Superheros in the Cafeteria – School Nutrition Employee Week!

It’s almost time for a week-long celebration of the hard-working people who prepare healthy meals for over 30 million of America’s school children every day – May 6-10 is School Nutrition Employee Week!

superheroThe School Nutrition Association (SNA) organizes SNEW to “remind everyone—directors, managers, parents, students, and school staff —that school nutrition employees are superheroes that deserve recognition.” To drive that message home, SNA has partnered with author Jarrett Krosoczkawho wrote the “Lunch Lady” book series – to kick off SNEW with School Lunch Superhero Day on May 3.

Here at JSI, we know SNP employees must balance many roles to prepare safe and healthy meals that meet federal and state regulations, while using their creativity to make the cafeteria a fun and welcoming place. You are experts in sanitation and food safety, managers of financially self sufficient programs, and nutrition educators for children, families, and school staff. The 2012-13 school year brought additional responsibility to SNP employees, who revamped menus to include more produce and whole grains in order to meet updated federal nutrition standards and new state regulations.

So let us be among the first to say thank you for all you do for the health and wellbeing of children in Massachusetts, and enjoy the coming week that recognizes all you do!

Recent MA SNP News Roundup: Keeping Up the Pace

JSI newspaper icon3The end of the school year may now be in sight, but school nutrition programs and professionals are going full steam ahead. Our recent review of the news shows that SNP staff are sharing best practices, promoting their programs, and connecting school food to the local suppliers and environment:

  • As part of an annual event held by the Massachusetts Action for Healthy Kids (MAHK), Billerica school nutrition professionals showed off their morning-meal skills by serving breakfast at the State House to roughly 100 state legislators, school lunch administrators, and students from Quincy, reports Wicked Local Billerica.
  • Former Somerville food service director, Mary Jo McClarney (now with USDA), highlighted her experience successfully introducing healthier foods to Somerville schools when she spoke in New York about recent and upcoming changes to school-nutrition standards. Read the recap from the Times Herald-Record.
  • Ezra Baker School in Dennis is forging ahead with great Farm-to-School initiatives: preparing to plant a Three Sisters garden (funded with the first Farm-to-School Initiative federal grant in Massachusetts); installing a salad bar featuring local produce; and hosting a locally-sourced meal event for families. Read the article from Cape Cod Online.
  • Eighth graders at the Heath School in Brookline – working with science teachers, administration, and school nutrition staff – developed a school cafeteria composting initiative, reports Wicked Local Brookline.

We know your school or district has been busy this year, and we’d love to hear about it in the comments, or submit your story to be featured among JSI Success Stories!

Recent MA SNP News Roundup: Challenges and Kudos

JSI newspaper icon3School nutrition programs in Massachusetts are working hard to meet the challenges of expanding school breakfast, reducing food waste, and more, according to our roundup of recent news. Schools and districts are also working to overcome obstacles, and many are being recognized for their efforts:

  • Food service directors from Ashland, Framingham, Marlborough and Milton weighed in on the challenge of boosting school breakfast participation in an article from MetroWest Daily. Successful approaches appear to be those tailored to the unique infrastructure of each school.
  • Let’s Move spotlighted Somerville Public Schools as a model for farm-to-school programs on their blog. SPS has implemented the program in K-12 Food & Nutrition Services to increase students’ interest in healthier food choice.
  • Let’s Move also featured Natick’s Memorial Elementary School as an Active Schools success story.  Their “BOKS” program brings before-school exercise sessions and during-school “activity bursts” thanks to a collaborative effort by parents, teachers, and/or staff members.
  • The Eagle Tribune reports that new school-food guidelines are resulting in increased food waste in Methuen schools. Director of school nutrition services Mike Vespa said staff input and trial-and-error to fine-tune menus has cut down on food-waste volume compared with the beginning of the school year.

We know your school or district has been busy this year, and we’d love to hear about it in the comments, or submit your story to be featured among JSI Success Stories!

Lawrence PS Students Win for Participation in JSI School-Food Preference Survey

Two students at Lawrence Public Schools were rewarded for providing their valuable input about school lunch preferences in a K-12 student survey when they won the raffle for a $25 gift card (Emilly Martinez, grade 4) and a iPad (Liliangel Alvarado, grade 4). JSI would like to congratulate the lucky raffle winners, and thank the more than 4,000 students across the Commonwealth who participated in our survey!

At the request of the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Nutrition, Health and Safety, JSI and an expert panel are working to develop a 4-week menu cycle for schools in Massachusetts; a survey that was open through Dec. 2012 helped inform that effort. School nutrition staff, teachers, administrators and more helped to coordinate distribution of the survey throughout school districts and to encourage student participation. Every student who responded was entered into the raffle.

All Massachusetts schools will receive a copy of the completed menu project later this spring.

Want to see the full survey text? Click here to open a pdf version of the full survey.

Want to read more about the Massachusetts Menu Planning Project? Read about it in this JSI blog post.

Recent MA SNP News Roundup: Obesity Prevention, Revenue Boost and Student Survey

JSI newspaper icon2There’s a lot going on in Massachusetts school nutrition programs. In our recent review of local news, we found school districts’ nutrition programs are making changes inside schools and throughout their communities:

  • As a community, Fitchburg has made great strides to prevent and reduce childhood obesity, says this feature from WBUR. Jill Lucius, nutrition director for Fitchburg schools, talks about how full-day food service (breakfast through supper) in the school nutrition program has been a key part of the anti-obesity initiative.
  • The Menton-Upford District implemented the NutriKids school food payment system this year, and revenues are up $30,000, according to Milford Daily News. District Food Service Director Dianne Braga told the school committee that food-service managers are pleased with the new, efficient payment system.
  • Metrowest Daily News featured the statewide survey of students’ eating habits, coordinated by JSI. Some of the most interesting information came from students’ choices when considering only healthier food groups – for example, top vegetable were garden salad, broccoli and spinach. Read more on our blog about how the survey results informed the design of a four-week menu cycle in the Massachusetts Menu Planning Project.

We know your school or district has been busy this year, and we’d love to hear about it in the comments, or submit your story to be featured among JSI Success Stories!

Recent News Roundup: Promoting Massachusetts School Nutrition Programs

JSI newspaper iconMost Massachusetts schools have reached the 100-day mark in the 2012-2013 year, and school nutrition programs have spent those days working hard to bring good food and nutrition to students. Our recent review of local news finds that many school districts are having promoting school nutrition programs:

  • In Bellingham, School Nutrition Director Jeanne Sheridan is flexing some marketing muscle for the school breakfast programs in middle and high schools, reports Milford Daily News. Taste tests, sampling, and promotion are all part of the mix to encourage student participation.
  • “School lunches aren’t what they used to be; they’re better,” reports the Patch in an article about updated school food in North Reading schools. District Director of Food Services Anna McGovern adds the personal touch to lunch promotion, standing on the high school line and encouraging students to take fruits and vegetables.
  • After student advisors told the Watertown School Committee that updated school lunches were too small, the schools commissioned a series of informational posters (created by student graphic artists) to explain the new federal school nutrition guidelines (Wicked Local article).
  • Billerica schools’ Tasty Thursdays –  where food services staff hand out samples of new, healthy foods – were featured in Wicked Local. Food Services Director April Laskey is quoted, describing how Billerica schools have implemented the updated school nutrition guidelines this year.

How has your school or district had success in adapting to new school nutrition standards and promoting your school food programs this year? We’d love to hear about it in the comments, or submit your story to be featured among JSI Success Stories!

Looking for more information on promoting your school nutrition program? Check out the online resources on this topic in the JSI Resource Center!

Nutrition At Your Fingertips: New Nutrition App Guide in JSI Resource Center

App guide title slide2A brand new addition to the JSI Resource Center will turn your mobile devices into nutrition powerhouses – check out the FSU Nutrition App Guide! This app guide was created by students Dianna Carpentieri, Mollynda McArthur and Emily Saperia with Professor Denise Hobby, M.Ed, as a graduate project for the class Computer Applications in Nutrition at Framingham State University. There is an abundance of nutrition and fitness related applications available for mobile devices. After conducting an objective, educated evaluation of many apps, students and faculty compiled this list to aid mobile device users in choosing those that are the most reliable and functional.

The FSU Nutrition App Guide provides succinct reviews and links to downloads for 45 apps, many of which are available for multiple device types (Apple, Android, Blackberry, and more). The reviews are grouped into two main sections – apps for nutrition professionals, and apps for consumers – and cover apps for clinical use, food tracking, recipes, games and more.

Now there’s no need to spend hours searching for the best nutrition apps! Using the FSU Nutrition App Guide means the work of searching for functional, credible nutrition apps has been done for you. Just head to the Nutrition App Guide section in the JSI Resource Center, and you can view the guide as an interactive slide show or download the full guide as a pdf.

Save the Date: FSU Nutrition Gala Celebration May 4

Join JSI and Framingham State University nutrition alumni for a gala celebration May 4! The event will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of JSI, and hosting a nutrition program reunion.

Nutrition Gala 2

Mark your calendars now and plan to join us at 5pm on May 4, 2013 at the FSU McCarthy Campus Center! Call 508-626-4687 or email for more information. You can also follow our 25th anniversary updates on twitter via hashtag #JSI25.

Nutrition Gala 1

Share Your School Nutrition Success Stories with JSI!

Hands ApplaudingThe 2012-2013 school year is one of change for Massachusetts school nutrition professionals, who are working hard to meet updated federal and state school food regulations.

Many schools across the Commonwealth are using innovative strategies to promote these healthy changes. Success stories, whether big or small can be an inspiration to us all, not to mention, spark new ideas!

Do you have creative new offerings that boost vegetable, legume, or whole-grain servings? How are you promoting new menu items to students and school staff? Have you designed novel ways to promote your re-vamped school nutrition program? JSI wants to give you kudos right here on our blog, and tell your story to inspire other school nutrition professionals in Massachusetts!

Just click here and fill out a simple form to identify yourself and your school or district, and to share your success story. Tell us how school foodservice staff, teachers, administrators or students are working to promote healthier eating habits this year. We’ll help promote your school or district here on the JSI blog!

Behind the Scenes: JSI’s Back to Basics Training at Dover-Sherborn Schools

Are you curious what takes place at a JSI Workshop to Go? Chef Tracey Burg, RD, recently led Dover-Sherborn school nutrition staff through JSI’s Back to Basics – Fresh Vegetables and Fruits workshop, and we have some photos and highlights to share!

In this workshop, participants learn how to increase the amounts and variety of vegetables offered in school meals, how to improve the quality and appeal of fruits and vegetables served in schools, and healthy cooking techniques for fruits and vegetables. One goal is to help school nutrition programs meet state and federal standards while enticing kids to eat delicious, nutritious foods.

The workshop began with preparation and cooking demonstrations by Chef Tracey, who prepared roasted root vegetables and a tasty vegetable stir fry.

Then participants worked in groups to prepare recipes from NFSMI, USDA, JSI and the Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge. The groups chopped, peeled, boiled, baked, pureed and folded several USDA- and kid-approved recipes, all of which incorporate important nutritious fruits or vegetables.

This hands-on training has many benefits for participants, but the taste-testing was certainly a high point – all the food prepared by participants was put “on the line” and everyone enjoyed a healthy lunch!

Back to Basics – Fresh Vegetables and Fruits is just one in a series of 3-hour culinary trainings specifically for school nutrition staff targeted to increase culinary skills and promote healthier made from scratch (speed scratch) menu options to meet the new meal pattern requirements. Back to Basics is part of the JSI Workshop to Go series, which brings school nutrition training right to your school! They are perfect for staff development days and economically priced at only $299 (minimum of ten staff required). Massachusetts schools/districts that are interested can schedule Workshops to Go online here.

If you’d like to see some of the handouts and resources presented in Back to Basics – Fresh Vegetables and Fruits, those links are available in the JSI Resource Center!