Bring More Pulses to Your School Nutrition Program in 2016

2016 is the International Year of Pulses! Pulses are a group of 12 different grainblack bean legume crops including dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas and lentils, they are nutrient dense and consumed by people all over the world. Pulses are highly regarded as very sustainable crops as they require just 43 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of pulses compared with soybeans, which require 216 gallons of water! The four themes of the International Year of Pulses 2016 are food security, nutrition and innovation; market access and stability; creating awareness; and productivity and environmental sustainability.

Pulse crops are a sound source of nutrition while being very inexpensive which puts them among the top most sustainable crops in the world. They are a low-fat excellent source of protein and also contribute vitamins and minerals to the diet such as B vitamins, iron, magnesium and zinc. Pulses are also high in fiber containing both soluble and insoluble fiber known to help control blood sugar levels and aid in digestive regularity. Furthermore, pulses have been found to fix the nitrogen in soil thus contributing to greater soil quality.

Assorted PulsesSchool nutrition programs can help set a trend for students by encouraging pulse consumption with creative kid-friendly recipes like bean and corn salsa and black bean burgers. Pulses can even be included in your school nutrition program’s entrée options every week for Meatless Mondays! Classroom lessons are also available to help teach students about this super food. Click here for a list of 10 great things you can do to help promote the 2016 International Year of Pulses.

JSI’s Back to Basics: Meat Alternates Workshop to Go can help your school nutrition program staff learn how to serve more beans, legumes, and other meat alternates that look good and taste great! This workshop is a hands-on culinary class that will demonstrate easy cooking techniques for meat alternates that you will be proud to serve. Additionally, a new JSI workshop Infusing Flavor and Flair into School Meals will be presented at the SNA of Mass upcoming chapter meetings. This workshop explores K-12 culinary trends, food presentation techniques and flavor profiles with student appeal to enhance school meals and encourage increased participation. Contact your chapter delegate for locations and dates. For inspiration visit the BEANS, PEAS and LENTILS That Rock board on the School Meals That Rock Pinterest page!

Image credit: the images in this post were downloaded from the International Year of Pulses 2016 Photo Gallery at

Teaching Sustainable Practices with School Gardens

school gardenSchool gardening is quickly becoming popular in schools across the nation as a sustainable practice that also serves as a powerful education tool for students of all ages. Engaging garden lessons provide hands-on learning for any academic subject.

Lessons can include healthy lifestyle and nutrition concepts, connection with nature and the community, sustainability, school pride, historical practices, and the importance of sustained care from seed to harvest.

Many schools in Massachusetts have already started school gardens. To name a few, Amherst, Andover, Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Dorchester, Easthampton, Holyoke, Framingham, Natick, New Bedford, Northampton, Springfield, Taunton, Watertown and Williamsburg all feature gardens in some or all of their schools. Similarly, Foxborough Public Schools has indoor hydroponic garden towers that produce nutritious food for the cafeteria year round.

There are grant opportunities to help fund your agricultural education project! Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom partnered with Massachusetts State Grange, Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources, the Massachusetts Dairy Promotions Board and more, awards mini-grants to educators ranging from $300-$500. Grant winners are allowed to receive the grant up to 3 times for a maximum of $1,500. Additionally, City Sprouts of Cambridge, MA partners with public schools to aid in school garden implementation and provides resources for teachers.

Are you interested in school gardening? FSU is offering a 4-week online School Gardening 101 course that starts January 11 and goes until February 5. Click here to view the syllabus and registration information. You can also find many useful resources in the Go Green for Schools page in the JSI Resource Center.