Promoting New Meals to Students and Parents | Mt. Lebanon SD

Description

Mt Lebanon is a small community consisting of ten schools (seven elementary, two middle, and one high school). All students walk to school (there are no buses). Just three years ago there were no cafeteria facilities at any of the elementary schools so students would go home for lunch or bring a brown bag lunch each day. Recently, all seven elementary schools have been awarded Bronze status under the HealthierUS School Challenge.

With the arrival of the Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act Mt. Lebanon took on the challenge of simultaneously serving compliant meals while maintaining participation levels. This was accomplished by a combination of nutrition education aimed at both parents and students and by making it easy for elementary students to eat lunch via a grab and go system.

Tazeen Chowdury, Food Service Director, served as guest speaker at the elementary schools, explaining the lunch program and the Healthy Hunger-fee Kids Act to the students. They were taught about the five food groups and the importance of eating healthy. Samples of school meals were also shown to the children. Parents were taught about the new school meal patterns at the PTA meetings. The reasons behind the new meal patterns were explained and taste-testing was done so the parents could actually sample for themselves just how good the meals are that their children were being served.

Despite limited cafeteria facilities at the elementary schools, tables and counters in a multi-purpose room are set up as a self-serve Grab ‘n Go lunch line. Students get a daily choice of a hot entrée, cold sandwich/wrap, bagel with yogurt and string cheese or a garden salad along with unlimited fruits and vegetables. Mt. Lebanon has incorporated locally-grown produce and features a “Farm of the Month.”

Contact Information

Contact Person: Tazeen Chowdhury
Contact Person’s Title: Food Service Director
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Contact Person’s Phone Number: 412-344-2014, 412-344-2047 (FAX)

Objectives

  • To serve school meals that are in compliance with the new meal standards while improving participation levels

Advice

  • Communicate the reasons for the changes. Sell the program to both the students and their parents.
  • Focus on the younger students because healthy eating habits are formed at an early age and the younger students are the easiest to influence.
  • Making it as easy as possible to choose a school meal will help maintain participation rates. Consider alternative delivery systems.
  • Incorporate local produce when possible and explain the benefits.

Evidence of Success

Participation rates have actually increased and the elementary schools managed to be awarded the HUSSC Award.

SUPERB Sample Days | Derry Township SD

Description

Greg Hummel, Derry Township FSD, recognizes that introducing appealing new menu items is a must in order to meet the new meals regulations resulting from the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. He also recognizes that student tastes vary widely, and he must therefore offer a range of options to be able to meet the demands of his “customers.” Foremost, though, Greg believes in the impact and importance of nutrition education and the value of making learning fun for children.

SUPERB Sample Days are the answer to those requirements. These are taste testing events that get the whole school talking about the new dishes that are headed – or not – for the lunch menu. Greg has conducted several of these events in the past two years, and they have met with much success. The focus is on the elementary students, but SUPERB Sample Days have also been conducted in the secondary buildings.

Buffet tables are set up in the cafeteria for preparation and display of the recipe to be sampled. As the students eat their regular lunches, they learn about the foods they will soon be tasting. The visiting chef prepares the food as he teaches the students about its nutritional qualities and other interesting facts about the ingredients. His efforts are complemented by staff, dietetic interns, and parent volunteers who all contribute to making these events entertaining and informative.

When students have completed eating their lunches, the tasting begins! Parents deliver samples to the students. The interns mingle with the students and collect their impressions of the food they are tasting. Oral feedback, print surveys, and show-of-hand voting have all been employed to determine the popularity of foods the students have tried.

Fun is a common ingredient in all of these events. It begins with the aromas emanating from the cafeteria as the students arrive and then eat, learn, and wait for the opportunity to taste the food of the day. Students brighten immediately when they can smell that the chef is preparing something new for them to try. The parent volunteers also know how to liven up the cafeteria. Their presence alone can relax any apprehensive students, and they even sing to the students to contribute to the entertaining atmosphere.

Students are learning that trying new foods is fun. They also express their wishes about foods they enjoy and want on the school menu. Greg learns about which of these foods he can add to the school menu with the expectation that students will choose them as part of their reimbursable meals. Most recently, students asked to have homemade spinach risotto added to the school lunch menu after tasting it during a SUPERB Sample Day titled “Grains and Greens.” Other taste tested items that have been or will be added to the menu include stir fry, black beans, salsa beans, falafel, and a citrus fruit variety.

Please visit the web site for more information, recipes – and to see photos of all the fun!

Contact Information

Contact Person: Gregory Hummel
Contact Person’s Title: Food Service Director
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Contact Person’s Phone Number: 717-531-2233, 717-533-6613 (FAX)

Objectives

  • To cultivate student interest in tasting new foods
  • To gain student acceptance of new food options that meet the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act requirements

Advice

  • It's important to find ways to make taste testing fun. Students associate the fun they had during these events with the food they tasted. This can motivate them to choose those items when they are on the school lunch menu. It also encourages them to try new foods in other settings.
  • You don't have to do this alone. The visiting chef receives abundant support and assistance at the Derry Township SD's SUPERB Sample Days thanks to student interns, administrators, and parent volunteers, along with the food service staff.

Evidence of Success

  • Students have become eager to try new foods during SUPERB Sample Day events.
  • When students like foods they’ve sampled, they request for those foods to be added to the school menu.
  • When students like foods they’ve sampled at school, they ask their parents to provide those same foods at home.
  • Parents report that their children ask them to provide at home the same foods that were sampled at school. This type of response prompted the provision of recipes on the Food Service web site.

Super Hero Champions Salad Choice | Palisades Area SD

Description

For most of the day he is mild-mannered Springfield Elementary School principal, Scott Davis. Occasionally, however, he dons his green cape, hat, and mask to transform himself into his junkfood-fighting alter ego, Saladman.

Just who, or what, is Saladman? Originally, Saladman was principal Davis' answer to the question “How do I ensure adequate participation at my school's newly developed salad bar?” Since then, however, Saladman (like all great characters) has evolved and now fights a never-ending battle for all things related to health, wellness, and the American way.

Saladman is, above all else, the personification of boundless energy. He leaps into the cafeteria, proclaiming the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, and he whips the children into a frenzy of enthusiasm. A typical visit may be accompanied by a musical entrance (recently to the theme of “Rocky”) as Saladman offers samples from the salad bar, leads quick lessons on nutrition, and finishes by encouraging the cheering children to join him for some jumping jacks and push-ups.

Saladman inspires the students to make the salad bar a regular part of their school lunch. He teaches the children that learning to make healthy choices at an early age is what is needed to become a strong, smart, super hero. He encourages them to share their knowledge and love of healthy eating with their families.

In return, the children ask for his autograph and more carrot sticks. Their commitment to healthy food choices ensure high participation in the new school menus.

Contact Information

Contact Person: Scott Davis
Contact Person’s Title: School Principal
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Contact Person’s Phone Number:

Objectives

  • Students will routinely choose the salad bar at school
  • Students will emulate the healthy lifestyle choices personified by Saladman

Advice

  • Realize that elementary school children notice and are influenced by the behavior of the adults in their lives
  • Monitor the behavior of the students. Because a superhero is powerful, you don't want to unleash one on the kids every day.
  • Develop a big-picture view of school nutrition. The cafeteria should work closely with the wellness committee, parents, teachers, etc.
  • Find a champion. Someone within your school has a passion for health, wellness, and children. Seek him or her out to develop a Saladman-type character.

Evidence of Success

Participation in the salad bar at Springfield elementary school is high. The new, Healthy Hunger Free Kid's Act-compliant menu is readily accepted. Saladman has been asked to visit other schools, and has been mentioned on first-lady Michelle Obama's blog.

Taste Tests, Easy-Access Fruit and Veggies, and Kale Chips Interest Students in Accepting New Meal Standards | Great Valley SD

Description

Taste-Tests: With the help of the Chester County Food Bank, Great Valley School District conducts taste tests in their elementary schools to open students' eyes to new foods. The Food Bank supplies the food and the personnel to conduct these events and also recruits parents to help. Taste-tested foods that the students like are added to the school's menu. Examples of tested foods: roasted butternut squash with cinnamon and dehydrated apple chips. Great Valley conducts “Farmers Market” twice a month at the middle school and the high school.

The “Fruit and Veggie Ladies,” two retired teachers who are popular with the students, assist by distributing free samples during lunch in the cafeteria. Students tell the “Ladies” what they think of the foods they sample, and sometimes they provide suggestions for how to improve the items. Produce from the district's extensive garden projects is sampled whenever possible, and items that the students like are considered for inclusion on the schools' menus. Farmers Market samples that have been added to the menu recently include confetti salad and chickpea salad with basil.

Easy Access F&V: Great Valley has set up a fruit and veggie bar to increase student consumption of these items by offering a wide variety of each. This helps to ensure that there is always something on the menu that students like. Types of fruit available from the bar include cut up cantaloupe, watermelon, oranges, apples, and honeydew. Carrot sticks, roasted corn, broccoli florets, grape tomatoes, chick pea salad, and cucumber slices are among the vegetables also offered at the bar. Easy-to-grab fruits such as grapes, orange slices, and apple slices are also available right at the registers to provide an easy way to create a complete meal.

Kale Chips: Kale chips were introduced to the students as a strategy to achieve two goals: a.) to offer vegetables in new and exciting ways and b.) to offer “trendy” produce. Kale is baked with olive oil, salt, and pepper until it is nice and crunchy. Surprisingly, elementary students like the kale chips the most, and they are now on the menu to fulfill the dark green subgroup requirement.

Contact Information

Contact Person: Nicole Shaw
Contact Person’s Title: Food Service Supervisor
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Contact Person’s Phone Number: 610-889-2151, 610-889-2143 (FAX)

Objectives

For students to enjoy delicious and healthy foods that can be added to the school menus

Advice

  • It's important to present the foods in a “kid-friendly” way. For example, “confetti salad” is the fun name given to a combination of zucchini, red pepper, and snow peas with balsamic vinaigrette, and the students were thus drawn to taste this colorful item with a variety of textures. Another example: green beans have been offered as “FREE MAGIC BEANS,” which caught the students' attention.
  • Local community organizations, such as the Chester County Food Bank, can be a valuable resource.
  • Talk to the students to find out what they want and what they like. This is how the Great Valley team learned that their students preferred raw vegetables rather than cooked, and that they were even more likely to take raw vegetables if dips were available. Fat free ranch dip was thus included on the veggie bar, and the team is developing a yogurt dip to accompany fruit selections.
  • Students are accustomed to having choices when they eat out, so providing them with a variety of choices in school is also important.
  • If a taste test item is not a hit, try it again at another time, possibly in a different form. Sometimes it takes several taste test experiences for students to decide they actually like an item.

Evidence of Success

Great Valley students are trying a variety of new foods, the foods they like are added to the menu in interesting ways, and their fruit and vegetable consumption is increasing.

Contest Promotes New Meal Standards | Conrad Weiser ASD

Description

With the expectation that students are more likely to support a program in which they are personally involved, a contest was held in each of the four school buildings in the district. A logo and a slogan for each building's cafeteria were selected from among the contest entries. Winning logos were required to incorporate the school image as well as a nutrition message to promote the cafeteria and the staff's interest in helping students to be healthy.

Administrators were judges. The student from each building who submitted a winning entry was allowed to plan a district-wide menu for a week. Students who submitted second place entries were allowed to plan a menu for one day. These student-planned menus had to follow the new federal guidelines. These activities enabled students to experience the challenge of creating menus that are affordable, healthy, attractive, compliant with national standards, and tasty.

The contest and the new regulations were both promoted via the district's closed-circuit TV system. Students were allowed to work on their entries in the cafeterias at the end of their lunch periods. Teachers also allowed students to work on their entries during study times, and they allowed time for contest winners to work on menu planning. Information about the new regulations and how to plan meals that adhere to them was also disseminated via posters and menus displayed in the cafeteria. Elementary winners' meal planning consisted of simply choosing their favorite daily meals from existing menus. Secondary students worked more “from scratch” with their meal planning. Cafeteria staff and teachers helped the students with this, and the FSD tweaked the final menus as necessary to ensure compliance with the regulations.

The contest was conducted in January, and the meals planned by the winners were served in February. Eventually, the favorite elementary slogan and the favorite secondary logo were adopted district-wide. Winners were featured in the school paper and the local community newspaper.

Similar contests are under consideration for the future, and the menu-designing prizes will be offered again, as this was a valuable experience for both students and food service staff.

Contact Information

Contact Person: Jennifer Wilinsky
Contact Person’s Title: Food Service Director
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Contact Person’s Phone Number: 610-693-8553, 610-693-8586 (FAX)

Objectives

  • To gain student acceptance of the New Meal Standards for school meals by getting them involved in a cafeteria-sponsored contest and meal-planning
  • To improve student participation levels

Advice

  • Get to know the teachers well enough to know which ones to turn to for support. Teachers can promote the project and assist the students with their contest entries and menu-planning.
  • Create a voting committee for selection of winners. “Credit” and “blame” can then be shared!

Evidence of Success

  • The number of student complaints about meals has dropped since the contest.
  • The number of parent complaints about meals has dropped since the contest.
  • Lunch participation rates went up when student-designed menus were served.
  • Lunch participation rates have remained constant since the contest.

Trimming Waste with Veggie Cups | Upper Dublin SD

Description

Used a recipe to create a portioned, layered, cup of vegetables that elementary students can put on top of leafy greens such as romaine or a spinach/lettuce mix. The greens can be offered in 8-ounce food boats on a rotation schedule. This simple, standardized veggie cup recipe eliminates waste of both staff labor and product that can occur when offering unfamiliar vegetables to meet the new vegetable component requirements. The menu can thus focus on additional vegetables that the students like, while nutrition analysis of vegetables is streamlined.

Layered Veggie Cup Recipe:

Use one 5.5 oz. Souffle cup or 8-ounce paper food boat

Legume requirement = Place 1/8 cup of garbanzo beans (chick peas) on the bottom of the cup (times five days = 5/8th cup per week)

Red-Orange requirement = place 1/8 cup of shredded or baby carrots on top of the garbanzos (times five days = 5/8th cup per week)

Other vegetable requirement = place 1/8 cup of green pepper, broccoli, celery, or diced tomato on top of that (times five days = 5/8th cup per week)

Red-Orange requirement = on the very top, place either 1/8 cup red pepper or 1/8 cup grape, cherry, or diced tomato (times five days = 5/8th cup per week)

Salad bars were available at all schools before veggie cups were introduced at the elementary level as a method to cut down on waste. About 10% of Upper Dublin's elementary school lunch participants now select a veggie cup each day. While creating them may appear to be labor-intensive, it can become an easy, eight to ten minute daily routine to make an appropriate number at each elementary building.

Contact Information

Contact Person: Patricia Dell'Aringa
Contact Person’s Title: Food Service Director
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Contact Person’s Phone Number: 215-643-8820, 215-643-8808 (FAX)

Objectives

  • To meet vegetable component requirements using cost and labor efficient methods
  • To maintain or improve participation levels

Advice

  • Based on student interest, estimate as closely as possible the daily number of veggie cups needed.
  • Veggie cups are more appropriate at the elementary level than secondary. Middle and high school students, who can manage more choices, can be guided to take correct salad bar items to create reimbursable meals.
  • It is important for the cashier to be able to correctly identify proper portions of reimbursable meal components.

Evidence of Success

Upper Dublin's produce costs have significantly declined since veggie cups were introduced to control vegetable waste.

Promoting and Testing New Menu Items | Pennridge Area School District

Description

Pennridge Area High School has formed a Food Committee which consists of 20 students. This committee meets with the cafeteria manager and the foodservice director once a month. During the meeting the foodservice staff reviews proposed menu items for the upcoming month and discusses how the items fit into the new meal standards. The students on the Food Committee sample potential new menu items.

The Food Committee serves as a focus group for potential new menu items and gives feedback to the school foodservice staff. Together they decide which items will be on the menu and the Food Committee reports the results of the meeting to the Student Forum. In this way the Food Committee serves to both decide which items will be on the menu as well as promote the menu items and explain their choices to the student body. This method both involves and empowers students and generates student buy-in to the school nutrition program.

At the elementary level, students are allowed to sample one ounce size portions of new food items before they are added to the menu. This way the children will know ahead of time which items they like and can choose accordingly.

Contact Information

Contact Person: Gina Giarrantana
Contact Person’s Title: Director of Nutritional Services
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Contact Person’s Phone Number: 215-453-2766, 215-257-4597 (FAX)

Objective

  • To promote healthy meal choices which are compliant with the new meal standards and the HealthierUS School Challenge
  • To achieve high levels of participation and acceptance of new menu items

Advice

  • If you form a Food Committee, sample only one or two items a month. Students become overwhelmed if you give them too many choices at one sitting.
  • Continue to try new items and do not become discouraged. Sometimes students need to be given samples numerous times before they accept them. Don't become discouraged, just try again another day.

Evidence of Success

The items which students responded favorably to are now offered and being chosen. At the high school level the Marinated Black Bean Salad, Vegetarian Three Bean Chili in a Bread Bowl, Lightly Coated Chicken Bites, and the Ultimate Breakfast Rounds have all been popular.

In the elementary school, Marinated Black Bean Salad, Whole Grain Muffins, Sweet Potato Fries, and Hummus have been popular. Since its inception, Pennridge food service has had to increase the production of the Marinated Black Bean Salad.