Serving up veggies in all of our products!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Changes in School Food, Part 2. Get Involved!

We are thrilled about the changes happening to school food menus across the country, like the addition of Veggie Wedgies in place of the deep-fried standard!
At the same time, there are more improvements to be made, but what specifically is next? That is the big question. So we turned to our friend and pediatric dietitian, Melanie Silverman, to hear her opinion on the topic and tips on how to keep the momentum going. Here is what she had to say:

On December 13th, 2010 President Obama signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.  Believe it or not, there had not been a change in school nutrition standards in 15 years so we were long overdue for change.  The gist of the bill is this: 
  1. Schools will receive 6 cents more reimbursement per meal.  
  2. Foods offered will have less sodium and fat and more fruits and vegetables.  
  3. Policies will be made to help schools send consistent messages about healthy eating, which includes what is available in school vending machines and school stores.  
  4. Processes for children who are eligible for school meals will be simplified.  
  5. Farm-to-school pilot programs will be started.  
Many say, and I do agree, the bill falls short in terms of reimbursement for meals.  I have heard experts suggest that we need an additional dollar per meal to elevate school lunch to where it needs to be.  Six cents is a long way from a dollar so what are we suppose to do to move the process along?  When my clients complain to me about their kids’ school lunch programs I suggest this to them:  get involved!  

Here is what we can do: 
  1. Look at your kids’ school lunch menu. Ask your kids what the problems are and take notes.
  2. Talk to other families about their issues with the school lunch program and suggest changes.  Start small.  Simple changes like removing sugary drinks or changing white bread to wheat bread can make a big difference.  
  3. Keep in mind, money is the issue so your challenge is to come up with cost conscious changes that the school districts can feasibly do.   
  4. Contact the school administrators to set up an appointment to voice your concerns and offer suggestions. 
  5.  Write your local papers and officials and let your voice be heard that you want change. 

Recently, I heard an excellent idea from a local mom in my community.  She suggested providing cut up fruit and vegetables trays on the tables for kids during lunch.  The problem was the labor involved to cut those fruits and vegetables.  Food service personnel are busy preparing meals and have little to no time to peel carrots and slice apples.  A super savvy mom came up with the idea that school parents or community volunteers could come in and help with preparing the fruit and vegetable trays and labor would be free.  This is the type of innovating thinking we need in school lunch.

I applaud the efforts in Congress passing the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, but we cannot sit back and wait for the six cents to become a dollar; we have to put our minds together now and make the change happen ourselves. 

Melanie R. Silverman MS, RD, IBCLC is pediatric registered dietitian and lactation consultant in Laguna Beach, California.  You can learn more about her private practice at and what her feeding philosophies are at

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