Get Ready for the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit

Yogurt and berriesIf you are looking for new ideas for recipes for your school meal program, consider incorporating Greek yogurt.  There are many delicious ways to incorporate yogurt into school meals. Greek yogurt can be used in dips, dressings, and soups, and as a substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise. This can help to lower the fat and calories in recipes, while increasing the protein and dairy content to help meet the school meal requirements. Consider using the JSI Recipe Tool for a quick and easy analysis of your recipe – the JSI Recipe Tool will show if the recipe is compliant with the state and federal snack standards, as well as provide meal component information.

Chef Tim Reardon

Chef Tim Reardon from Chobani® will demo Greek yogurt recipes for schools at the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit on May 21

Ideas for how to incorporate Greek yogurt into school meals can be found in these recipes from Chobani® Greek yogurt. Click on the following links to access the nutritional information of some of these recipes, which were analyzed with the JSI Recipe ToolChobani® parfait, strawberry banana smoothie, and hummus. Chef Tim Reardon from Chobani® will be one of the keynote speakers at the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs 2-day Summit on May 20 & 21, 2015.

The Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit will be held at Four Points by Sheraton Norwood. Sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition, this conference is aimed towards school nutrition directors, managers, and business managers, and promotes healthy students and healthy school nutrition programs. The Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit brochure will be mailed in the beginning of March. Stay tuned to The John Stalker Institute for more updates about the conference!

Massachusetts Farm to Cafeteria Conference: Pollinate!

At the Massachusetts Farm to Cafeteria Conference: Pollinate! last month, farmers, school nutrition professionals, and educators gathered at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester to learn about a variety of farm to school topics. Areas included:

  • How to promote and incorporate local foods into school meals
  • Food and nutrition education
  • State and and regional networking
Katie Millett at the MA Farm to Cafeteria Conference

Katie Millet, from the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, welcomes the audience at the Massachusetts Farm to Cafeteria Conference

Many school nutrition directors presented at the conference:

Jenny Devivo

Jenny Devivo from West Tisbury and Chilmark Public Schools

In Farm to School Planning 101, participants learned about ideas to bring local foods into schools. Speakers in this session included Catherine Sands, director of Fertile Ground, Simca Horwitz, Eastern MA Program Director for MA Farm to School, Jenny Devivo, school nutrition director at West Tisbury and Chilmark Public Schools, and Noli Taylor, director of Island Grown Schools. Creating school gardens is one way to incorporate farm to school planning, and can involve:

  • Engaging the local community
  • Recruiting volunteers, such as parents
  • Creating a sense of ownership for school gardens
  • Establishing a vision
  • Beginning a gleaning program

Many suggestions were given to include and promote local foods at schools:

  • Process and freeze local produce to use for future meals
  • Combine local food with canned or packaged food if needed
  • Taking advantage of Mass. Farm to School’s Harvest of the Month campaign, which promotes a different Massachusetts-grown seasonal vegetable each month
  • Have students help to prepare food that will be served in school meals
  • If there is enough support, documentation, and research, schools may consider terminating their food service contracts so that they can take control over their school meals. For example, this happened in the West Tisbury and Chilmark Public Schools.

There are many different ways to increase healthy, locally grown foods in your schools. Read our recaps about the School Gardens and Culturally-Relevant Recipes sessions from the Massachusetts Farm to Cafeteria Conference: Pollinate!. To learn more about the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, visit their website. For additional information related to farm-to-school initiatives, sustainability, and nutrition lesson plans, visit our Go Green for Schools page in the JSI Resource Center.

School Gardens at the Massachusetts Farm to Cafeteria Conference

On January 13, 2015 nearly four hundred supporters of the Massachusetts Farm to School project gathered at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester for the 2015 Farm to Cafeteria Conference: Pollinate!  The audience, including educators, parents, school nutrition professionals, farmers, and policy makers, came together to share ideas, success stories, and challenges.

A number of workshop sessions were offered throughout the day with presentations providing representation from across the state.  One workshop called School Gardens included panelists from two leading school garden organizations: Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom (MAC) and Backyard Growers.  Speakers included Alice Posner and Debi Hogan from MAC, and Lara Lepionka and Meghan Stratton from Backyard Growers.


Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom school gardening resources.

Alice Posner is the MAC Program Associate for School Gardens with a resourceful blog entitled “School Gardening Notes.”  On the blog, Alice offers winter and summer gardening tips, innovative approaches to making your school garden work at your school location, and design tips for garden beds.  In her presentation, Alice discussed the essentials for getting a school garden started and the importance of gaining community support.  She also showcased all that MAC offers as resources: garden-based lessons, workshops, how-to guides, mini-grants, and her blog.

Debi Hogan, the Executive Director of MAC, talked about financial logistics of school gardening and grant writing.  Since 1994, MAC has distributed $220,000 to 310 school organizations for gardens and reached over 13,000 teachers and farm educators through education initiatives.  MAC is a nonprofit organization that provides agricultural education training and resources for Massachusetts educators.  In her presentation, Debi encouraged listeners to apply for grants for school gardens, to write them correctly according to directions, and to appeal to the grant giver.


Meghan Stratton and Lara Lepionka from Backyard Growers.

The final presenters were Lara Lepionka and Meghan Stratton, representing Backyard Growers in Gloucester. Backyard Growers is a grassroots initiative helping to reshape the community’s relationship with food, offering resources and support for vegetable gardens for families, community groups, and schools.  Lara, co-owner of Beacon Street Farm in downtown Gloucester, spoke about the potential outcomes of school gardens, such as food production, science programs, and math programs.  She highlighted children’s positive experiences with gardens and how valuable the seed to fork process is to them.  Meghan Stratton, a FoodCorps service member who works with children in the gardens, spoke to how much the kids really love the gardens and enjoy spending time planting, harvesting, and learning.

For more school gardening information, check out the JSI Resource Center Go Green for Schools category which includes information on school gardening, farm-to-school initiatives, sustainability, and composting.  You will also find related curricula and lesson plans. MAC is sponsoring their 14th Annual Growing Minds Through Massachusetts Agriculture Conference for Educators on Saturday, March 7th in Palmer. Be sure to join JSI Instructor Meg Whitbeck, MS, RD, who will be presenting a session called Strategies to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in the School at the conference.