Make the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice with Help from the Massachusetts Smarter Lunchrooms Movement

The 25 schools currently participating in the Massachusetts Smarter Lunchrooms Movement are implementing many changes to get students excited about school lunch. From improving food displays to including students in menu feedback surveys, these schools are seeing great results in sales and overall student feedback. Big and small changes can make a huge difference in our schools.

At Wareham High School in Wareham, MA, Food Service Manager Christine Laperriere and her school nutrition team added bright new milk coolers with bottled milk (instead of cartons) to appeal to the more mature high school students. The high school has already noticed a 30% increase in milk sales and by placing the white milk in the front of the chocolate milk, sales almost doubled for white milk.

Wareham High School also added clear fruit bowls in an accessible location for students and started to serve canned fruit in clear cups to make fruit more appealing to students. The school added a cart stocked with condiments and silverware that allows for easy relocation to minimize congestion at the school registers.

According to Laperriere, “…having the Smarter Lunchrooms Program come to my school was a great success!  Having fresh eyes with new ideas is always a plus.” She is also working with the Vice Principal to implement a school survey to gather feedback from students and generate new exciting menu ideas for the school.

Wareham High School in Wareham, MA added bright new milk coolers with bottled milk and displays clear fresh fruit bowls

At Locke Middle School, April Laskey, Director of School Nutrition for Billerica Public Schools is implementing exciting changes in the school lunchroom with the help of Framingham State University Intern, Courtney Torres and the Smarter Lunchrooms team. Laskey said, “…. Courtney has been working on sampling fruit with students, engaging students for input, creating healthy information areas within the cafe and assisting the cafe team in creating visually appealing service lines.”

Locke Middle School added special menu days to have staff and students inspire the school’s menu and the team is now updating the labeling and food signage to encourage students to actually read the information on display.

Torres shared, “I’ve been working with the middle school to help try and promote an exciting environment for our students. As a student, I remember that lunch was something that was looked forward to during the day as a nice time to take a break and be with friends. I’m trying to capture that in the students to make them more excited about school lunch.”

Locke Middle School also started using social media to engage students with a #mealonpoint challenge which encourages students to Instagram a meal that includes a vegetable, grain, protein, dairy and fruit and enter to win a fun prize.

Locke Middle School in Billerica, MA created the #mealonpoint Instagram challenge to encourage students to eat a well-balanced meal and Instagram a photo of their healthy choice for the chance to win a prize.

Locke Middle School in Billerica, MA dresses up the lunchroom environment with banners and updated posters to make it fell more student-focused.

To find additional information about Smarter Lunchrooms, please visit these useful links to the JSI’s Smarter Lunchrooms category in the JSI Resource Center.

The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement is a research-based initiative focused on creating sustainable lunchrooms that help guide students to make smarter choices. The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement was established at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Program and is funded by the USDA ERS/FNS.

Hingham Public Schools Find Fun at Work with FISH!®

Think about your current job. Is it fun? Do you think there is a way to make it fun? Our Workshop to Go: Find the Fun at Work with FISH!® uses four concepts to help schools create a workplace culture of creativity, innovation, and fun.

Hingham school nutrition staff and the JSI instructor engaged in a FISH® workshop activity

On January 24, 2017, the school nutrition staff of Hingham Public Schools brought the Workshop to Go: Find the Fun at Work with FISH!® to liven up their workplace!

FISH!® uses four concepts including:

  1. Be There: Be physically and mentally present when assisting, managing, or helping another person. It is important to actively listen to understand, and act based on awareness.
  2. Play: Be curious, feel free to innovate, and free to be yourself, all while creating an environment where kids want to be and people want to work.
  3. Make Their Day: Bring recognition and value to all your employees.
  4. Choose Your Attitude: Attitude is everything. When a conscious choice is made to improve one’s attitude, it can have a positive impact on the workplace.

After viewing the FISH!® video, a few activities were offered to engage the nutrition staff of Hingham Public Schools:

  • Show importance of being there, tell a story to your partner that is not there
  • “Playstorm” crazy ideas that could make your workplace better
  • Identify the “Stinky Fish” in your workplace
  • “Let’s make a Day” by giving group members an imaginary token of appreciation

Find out information about all of the JSI Workshops to Go on the JSI website in the professional development section! If you would like a JSI instructor to come to your school to enhance your staff’s knowledge and skills, request a Workshop to Go today!

 

Northborough and Southborough Public Schools Explore the Essentials of Food Safety

How does your school nutrition program create a culture of food safety? One important step is to assure all school nutrition staff are trained and have a working knowledge of basic food safety principles. Scheduling professional development in food safety for your school nutrition staff and managers is just a click away with an Essentials of Food Safety Workshop to Go presented by JSI. Your school nutrition staff will explore food safety basics, and discuss how to create a culture of food safety in your school. Discover effective strategies to avoid cross contamination, practice proper hand washing, and check and record food temperatures to avoid the danger zone. Utilize these basics to ensure your students are safe when enjoying all of the delicious food that you make!

On January 17, 2017, Northborough and Southborough Public Schools enhanced their food safety techniques with the JSI Workshops to Go: Essentials of Food Safety. In addition to the activities you see below in the photos, several others were incorporated to ensure the nutrition staff could reiterate main points of the presentation including:

  • “What type of hazard am I”?
  • Spot the TCS foods
  • Barriers to food safety

School nutrition staff at the Lincoln Street Elementary School in Northborough discuss a variety of scenarios in the “What Went Wrong?” activity.

Glo Germ hand washing activity showed the audience that hand sanitizer doesn’t remove the germs you think it does!

Find more resources used in the Workshops to Go: Essentials of Food Safety in the JSI Resource Center. JSI can help your school with the Essentials of Food Safety– schedule your training today!

Three Graduates Complete The Certificate in Excellence Program at Framingham State University

The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition (JSI) celebrated the graduation of school nutrition professionals Nadine Lorenzen, Elizabeth Simon and Deborah Vaughn on January 11th for their completion of the Certificate in Excellence in School Nutrition Program offered by JSI at Framingham State University (FSU). After two and half years of hard work and dedication, these three graduates were honored by representatives of FSU, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and their loved ones.

The afternoon began with congratulatory greetings and reflections on the program by both faculty and graduates. The Certificate in Excellence in School Nutrition Program is the state-recognized certification that includes five comprehensive undergraduate courses over five semesters in topics designed to increase the competencies, knowledge and skills and advance careers for directors and senior management in school nutrition programs. Classes focus on important topics for school nutrition professionals which include computer applications and operating Food Service systems. Among the many benefits that come from participating in this program, students work on projects that are designed to provide real-life applications to bring back to their schools.

After receiving their certificates of completion, the three graduates shared their experiences from the program and what they took away from their 2.5 years of dedication.

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The Certificate in Excellence in School Nutrition graduation ceremony program.

If you’re interested in applying to the Certificate in Excellence in School Nutrition program, please visit the JSI Website for more information.

Culinary Demos at ESE’s ‘New Child Care Meal Pattern Standards’ Training Day

On Wednesday, January 18, 2017 Child and Adult Care Food Program sponsors and providers from across Massachusetts came together for a professional development event hosted by the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office for Food and Nutrition Programs, with culinary demonstration stations presented by The John C. Stalker Institute through a USDA Team Nutrition grant, Massachusetts Children’s Access to Meals Planned Smart (MassCAMPS).

After lunch participants divided into four groups that rotated through four culinary stations. Each station demonstrated a reimbursable recipe including the cooking techniques to achieve the best product possible. All demonstrated recipes and healthy cooking techniques represented methods that met a new standard or best practice of the updated CACFP Meal Pattern.

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The next ESE ‘New Child Care Meal Pattern Standards’ Training Day will be Tuesday, March 14, 2017 in Westborough, MA. If you are a CACFP sponsor or provider, you are invited to sign up to attend this training. For additional resources and information and about these and other CACFP trainings, visit the MassCAMPS webpage: www.johnstalkerinstitute.org/masscamps/

Keefe Tech Adds Flavor and Flair to School Meals

Do you know the top food trends of your Gen Z (those born after 1995) students? Does your café offer a flavor station for students? Are you engaging all five senses when students enter your café? JSI can help you answer “yes” to these questions and more in the new Infusing Flavor and Flair into School Meals Workshop to Go.  Explore K-12 culinary trends, food presentation techniques, flavor profiles with student appeal, and how to overall enhance school meals.

Keefe Tech school nutrition staff and Chef Janyl

On January 13, 2017 Keefe Regional Technical High School took advantage of JSI Workshops to Go  by bringing the Infusing Flavor and Flair into School Meals workshop directly to the school nutrition staff at their school. Chef Janyl Finnerty, RD led the workshop.

Throughout the workshop, the Keefe Tech school nutrition staff explored key food trends and food presentation strategies. An opportunity to enhance the flavor profiles of their school meals was also achieved through the following activities:

  • Guess the spice or herb based on their scent
  • Create, add, and taste several spice blends
  • Watch, learn and taste with a Tunisian Chickpea recipe demo by Chef Janyl

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food demo recipe, Tunisian Chickpeas, prepared by Chef Janyl

Check out the resources used in the Infusing Flavor and Flair into School Meals Workshops to Go in the JSI Resource Center. Please visit the JSI website for more information. Take a step towards improving your school’s nutrition, and request a Workshop to Go today!

New Year’s Resolution: Go Green in 2017!

Green is not just the Pantone color of the year for 2017. As we gear up for the New Year, we’d like to help you think of new ideas to get your school nutrition staff and students involved in programs that are not only beneficial to your school, but also the community and the environment. There are many cost-effective strategies you can implement in your school to minimize food waste and implement “greener” practices throughout the year.

Food Waste:

It’s estimated that 40% of food produced in this country doesn’t get consumed (Treehugger). To help minimize food waste in your school you can make small changes, which include:

  • Keep your staff educated on food safety so food is not lost due to improper storage, production or receiving practices. The John C. Stalker Institute (JSI) offers a Workshop to Go to help create a culture of food safety at your school.
  • Keep production records to identify what leads to food waste.
  • Ensure team is monitoring expiration dates so you can prioritize food to serve in your school.
  • Letting students serve themselves and select the portions they will actually eat.
  • Setting up a table for kids to place items they are not going to consume like their milk cartons.

Recycling Leftover Food

There are many ways to use leftover food to benefit your community and the environment, which can include:

  • Compost food waste at your school. Composting reduces landfill waste and generates products that build community and can save your school money. This can be a complement to your schools’ science classes.
  • If your school is located near a farm with animals, you can share food scraps for their animal feed. Understand what type of food your local farmer needs and what they can actually use for their animals.
  • Fats, oils, and grease can be used to make biodiesel – a renewable fuel source for diesel engines. Contact a local biodiesel club or manufacturer to see if they will accept donations.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-1-45-14-pmGrow Your Own Food

A school garden is a first-hand learning experience for students, a green addition to your community and a simple way to generate produce for your school. Working in the garden gets students outside and moving. To get started:

  • Determine the site of your school garden. Use a Soil Testing Laboratory to collect soil samples to determine its quality.
  • Involve students in the planning, creation and upkeep of the school garden so it becomes a labor of love from both staff and the student body.
  • JSI also offers a “Back to Basics: Fruits & Vegetables” Workshop to Go which shares healthy new ways to use fruit and vegetables to give your meals a flavor boost.screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-2-45-12-pm

Access great tips on how to minimize school food waste and learn more about the U.S. Food Waste Challenge here.

For more “Go Green for Schools” online resources, please visit the JSI Resource Center. If you come across other programs, initiatives or resources that would be helpful for Massachusetts schools, feel free to share this content with us at johnstalker@framingham.edu.

The Nuts and Bolts of Food Safety

Nuts and Bolts of School Nutrition Programs is a professional development series led by staff from ESE’s Office for Food and Nutrition Programs in coordination with The John C. Stalker Institute  developed to increase the knowledge and abilities of school nutrition directors to implement the USDA National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The November session focused on the important topic of food safety in schools and covered HACCP principles, activities to enhance confident in implementing food safety plans and strategies to create a culture of food safety in your school. The session was presented by Cindy Rice from Eastern Food Safety and included ESE and USDA staff as well as 20 school nutrition directors.
Topicsfood-safety-image in this session included risk factors and prevention of foodborne illness, sanitation practices, rules of food service handling from receiving to serving, food recall procedures, and HACCP. Through education and review of these topics, all those in attendance received a Certificate in HACCP and Food Safety. Congratulations!
Looking for resources on Food Safety? Check out the Food Safety category in the JSI Resource Center which includes a variety of links to helpful food safety resources. Bring a food safety training directly to your school with the Essentials of Food Safety Workshop To Go.

Food Allergies: School Guidelines and Education

On October 17, 2016 at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo  nearly 350 attendees joined the session entitled, Food Allergies: School Guidelines and Education which aimed to provide useful in-sight into the role of dietitians/school nutrition professionals can play in implementing state-level guidance and professional development for the prevention and management of life-threatening allergies in the school setting.

Christanne Harrison (right) and Karen McGrail (left) all smiles after their successful presentation at FNCE

Christanne Harrison (left) and Karen McGrail (right) all smiles after their successful presentation at FNCE

As a leader in school-based food allergy guidance and education, Massachusetts has updated the Managing Life-Threatening Food Allergies in Schools guidelines and professional development offered to reflect the most current data, laws and policies, terminology, and protocols related to managing life-threatening allergies in the school and early childcare settings.

The Managing Life-Threatening Food Allergies in Schools guidelines are intended to assist Massachusetts school districts, non-public schools, early education and care programs, and summer feeding programs to develop and implement policies and comprehensive protocols for the care of children with life-threatening allergic conditions. The guidelines address:

  • Scope of the problem of childhood allergies
  • Types of detailed plans that should be in place to help prevent allergic reaction emergencies and deaths from anaphylaxis
  • Systematic planning and multidisciplinary team approach needed prior to entry into a school or program by the child with life- threatening allergies
  • School or program role in preventing exposure to specific allergens
  • Emergency management during a life-threatening allergic event
  • Roles of specific staff members in the care of the child with a life- threatening allergic condition

The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition at Framingham State University offers face-to-face and online professional development opportunities based upon the newly updated Managing Life-Threatening Food Allergies in Schools guidelines to school professionals across the Commonwealth.  These offerings include:

  • Food Allergies Workshops to Go – 2-hour workshop delivered in Massachusetts schools for school nutrition staff and managers.
  • Food Allergies Online Workshop – online version of the Food Allergies Workshop to Go provides a convenient training option for school nutrition staff, managers and directors.
  • Exploring Food Allergies – 4 week online graduate course designed for teachers, nurses, school nutrition directors offered by Framingham State University’s Professional Development for Educators.

Take advantage of these food allergy professional development opportunities! Visit The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition web page to register online or schedule your Food Allergies Workshop to Go. For additional food allergy resources, be sure to check out the Food Allergy resources and Special Dietary Needs category in the JSI Resource Center.

 

Massachusetts Team Up for School Nutrition Success

teamup1On November 9th and 10th school nutrition directors from across Massachusetts came together for a Team Up for School Nutrition Success Mentoring event, sponsored by The Institute of Child Nutrition, and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), and hosted by The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition. Mentors and participants worked together over the two days to share ideas, experiences, and challenges they’ve faced in school nutrition. The two-day event included breakout sessions that covered financial management, increasing participation and menu planning. These sessions gave participants the opportunity to share ideas, concerns and resources with their peers.

The event provided an opportunity for the sharing of creative solutions through panel discussions. Here are some of the best practices shared:

  • Student sampling surveys where students place empty sample cups into one of two buckets labeled with either a thumbs up or thumbs down symbol. This is an easy method for collecting feedback without the added work of synthesizing survey results. It is a good visual tool to see if the majority of students liked or disliked a recipe. – Crystal Andrade, School Nutrition Director, Old Colony Regional High School, teamup2Rochester, MA
  • It CAN be done! Open your mind, think outside the box. “Attitude is everything – you have to cook with love and serve with love.” – Jacki Dillenback, School Nutrition Director, Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District, Orange, MA
  • Incorporate recipes from staff members into the menu. It increases diversity of foods served and the staff are proud to serve these foods. – Jill Lucius, School Nutrition Director, Fitchburg Public Schools, Fitchburg, MA
  • Focus on communication with parents, students, and the community, about who you are and what you do. – Ruth Griffin, School Nutrition Director, Needham Public Schools, Needham, MA

teamup4After sharing ideas and best practices, participants were encouraged to set SMART goals for their own district. Participants worked with mentors to create an action plan to turn newly learned strategies and goals into actionable steps forward.

Participants’ Key Strategies:

  • Meet with principals to discuss methods to increase breakfast participation.
  • Increase participation for lunch by using Smarter Lunchrooms strategies.
  • Try Offer Versus Serve in the classroom.
  • Acquire more grill top space in high schools so that more grilled items can be offered daily.
  • Establish a water-use conservation program by the end of the school year.

teamup3

The event concluded with a general session appropriately entitled, Going Forward, where ESE staff members echoed the importance of a plan of action moving forward and next steps. Participants were encouraged to continue connections with peers and to take this fresh energy back to their districts and use it to move forward to accomplish their SMART goals. “If you’re open to it, you always walk away with something new.” Sally Teixeira, ESE. The event was very positively received by participants and mentors alike. Here’s what they had to say:

“It’s been excellent. I’ve only been a director for two months so I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how friendly everyone is and how willing they are to help.” – Elissa Maunus, SND, Sutton Public Schools, Sutton, MA

“This opportunity to network and brainstorm about situations and challenges we all face has been super productive.” – Danielle Collins, SND, Chelmsford Public Schools, Chelmsford, MA

“This was the BEST program I have ever attended.  I would recommend it to all Food Service Directors, large and small districts, it brought us together like no other training had done before. – Diane Mikulski, SND, Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School, Worcester, MA

Interested in additional information and resources? Check out Team Up for School Nutrition Success.