Archive for December 4th, 2008

Hands In the Air School Food Junkies

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Enthusiasm runs deep with this crew and so does angst. The aggression is thankfully not pitted at each other but at bad food; the lame floppy objects labeled pizza, chicken patty or otherwise served on Styrofoam trays in school cafeterias.  That’s how the Dover Dining Facilities Council accomplishes tasks. Members get fired up sans fists, and seek change.

The latest meeting took place November 20, 2008 at Dover middle school.  There is much to report, so I’ll keep the commentary thin.

Old biz revisited:

  • Menus are now disclosed on the district Web site in Word format.  Food information is available to the public—there is nothing to hide.
  • Parents do not want to see marshmallows or Jell-O on the district list of “recommended food items.” Parents, if you bring food to a school event, make it worth the calories. Rule of thumb, if your food choice isn’t healthful, this is not the best platform.
  • Taste testing is moving along. Mark Covell, food service director, passed a spreadsheet listing items tried at the various schools. Items that were a hit: ham and cheese wrap with lettuce and tomato; baked macaroni and cheese with ham; fresh cucumber and zucchini sticks; homemade enchiladas; open face tuna melt; fresh plums, bananas, peaches and pears. Slated for taste testing: Italian-style chicken—as Mark calls it—breast strips, lightly breaded with whole wheat flour and seasoned with Italian herbs.  Chicken nuggets might be booted if kids go commando for Italian-style chicken.
  • Styrofoam situation is under consideration. Mark is working with high school students to figure out the best scenario for the district (cost) and planet (waste). Novel, get the students involved.  A Styrofoam tray recycler was mentioned.

New Biz:

  • Big idea for a council or board: break it up into subcommittees to get tasks done. Laurie Verville, district business manager and head of the Dining Facilities Council, strongly encouraged members to create subcommittees. Technically, the group has already formed several subcommittees: grant writing and research, UNH dietetic intern program, UNH nursing intern program, healthy snack/newsletter writing, communications, Styrofoam research, and farm to school.
  • Over achievers? Maybe, but they can handle it. UNH dietetic interns, Dana Poist and Kimberly Povec presented their plan for Spring semester 2009: introduce one new nutrient dense recipe that can be used in all schools; incorporate more whole grains in current recipes by helping Mark purchase products that contain whole grains; add an increased number of fresh fruits and veggies and get them in front of the students (i.e. not old apples in a bowl behind the counter); make a muffin mix from scratch and incorporate whole grains; use dietetic software to calculate nutritional information for recipes and “flag” foods that contain trans fats in an effort to eliminate said items from the menu; Elementary schools: conduct cooking demos and a tasting in each cafe focusing on fresh local ingredients, think farm to school; also have a fresh fruit and veggie “this is what it looks like table”… like a mini farmers market, with fruits and veggies whole and cut ready for tasting; Middle/High school: conduct focus groups to establish how best to market healthful foods/farm to table ideology to the students. Create posters to hang in the cafes and create a labeling system, nutrition info cards to be placed next to each dish in the cafes. Note: Ashli Franck, third UNH dietetic intern could not make this meeting.
  • Parent Amy Middleton gave a brief presentation on grant subcommittee status. The team is creating a spreadsheet of district wants and needs with goals, objectives and projected dollar amounts assigned to each.  Next step is to research grants and apply for grant money. An example, enroll all kitchen staff in a professional development nutrition certificate program like that offered through the School Nutrition Association
  • Melissa Snow, parent, Registered and Licensed Dietitian, and healthy snack subcommittee member presented a one-sheet listing healthy snack suggestions and best practices for pairing food items for optimum nutrition… match a protein packed food with a whole grain carb and fresh fruit or veggie. If interested in eyeing the doc, leave a comment at the end of the blog with an email address. An exceptional bit to share—ZERO brand names are listed!

Round table:

  • YMCA afterschool program continues to serve unhealthy snacks. Technically the program is on school grounds; therefore they need to clean up their act.
  • School nurses need an accurate breakdown of all items served each day. This will help eliminate issues with incorrect amounts of insulin given to diabetic students.
  • Prices for snack items need to be listed on rack of snacks.
  • Two middle school student council members joined the meeting. They attest that they and friends seek healthier food options. They like the UNH dietetic intern idea of creating a basic labeling system for menu items.
  • Parents want to know more than just fat, calorie, sugar, carb content of menu items. Some are curious to see full ingredient lists. Why? Sneaky preservatives and scary additives. And what about GMOs, antibiotics and growth hormones?
  • FREE live Webcast from Action for Healthy Kids Call to Leadership: Elevating School Wellness to a Higher Level, December 8, 2008 from 3-4:30pm EST.
  • UNH nursing interns created an art competition for Dover middle school students “Fruit and Veggies Matter: A Rainbow of Colors”. A grand prize of an iPod Nano was awarded to the winning artist. First, second and third place winners were chosen from each grade level. All artwork is displayed in the school.

Next council meeting January 22, 2009—next year! The holidays are upon us, a wonderful time to scale back, slow down, love and teach our children. For an inspiring jolt into sustainable living check out—they and you too can make Santa proud.