also includes fact sheets that teachers can take into the classroom to discuss the food properties with students.

Apple, Apple & Apple

Teaching students about the subtle variations in food flavors can also be achieved by offering different varieties of the same items. In October and November, staff offered a different type of Michigan-grown apple each week (Jonamac, Honeycrisp, Cortland, Empire, Ida Red and Braeburn).

Hunter created a Google Form and asked teachers to conduct a simple – thumbs up / thumbs down – poll in their classroom. The apple voting took place each week with the final vote occurring on November 8 – Election Day.

Results were posted outside the lunch line. While supplies lasted, the featured apples were also offered with the school meal. The successful event will be repeated – Hunter will limit voting to no more than three weeks though. After three weeks, the excitement was waning.

Voting engages children with the meal and has been shown to increase participation and satisfaction. For additional ideas on voting, see this previous blog post.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs (FFVP) provide fresh fruits and veggies to younger students from income-eligible schools. The program benefits are twofold – the items provide a healthful, nutritious snack to young growing bodies; and the exposure builds a behavior of healthy snacking.

Hunter and her staff maximize student exposure to a variety of fresh items. In February, the Northridge FFVP menu features a combination of eight fruits and four vegetables – including strawberry and kiwi blend, black plums and asparagus. Each month also includes kid favorites like bananas, apples, grapes and clementines. For more information, click here.

 

It Takes a Village


At the Black River Education Center, Food Service Director Bonnie Cooper embraced the proverb that ‘it takes a village’ to create long-term change. Cooper recruited students, teachers, staff, parents and community partners to create a school wellness committee. The 13-member committee worked throughout the year to develop health-enhancing guidelines and programs that would garner district-wide support.

Building a Culture of Health

To build a culture of health, the committee started with updating the district wellness policy. School wellness policies set the expectations for nutrition and activity opportunities offered within the school community. Policies are powerful tools – they can provide leverage for adding programs and improve coordination.

The final policy, approved by the school board in July 2016, included the following key elements:

  • School meal guidelines
  • Smarter Lunchroom strategies
  • Staff qualifications and professional development
  • Classroom celebration recommendations
  • Standards for competitive foods and beverages
  • Drinking water accessibility guidelines and promotion
  • Physical education requirements
black-river-voting-yesormaybe-copy-2

Maybe? and Love! ballot boxes nudge students to find a tasty vegetable.

Community Carnival of Wellness

With contributions from the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and coordination from the new wellness committee, a Get Moving Night was held in March 2016. The event featured some of the new menu items as well as community physical activity partners – 160 students, 80 parents and 25 school members attended the event. The event featured:

  • A 9-hole miniature golf course located in the music room.
  • An obstacle course placed inside the cafeteria and managed by staff from a local fitness center.
  • Shake It Up Fruit Smoothies made with applesauce, 100% pineapple or orange juice and fresh strawberry or vanilla yogurt.
  • A Vegetable Tasting Station featured fresh bell peppers, snap peas, zucchini, cauliflower and broccoli.

More than 220 samples of fresh vegetables were taste tested on the event night. Students voted on their favorites; bell peppers (n=29), broccoli (n=22), snap peas (n=20) and zucchini (n= 21) received a ton of “love it” votes.

Cooper said, “The purpose of the voting was to get students’ opinion in a relaxing, fun atmosphere. These votes helped us create a different variety of vegetables for our lunch menus.”

To promote the carnival event, the cafeteria offered breakfast smoothies every Tuesday in March. Smoothie Tuesday was so popular that it earned a permanent spot on the breakfast menu.

blackriver_tripeppers_2016

Tri-color pepper cups grabbed student attention.

Parents, students, teachers and nutrition staff agreed – the event was a major success in raising awareness of fitness and improving the attitudes toward fruits and vegetables. People had fun, they learned something new and all activities improved student well being.

“I love these healthy choices for our children while they are at school and these options are so tasty!” remarked one parent during the event.

Ongoing Work

Building a culture of health is ongoing work. The Black River Wellness Team plans to keep up the momentum. Next year, they will work to broaden the scope of the wellness policy to include sleep recommendations.

Writing Contest Encourages Future Chefs


The fifth grade students at Diley Middle School wrote essays about their interest in cooking, and stated why they wanted to be chef for the day. Writers of the winning essays earned an opportunity to cook for their peers. The event drew close to 300 entries – and increased meal participation.

Chef for the Day

The Food Service Department staff created the writing contest as a way to further involve Pickerington students into school nutrition activities. Head cook Becky Loar created a videotaped message explaining the writing contest, and encouraged all students to submit an entry. The message played during the morning announcements and the response was tremendous. Excerpts from the winning entries are below:

Arlo exclaimed, “I come from a long line of amazing chefs!”

Ella described “the calming sense” she receives when cooking, and how much she enjoys the process as “sweet aromas are spreading happiness through you.”

Layla kept her reasoning simple and straight from the heart: “I love to cook and bake with my Mom, and I am very good in the kitchen.”

The three student winners helped Chef Pierre and the Diley kitchen staff cut, cook and plate toppings for a school-wide taste test event in April. “It was a fun day with lots of positive energy,” noted Judy Riley, Supervisor of Food Service. “Student sous chefs were thrilled to be part of the event and took an active role in encouraging their peers to try something new.”

dileystaff_pizzatray_2016

Heather Hedgepeth (Diley Principal), Judy Riley (Food Service Supervisor), Chef Pierre Wolf and Heather Loar (Diley Head Cook) prepare for the taste test event.

Taste Testing with the Student Chefs

All 580 Diley Middle School students received a sample of two different pizzas. The Chicken Poblano Mexican Pizza featured a soft pliable crust. Personalized toppings included fire-roasted Poblano peppers, refried beans, diced tomatoes, corn and black bean salsa and red onions. The Primo Gusto Pepperoni Pizza featured sun dried tomato sauce, fire-roasted garlic, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese and sliced mushrooms. Students loved the ability to personalize their pizza with the various vegetable-based toppings.

  • 90% of the students who tried the pizza stated that they would buy it again.
  • Primo Gusto Pepperoni Pizza was the most popular topping, sampled by 70% of the students.

Chef for the Day increased meal participation at Diley Middle School by 100 meals, and the two vegetable-enhanced pizzas are now on the menu.

Smarter Lunchroom Strategies throughout the District

Chef for the Day was one part of Pickerington Local Schools year-long plan to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. At all the elementary and middle schools locations, staff added a variety of new items to the menu, placed fruit baskets in busy locations, moved salad bars to a more visible location and hung colorful posters in the dining area.  Highlights include:

  • Nacho munchables – a new vegetable and bean nacho entrée was added at four elementary and one middle school. The item is now a K-6 meat alternate.
  • Carrots and celery with hummus dip won a taste test and has been added to the weekly menu as a meat alternate.
  • Harmon Middle School added Salad Bar Wednesday and a Sub Bar Day to encourage vegetable purchases. The salad bar is rolled out to the cafeteria on Sub Bar Days to encourage veggie toppings to both sandwiches and salads. The Supervisor noted that vegetable waste is now minimized and students are adding extra vegetables to their subs. The sale of both salads and subs has increased.

Activities from this project were funded by a United States Department of Agriculture Team Nutrition Training Grant.

harmon_subbar_toppings_april2016

Harmon Middle School kitchen staff added Sub Bar Day to the menu. Students can add a variety of vegetable toppings to their sandwich.

 

Customers Drive School Meal Choices at Cloverleaf


Students are our customers.

This simple phrase sums up how the Cloverleaf nutrition staff approaches their work. The team works hard to offer appealing menu items, as well as engage their customers in decision-making and tasting processes.

During the 2015-16 year, the nutrition team was very busy. They updated the salad bar, offered monthly taste testings, implemented Tot Chef cooking classes, and added cold-water dispensers into the cafeteria. New signage was also added to help students navigate through the meal choices.

cloverleaf1_boystirfrypan_oct2016-copy

Ten students and their parents participated in the six-week Tot Chef program.

Location, Location, Location

In smarter lunchrooms, healthful items are offered in strategic locations. First in line and in a busy traffic pattern are two prime spots. To take advantage of the location, Food Service Director Carrie Beegle moved the salad bar, from a sidewall position, into the center of the high school cafeteria. In the new location, students must pass the salad bar to get to the cashier.

  • The results were positive; fruit and vegetable selection increased by 300%.

Entrée items were also reordered in the line. Beegle moved the homemade entrée of the day, called Kitchen Sync, to the first position in the serving line. Students now select the healthiest entrée twice as often as the pizza. This was an easy change with huge results!

Gotcha Sriracha at the Middle School

The middle school Student Food Service Committee participated in cooking lessons and created their own spice blends. Students created spice blends named Gotcha Sriracha, Kickin’ Colt and Jamaican Me Crazy.

“Herb blends were a big hit with all our students,” raved Beegle. “Students use them with everyday items to add instant flare and the salt requests have disappeared.”

Salad Bar Changes Reduce Waste

Elementary school students helped update their salad choices. A tray waste study revealed that 62% of the pre-made salads were wasted. The Cloverleaf Elementary staff added a salad bar to encourage students to select their own side item.

  • After the new salad bar was created, only 6% of the salad bar choices were discarded.

Staff handed out stickers to the elementary students when they had finished all their fruits and vegetables. The students were excited to receive the sticker.

Taste It Tuesdays and More

Like most taste events, Taste It Tuesday featured bite-size pieces of fruit and vegetable-based items, and students gave feedback on the taste. Taste It Tuesdays in Cloverleaf, though, featured a few very unique items:

Joyce’s Banana Freezes were a hit – 1,250 samples were gobbled-up by the students. The sampling, created by Cloverleaf’s head chef Joyce Meyer, was also featured in the Medina County Gazette.  Click here for the recipe.

cloverleaf_saladbargirlsmiling_oct2016-copy

Vegetable waste decreased when elementary students served themselves.

Students Enjoy International Flavor


Knox County Career Center students recently sampled pho, the national dish of Vietnam, and then learned how to prepare the soup at home.

Knox County Career Center (Knox CCC) is located in Mount Vernon, Ohio. In this non-traditional high school setting, students prepare for a career while also completing their junior and senior years. Bruce Kreidler, Food Service Director, thought his students would enjoy the unique flavors of the soup – and he was right!

Pho Adds International Flavor

Pho is a broth and noodle soup that also includes ½ cup of vegetables. Carrots, cabbage, zucchini, green onions and cilantro were added to rice noodles and served in a warm broth. The soup was a big success – 322 students and staff enjoyed the new item.

  • Students liked the combination of bite-sized vegetables with the rice noodles.
  • A handful of students also appreciated that the soup was gluten-free.

Not only was the soup tasty, it was easy to prepare.

Traditionally, pho is made with beef (pho bo) or chicken (pho ga). Kreidler made his pho with a turkey broth made from scratch using leftover turkey bones from the school’s Thanksgiving meals. Making his own broth was economical and allowed him to control the sodium content in the soup. Rice noodles were pre-cooked by soaking them in hot water for 30 minutes. The noodles were then placed in small bowls, with the hot broth added on top.

Dishes of Pho

Pho is a broth-based soup that includes vegetables and rice noodles. This version included carrots, cabbage, zucchini, green onions and cilantro in a warm turkey broth.

Students Prepare Pho for Families

At the conclusion of the lunch period, Chef Kreidler taught interested students how to prepare the soup. Students julienned carrots, used a mandolin to slice the cabbage and zucchini, and diced the onions and cilantro.

Several of the cooking class attendees recreated the dish for their families. The students reported their families enjoyed the deceptively simple, yet flavorful variation on chicken noodle soup.

“Pho is great comfort food,” remarked one Knox CCC student who cooked the noodle dish for her family.

Carrot, Kale & Spinach Smoothies

Pho was just one of the cooking events Kreidler implemented with his students. Earlier in the year, Kreidler set up a smoothie station in the cafeteria. Bowls overflowing with fresh carrots, kale, spinach, peaches, blueberries and pineapple were placed alongside a blender.

The bright green and purple smoothies grabbed the attention of every high school student.

  • 120 samples were consumed during breakfast.
  • 375 samples were consumed during lunch.

“I can’t even taste the vegetables in this smoothie!” exclaimed one student. “When can we have this on the menu on a regular basis?” asked several others. The high price of the ingredients will limit adding the smoothies to the menu on a regular basis, but Kreidler will explore ways to offer the smoothies for special occasions.

The two cooking events had high participation and high customer satisfaction. Students tasted 827 samples of new food items, and Kreidler reported that approximately 75% of the student body had positive responses to the smoothies and the soup.

Soups and smoothies are two alternative ways to offer vegetables within school meals. Give pho a try in 2017 and let us know how it goes!

knoxcc_chefcookingandstudents_july142016

Chef Kreidler tops rice noodles and vegetables with a homemade broth. The high school students enjoyed the international twist on chicken noodle soup.

 

School Year Ends with a Fruit and Vegetable Extravaganza


It started with a wheel and some carrots, broccoli, and kale.

It ended with a blowout – a fruit and vegetable extravaganza that featured 20 types of fresh produce!

School nutrition staff at Boardman Center Intermediate School built a lot of interest in fruits and vegetables throughout the year. Staff hosted taste tests and gave away over 12,000 samples of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Students sampled raw broccoli, jicama, asparagus, edamame, beets, spinach, kale, zucchini straws, acorn squash, butternut squash, roasted garbanzo beans, roasted black beans, sweet potato, three varieties of tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, fresh pineapple, coconut, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and grapes – over 20 different fresh and cooked, fruits and vegetables.

The taste tests were introduced through a wheel, spun to identify the item to be sampled. The wheel and the tastings became quite popular.

Fruit and Vegetable Blowout

The school year ended with a blowout – a fruit & veggie extravaganza – that featured a table full of raw asparagus, sliced jicama, raw broccoli, three types of melon, three types of tomatoes, and red, green & yellow peppers.

boardmanmiddle_blowouttable_may2016-copy-2

Cantaloupe was a big hit and has been added to the school menu.

The school year typically ends with celebrations, so the school nutrition staff wanted to celebrate the increased interested, by staff and students, in fruits and vegetables. “We really built momentum toward hosting a big event – it seemed like a good thing to do,” observed Food Service Director Natalie Winkle.

Best Day EVER!

Students loved the variety. One middle school student even said, “This is the best day ever!” Another student wished the school offered all these fruit and vegetables every day.

Tasting transferred to consumption, Winkle is very pleased to report. New choices on the menu include veggie sticks (celery & carrots), raw broccoli, grape tomatoes, cauliflower, and cucumbers.

  • Watermelon and cantaloupe have been added to the menu. Procurement records show an increase in amount of watermelon ordered: from 1- 21 pound watermelon per two-week cycle to 2 -21 pound watermelons per two-week cycle.
  • Procurement records show an increase from no cantaloupe purchased to 6 cantaloupes purchased every two weeks.
  • Strawberry consumption also increased.
  • Salad sales have increased. After the initial taste tests, students who chose salad on their lunch trays (when salad was served) went from 250 per day to about 300 per day.
  • More raw vegetables have also been added on the menu. Broccoli servings averaged of 165 servings per menu day and have increased to 222 servings of broccoli per menu day. Staff offered broccoli raw and steamed at different times on the menu; the amount of broccoli chosen stayed about the same. The students like the broccoli raw as much as steamed.

A Team Nutrition Training Grant, through the United States Department of Agriculture, funded the project. The grant is administered through the Ohio Department of Education, Office for Child Nutrition.

We thank the following school districts for sharing their activities, photographs, and data. Their stories will be posted on this blog over the upcoming months.

Austintown Local; Beavercreek City; Black River Local; Boardman Local; Cloverleaf Local; Columbus City; Edison Local; Fairfield Local; Fairview Park City;

Grand Valley Local; James A. Garfield Local; Leipsic Local; Marlington Local; Minster Local; Mount Vernon City; Pickerington Local; Springfield Local; Sebring Local; Summit Academy – Xenia; Warren City.

The Top 5 Nutrition Education Strategies of 2016


With 2017 only weeks away – it is time to celebrate the best of school nutrition.

In Ohio, 92 schools joined the Smarter Lunchroom Movement during the past school year. School nutrition staff implemented simple strategies that increased the availability of healthful items, encouraged trial of unfamiliar foods, and reinforced healthy student eating.

Taste tests, nutrition education, salad bar enhancements, cooking events, and plate waste studies were the most frequent types of activities.

Here are the highlights from this year’s most creative nutrition strategies – we hope they inspire your own success story in the coming year. Specific school stories will be posted on this blog over the upcoming months.

Taste Tests

Taste events are a fun, pressure-free way to introduce bite-sized samples of new food items. They also provide a quick, casual way to teach students about local food items, food properties, and healthful food choices. Curious students sampled over 38,732 items!

  • 65 schools held a taste test event;
  • 24 types of fruit were sampled;
  • 47 types of vegetables were sampled;
  • 25 schools added new items to the menu.

schooltray_clipped

Nutrition Education

Nutrition education provides information about food properties and activities that help students develop skills for making nutritious food choices. The best nutrition education provides hands-on experiences that allow learners to engage with food, expand food preferences, and creates a willingness to try new foods and preparations.

The Smarter Lunchroom grant schools used menu boards and social media, and held events to engage students, teachers, parents, and community members in healthful eating.

  • 18 schools held nutrition education events;
  • 5 newspaper articles featured school nutrition events;
  • 28 blogs were posted on OHIO Smarter Lunchrooms;
  • 793 resources were downloaded from OHIO Smarter Lunchrooms.

Salad Bar Enhancements

Salad bars are an efficient way to offer a variety of fresh fruit and vegetable items.  Students can serve themselves and create salads tailored to their taste preferences. There is something for everyone in a well-stocked salad bar.

The placement of the salad bar, and the visual appeal of the items on the bar are important aspects for maximizing use. Bars are more likely to be visited if they sit directly in a traffic pattern, with eye-catching displays.

  • 32 salad bars were enhanced;
  • Over 50 signs were purchased;
  • 32 grab-and-go stations were created or improved.

Chef and Cooking Events

Cooking events encourage positive attitudes towards food. Cooking events bring fun into the kitchen, allow chefs to work with students and staff to develop creative entrees, and build skills for lifelong healthy eating.

Chef-run cooking classes are also a hit with school nutrition staff. Chefs assist nutrition staff expand their cooking skills, prepare and sample new items, and enhance flavor on recipe items.

Operationally, scratch cooking can result in food that is more appealing to students.  Districts can use this method to manage costs and control nutritional quality.

  • 15 schools held a cooking event;
  • 299 middle school students wrote an essay about wanting to be a sous chef;
  • 4 new recipes were created.

Tray Waste Studies

Tray waste is one way to measure school meal consumption. By observing the food left on the tray, conclusions can be made about the food that was consumed. It is one of the most direct ways to report what children are eating.

Measuring student nutrition behaviors is good practice. Measurements help professionals identify working strategies, assist in menu planning, and ultimately reduce the amount of food waste. Sixteen schools in this cohort completed tray waste studies.

  • 7,515 trays were observed and coded;
  • 38 days of tray waste was observed and coded;
  • 6 summary reports were shared with school nutrition staff.

A Team Nutrition Training Grant, through the United States Department of Agriculture, funds the project. The grant is administered through the Ohio Department of Education, Office for Child Nutrition.

We thank the following school districts for sharing their activities, photographs, and data. Their stories will be posted on this blog over the upcoming months.

Austintown Local; Beavercreek City; Black River Local; Boardman Local; Cloverleaf Local; Columbus City; Edison Local; Fairfield Local; Fairview Park City;

Grand Valley Local; James A. Garfield Local; Leipsic Local; Marlington Local; Minster Local; Mount Vernon City; Pickerington Local; Springfield Local; Sebring Local; Summit Academy – Xenia; Warren City.

 

Vote Now. Vote Often.


Everyone should vote, and they should vote often. Stuff the ballot boxes. Go back and say more. Voting is important because it gives voice to your opinion.

We vote for political candidates, talent show contestants, social media posts, and much more. Why not use voting to help create irresistible school meals?

In school cafeteria voting, there are no red states or blue states – it’s a whole rainbow of colors. Our candidates are green leafy vegetables, red bell peppers, purple grapes, and ruby-colored pomegranates – to name a few.

Vote Now (and How).

OHIO Team Nutrition schools used a variety of ways to capture their students’ response to meals and new items. In school nutrition, asking students to voice their opinion creates menus that children will love, allowing schools to offer meals that nourish students for a day of learning.

Informal Polling

The easiest way to gather feedback is to ask students what they think. Informal polling can be as simple as walking through the cafeteria and asking students what they liked about an item.

Informal polling can also operate like an exit poll. As students leave the line or the cafeteria, staff ask a sample of students for their responses. Results give school nutrition professionals a quick sense of the response to an item.

Informal polling of customers is very easy to implement and requires no preparation work. It also creates a dialogue with current and potential customers. One downside of this quick-response method of information collection is that it may be difficult to summarize and track responses.

Public Declaration

Voting for your favorite candidate does not have to be secretive or require a ballot box. Public “liking” is something that students are quite familiar with.

Summit Academy in Xenia used clothespins and a poster board to collect feedback from their students. After sampling items as part of a fruit and vegetable of the month program, students placed a pin by their response: did they “like all”; “like some; or “like none” of the items sampled.

screen-shot-summit-posters

Students use clothespins to mark their response.

We “like” this method because it teaches students that there are a variety of responses to trying a new food item. In Xenia, participation in taste tests grew over the course of the year, and all students discovered new items that they “liked”.

There are countless ways to create public voting systems. Try one of these:

  • Students place stickers by names of the items they like best.
  • Students place their empty tasting cup on a tray or in a basket to indicate the items they prefer.
  • Students raise their hands to polling questions.

Public declarations require minimal equipment and create a real-time visual picture of the patterns in student responses. This method also allows us to quantify and compare responses to a variety of food items.

Ballot Box

In traditional voting, voters complete a ballot and place it in a ballot box. After all the voting is complete, results are tallied – and a winner is declared. Ballot voting can be fun and suspenseful.

Food Service Director Bonnie Cooper at Black River Education Center created her own ballot boxes to use as part of a family fun night. Students and their parents voted for “Maybe?” items and “Love!” items. The positive-only responses frame the experience for children – and nudges children to look for a maybe or love item!

black-river-voting-yesormaybe-copy-2

Maybe? and Love! ballot boxes nudge students to find a tasty vegetable.

Printing ballots and counting responses requires a bit of extra work; however, ballots are great tools for quantifying the number of students who like and might purchase an item. Download ballots here.

Vote Often.

Unlike upcoming November elections, we want our constituents to vote often. A reoccurring process of asking students to provide feedback creates a shared experience in healthful eating. It also reinforces student, and staff, willingness to try new menu items.

Three Tips to Build High Voter Turnout

Regardless of the voting technique, we want high levels of participation. Maximize participation by following these simple tips:

  1. Make it convenient. Incorporate the polling station into the flow of regular meal service.
  1. Reward the act of voting. Stickers are a great way to say thank you. Download “I Voted” stickers here.
  1. Share the election results. Voting is a process, not a single act. An important part of the process is sharing results with the voters and putting their feedback into action. Knowing that your vote counts increases the likelihood of future voting. To share results with students, try one of these ideas:
  • Report the results in the morning announcements – make it fun, like reporting the results of a sporting activity;
  • Post a picture of the winning item at the entrance of the school or cafeteria;
  • Place a blue ribbon by the item when it appears on the serving line.

Let’s go Ohio! Go to the resource section of the blog to download stickers, ballots, and a taste test getting started guide.

The stakes are high. The outcomes are huge. Please – Vote Now. Vote Often.

Summer Meal Programs Fight Hunger with Nutritious Food and Innovation


By Jesus Garcia, Special Assistant, Office of Communications, Administration for Children and Families (HHS)

Blog Pic

Summer meals help close the nutrition gap children face when schools let out for summer – when children no longer receive school meals they relied on throughout the school year.

When I was young, summers seemed to last forever. Days were long and hot in rural South Texas.

One thing I looked forward to after riding my bicycle all over the neighborhood was a nice lunch prepared by my grandmother Angelita. Meals like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) or carne guisada(stewed meat) with a side of beans provided the energy I needed to keep up with an adventurous summer.

Good food not only helps your body climb hills when you’re a kid, but it helps your brain develop in order to learn new stuff.  For some children in our communities, though, not enough healthy food is available for them to enjoy and help them grow. Luckily, a very helpful program exists that communities can use to tackle this problem: USDA’s Summer Meal Programs.

Summer Meal Programs help close the nutrition gap children face when schools let out for summer — when children no longer receive school meals they relied on throughout the school year. USDA reports that 22 million children and teens receive free and reduced-priced meals through the National School Lunch Program. But only about 1 in 5 of those (around 3.8 million) participate in summer meal programs.

USDA makes it easy for children, parents and community leaders to find the nearest summer meal site through its Summer Meal Site Finder. This free, web-based application features an easily-searchable map to help locate sites serving summer meals. The site locator is available in English and Spanish, and it includes a mobile version.

You can also call 1-866-348-6479 (English) or 1-877-842-6273 (Spanish) to find a site near you.  You can also text FOOD (for English) or COMIDA (for Spanish) to 877-877 to find a meal site near you during the summer.

I appreciate and support this program, especially because USDA is focused on increasing summer meal sites in rural and tribal areas where access is sometimes a problem. In the last four years, USDA has provided technical assistance to a select group of states each year to increase the participation of eligible children in the program. This year USDA is working closely with Delaware, Minnesota and Nebraska, as well as Tribal lands in the Southwest Region.

A combination of factors, including high rates of food insecurity, poverty rates, and recommendations from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Regional Offices and anti-hunger advocacy groups, led to the selection of these areas to receive technical assistance to address hunger and access issues. USDA is working to address capacity and interest in these areas to expand summer meal programs.

From forging innovative partnerships to creative problem-solving remedies, the folks at USDA are coming up with different ways to connect youth to healthy meals. From retrofitting buses to overcoming transportation issues, to tapping into community volunteerism to increase site access, to operating mobile sites in rural areas to close the gap between children and healthy meals, USDA is working collaboratively with states, sponsors and partners to close the summer meal gap.

Parents can trust that these summer meal sites will provide a nutritious meal in a community setting that will keep youth engaged. Make plans now to help your community connect with this valuable service. Let’s allow every child to experience summers they will never forget!


The original post, by Tony Craddock, Program Analyst, Food and Nutrition Services can be found on the USDA Blog Site.


Currently, there are over 700 sites in Ohio that offer Summer food service programs. All children, ages 1-18, are eligible to receive free meals during the summer months at participating program sites.

Click HERE for more information regarding the Ohio Summer Food Service Program and participating sites.

 

Tips for Taking Great School Nutrition Photos


Photographs allow us to document a moment so that experience can be shared with others. A good photo can educate and inspire. It can spark an idea in some else, or remind you of a moment of interest or inspiration.

Use photos to educate others about your school nutrition projects – and to inspire support for child nutrition. With your ever-present camera phone, capturing good photos can be done in a matter of seconds.

To make the most of your shots, follow these 6 basic tips:

Lighting is (super) important

Good lighting is essential to good photography – and natural lighting is the best. In cafeterias, use indirect sunlight from a window or skylight to illuminate the subject of your photos. Try moving food items closer to sunlight before taking pictures. Be careful, though, to avoid direct sunlight; this might create shadows on your composition.

Now let’s be realistic about sunlight and the cafeteria. Most of our serving areas and merchandisers will need to be photographed using artificial light. Overhead lights can cast a yellowish film over the subject matter. Try placing a light source to the side or behind the object.

Play with different angles

Just like people, food and spaces have better angles! For food photographs – like salad bars and meal trays – “top down” angles tend to work best. Place your camera over the item and snap.

Superfoods_salad_July2015

Use a top down angle when taking photos of food

For subject matter like signs, people and dining areas, create interest and balance by applying the Rule of Thirds. Imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have a grid with 9 small squares. Place your subject matter at one of the four places where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect.

K.I.S.S. your composition

Keep it simple – superstar! Limit distractions in your frame. Before you hit the red button – look around the composition. Remove the distractions – maybe a utensil, the crumbled napkin or a peeling wall sign.

Plain backgrounds also let the composition shine. Place food on a white napkin or light colored tray.

Move in close

Pictures that grab attention include interesting details. To capture the different shades of an apple, or the elements of a sign, step in close. Fill the frame with the subject.

Robert Capa, a photographer and photojournalist repeatedly observed, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

Take a wide view too

Wide or panoramic views document set-up, placement and flow. This larger view of information can assist in planning and evaluating your Team Nutrition project. Before starting a redesign, take a few pictures that can be referenced later, after the update is complete.

Focus and REPEAT

An out of focus image is of little, to no, use. After picking the shot, adjusting the composition, and stepping in close – give the camera a moment to focus. Once it’s ready – snap.

Finish off the moment with our best piece of photography advice – take multiple shots of the same view. Keep one or two of the best photos; discard the remaining shots.

Need some inspiration? Here are three Instagram accounts that have been recognized for their food photographs. Enjoy!

https://www.instagram.com/wrightkitchen/

https://www.instagram.com/smittenkitchen/

https://www.instagram.com/whiteonricecouple/

The Lunch Tray

kids and food, in school and out

Live Healthy Live Well

Ohio State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences

School Meals That Rock

Featuring school nutrition programs that serve kids well

%d bloggers like this: