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.

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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.

Advance Your Career with The Certificate in Excellence in School Nutrition program

In 2014, the USDA released updated rules for school nutrition professionals to emphasize minimum national professional standards and training requirements. If you’re looking for an opportunity to advance your education, The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition (JSI) at Framingham State University (FSU) offers the Certificate in Excellence in School Nutrition Program which is a  state-recognized professional development program that aims to increase the knowledge and skills of directors and senior management in school nutrition programs.

This program includes five undergraduate courses offered through FSU and blends face-to-face weekend classes with online conference sessions to meet the needs of a working professional. The goals of this Certificate Program are to help school nutrition professionals:

  • Apply the changing nutrition standards to improve the school nutrition environment
  • Meet the financial challenges of a self-supporting school nutrition program
  • Evaluate and implement the emerging trends in school nutrition programs
  • Lead the school district in the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative and join the USDA Healthier US School Challenge

The course Computer Applications in School Food Services is currently underway this semester. This class covers the role of technology and how to maximize its use in child nutrition programs and school food services. Students select a type of technology and identify how it can be applied to their school lunch programs which promotes real-life application for all coursework.

School Nutrition Professionals in The Certificate in Excellence in School Nutrition. Left to right in the front row: Nathan Langevin, Marilyn Haraden, Dawn LaVallee, Beth Simon, Crystal Andrade, Robert Shaheen; Left to right in the back row: Molly Brooks, Pam Whelan, Nadine Lorenzen, Karen McGrail, Mirella Santucci, Deborah Vaughn.

School Nutrition Professionals in The Certificate in Excellence in School Nutrition. Left to right in the front row: Nathan Langevin, Marilyn Haraden, Dawn LaVallee, Beth Simon, Crystal Andrade, Robert Shaheen; Left to right in the back row: Molly Brooks, Pam Whelan, Nadine Lorenzen, Karen McGrail, Mirella Santucci, Deborah Vaughn.

All courses that are included within The Certificate in Excellence program include:

To learn more about this program, please visit the JSI website. If you’re interested in The Certificate in Excellence program, complete the pre-registration form by December 16, 2016 at www.johnstalkerinstitute.org/cert/.

Bringing Farm & Sea Into School Cafeterias

On November 4th the Farm & Sea to School Conference held in Leominster MA successfully offered a wealth of ideas and resources to get schools involved with local farms and fishermen, as well as contacts to provide local produce and seafood school cafeterias! The morning began with encouraging statistics in the opening remarks from Rob Leshin, Director for the Office of Food & Nutrition Programs at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) who reported that Massachusetts ranks 9th in the country for farm to school programs and 68% of schools already have a farm and sea to school program in their cafeteria.

Opening remarks by Rob Leshin at the Farm & Sea to School Conference

Opening remarks by Rob Leshin at the Farm & Sea to School Conference

During the conference, two successful program models were highlighted. Through these examples, several ways to implement a farm-to-school programs were explored!

  1. Somerville Public School District utilizes a community supported agriculture, CSA, program with Drumlin Farm, located in Lincoln, MA, which provides Somerville Public Schools with fresh produce every week for their school salad bar!
    • The produce received by the school is only what is harvested during each season.
    • Drumlin Farm benefits from the money received from the CSA program.
    • This year, Somerville Public Schools added field trips to the farm and in-class lessons to help children develop a closer relationship with their school.
Somerville Schools CSA Program Flyer

Somerville Schools CSA Program Flyer

  1. Grow Food North Hampton serves the North Hampton community through their Red Bag program
    • The Red Bag program provides bags of produce to families with school-aged children and their families with a bag of produce each week for a set price of $20 for 10 weeks.
    • The Red Bag program is also open to all those in the North Hampton community, to ensure no one goes hungry.
Here are some reasons to eat local in your school! (Provided by the MA Department of Agricultural Resources)

Here are some reasons to eat local in your school! (Provided by the MA Department of Agricultural Resources)

.Check out the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and the Farm and Sea to School Conference web page for more information. You can find additional resources in the Going Green category of the JSI Resource Center and our Farm to School – Supporting Local Agriculture blog

Pursue a Graduate Degree in Nutrition Education at Framingham State University

If you’re interested in pursuing a graduate degree that complements your current role, advances your career goals and offers flexibility in your schedule, Framingham State University offers a Master of Education (M.Ed.) with a concentration in Nutrition Education, specialization in Nutrition Education Specialist degree. The M.Ed. is 100% offered online and was created for the convenience of a working professional. The program includes the advanced study of education, applied nutrition and nutrition education, and requires three electives which allows students to select topics that matter most to their individual career.

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The M. Ed. program requires a minimum of ten courses which include: three education core courses, four nutrition core courses and three specialization courses.

M.Ed. students that complete this program at Framingham State University (FSU) walk away with the ability to:

  • Develop effective nutrition education curriculum for a variety of audiences.
  • Integrate current science-based nutrition issues into food, nutrition, and wellness policies.
  • Design and interpret nutrition education research.
  • Select and utilize appropriate technology for nutrition education.

Applicants must have a Bachelor’s degree, at least one year of professional experience and applications are accepted on a rolling basis. A timed online comprehensive examination is required as the culminating experience.

If this program interest you, please visit the FSU website to understand all required coursework and to learn more about the admissions requirements for The M.Ed. If you have further questions about the program, please contact Graduate Admissions.