Harvest of the Month: Expanding in Massachusetts Schools


Students Eating Lunch

A student from Boston Public Schools tries local apples.

If you’re familiar with the Massachusetts Farm-to-School program, you are probably aware that it encourages serving local produce as part of school meals across the state. Under the Harvest of the Month program, a Massachusetts-based campaign run by the Farm to School program, seasonal fruits or vegetables are featured at least twice per month to add a colorful, enticing boost to school meals.

Starting this school year, Massachusetts grown foods available to school cafeterias will include kale (in November 2014), butternut squash (in February 2015) as well as dairy (in March 2015) – all sourced by local farmers. Students can look forward to trying these healthy and local fresh fruits and vegetables as part of their favorite lunches!

Worcester kindergardener eating local carrot pancakes

A Worcester kindergartener tastes local carrot pancakes.

This new program allows students to gain exposure to a variety of local produce they may not have encountered before. The Massachusetts Farm-to-School also provides pamphlets, stickers, and posters to further encourage students and community members to support the collaborative effort of local farms and school nutrition professionals.

Last year, the Harvest of the Month’s 6-month pilot program reached 801 public schools as well as colleges and universities, making it a great success! The program was so successful, that starting next year it has expanded to 12 months, reaching more schools, colleges and summer programs across the state.

Interested in learning more about this program? If so, please visit: The Harvest of the Month Website. Also, visit JSI’s Resource Center for recipes to incorporate new fruits and vegetables as well as additional ways to source local produce.

Here’s to healthy eating!

~ blog provided by Eliana Lakritz, B.S., FSU Food and Nutrition Graduate Student

Boosting School Breakfast Participation with the Help of Walpole High School Students

Walpole bistro area

Walpole High School students enjoy breakfast in this upscale bistro dining area in the cafeteria.

In an effort to increase school breakfast participation, the director of the school nutrition program for Walpole Public Schools, Maria Hall, tapped into one of her most valuable assets…student input! Hall recognized that including the students in the decision making process gave them ownership and made it more likely for them to participate. Input on menu items and delivery method was solicited from the student council. Using a survey, the teens provided their feedback about specific items as they taste tested a sampling of breakfast foods. Hall also tapped into the teens ideas about ways to make school breakfast environment more appealing.

walpole champion cafe

Walpole High School branded the cafeteria Champion Cafe as a way to promote its school breakfast and lunch programs.

From this input, the dining area was branded the Champion Cafe, and a new bistro area was born – offering the high school students an upscale dining experience within their school. Among the full service breakfast offerings in the Champion Cafe, students enjoy the ever popular omelet bar – started with the help of a chef hired by Hall to infuse more culinary variety into the program. Future plans include expanding the bistro area to offer smoothies, as well as to incorporate a grab-n-go style breakfast where students will have access to a self-serve toaster and waffle maker.

Most recently, Hall has tackled a new endeavor using technology to help market the program. A makeover to the school nutrition web site and a new App, both from Nutrislice, has the potential of putting the school menu information in the hands of everyone in the district. The Nutrislice App provides the school’s breakfast and lunch menus conveniently to smart phone users and the school’s website provides nutritionals for each menu item as well as allergen information, and much more.

Walpole schools menu2Thinking about expanding your school breakfast program, visit the School Breakfast page on the JSI Resource Center website for links to helpful resources.

Grab-n-Go Breakfast a Success at Fitchburg Middle School

Fitchburg Breakfast Cart_Edited

Students at Memorial Middle School in Fitchburg, MA grab breakfast on their way to class at kiosks located in various locations.

The director of the school nutrition program for Fitchburg Public Schools, Jill Lucius, is using innovative strategies tailored toward the needs of the students to serve a healthy breakfast at Memorial Middle School. With little time in the morning, and the students preference to socialize with their peers rather than coming to school early for a hot breakfast, the option of a grab-n-go breakfast was the best fit.


Students enter their 4 digit number into the wireless keypad simplifying the payment process for delivering breakfast.

Breakfast is now served via kiosks strategically positioned in high traffic areas in the hallway. The carts house all the essentials for a reimbursable meal including prepacked items, such as whole grain cereal, which speeds up the process. Students can also select milk and a piece of fruit. Using a wireless keypad for students to enter their four-digit PIN number also reduces wait time for students. On the launch day of the program, food-service staff were able to serve 400 students in 20 minutes.

Lucius used several steps to promote the school breakfast program including:

  • memo to teachers prior to the launch day informing them of the change and the importance of breakfast to encourage their students to take advantage of it.
  • Met with the Student Advisory Group to get their input for the kick off event.
  • Applied for a grant from Fuel Up to Play and received posters and milk coolers for the carts.

Lucius invited local luminaries including representatives from Fun’N’ Fitchburg, staff from Project Bread, and state Rep. Stephen DiNatale, D-Fitchburg to the kick off event. And, the Telegram highlighted the school breakfast program earlier this school year.

The district also celebrated National School Breakfast Week in March to promote their breakfast program. Schools served breakfast for lunch, which is always a huge hit with students, according to Lucius. Students who purchased a breakfast were also automatically entered in for a chance to win prizes donated by various companies including a laptop. In addition, foodservice staff wore T-shirts to promote National School Breakfast Week.

For more ideas on how to market your School Breakfast Program, visit the School Breakfast page on the JSI Resource Center website.

2014 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit

HealthyKidsJoin school nutrition directors, managers and business managers from across the Commonwealth at the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit on Wednesday May 21, 2014 at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA.  This timely and relevant conference aimed at promoting healthy students and healthy school nutrition programs is sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition.

Three main educational tracks are planned:

  • School Breakfast: Learn about changes in the School Breakfast Program and innovative strategies to market the program to increase participation.
  • USDA Foods: Discover how USDA Foods can help promote their School Nutrition Programs.
  • Financial Management: Explore resource management requirements to help run a successful school nutrition program.

Additional speakers and presentation topics include:

  • Valerie Brower, Principal at Brookfield Elementary School in Brockton, will share successful strategies to implement breakfast in the classroom.
  • Lynn Rodgers-Kuperman, USDA Federal Procurement Specialist, will present on federal procurement requirements.

Visit the JSI website for more details of the conference and view the brochure.

A Team Approach to Promoting School Breakfast in Cambridge

Marie Hercule, a school nutrition staff member at Morse Elementary School in Cambridge, MA, stands behind the fruit display she arranges for the School Breakfast Program.

Marie Hercule, a school nutrition staff member at Morse Elementary School in Cambridge, MA, stands behind the fruit display she arranges for the School Breakfast Program.

The Morse Elementary School in Cambridge is using a simple, but effective method to market its school breakfast program – TEAMWORK!  School nutrition staff, students and the principal all play a part in the promoting this school breakfast program.

When students arrive for breakfast they are enticed by visually appealing displays of delicious seasonal fresh fruit. It is the passion of Marie Hercule, a school nutrition staff member, who arranges fruit every morning for breakfast. The bright and contrasting colors of the fruit make breakfast more appealing to the students. Easy accessibility is also in action here…with a fruit display placed next to the register where students can easily grab a piece of fruit to round out their reimbursable meal. This simple and effective step is one of the popular strategies promoted by the Smarter Lunchroom Movement.

The Cambridge Public School district offers a hot breakfast item everyday as well as fruit, cold cereal, muffin, juice and milk. Students taste test menu items to assure their likes and dislikes are factored into the breakfast offerings. A favorite at breakfast is the hot oatmeal – the secret ingredient, apple cider, makes it one of the most popular items.

Cambridge Postcard

Postcard promoting school breakfast from the principal at the Morse Elementary School.

Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day!
Students and their families were reminded of this popular message when they received a postcard from their school principal, a strong supporter of school breakfast. The postcard was mailed to parents at the beginning of the school year to reinforce the importance of breakfast as well as provide information on how to participate in the breakfast program. It served as an important reminder to parents about the learning connection between a well-nourished child and academic success. Parents were also invited to join their child for breakfast at school. The Cambridge Public School District provides families and students with school breakfast and lunch menus on their web page, along with other helpful food and nutrition resources.

For more information about marketing school breakfast, visit the School Breakfast page on the JSI Resource Center for additional resources, including innovative ways to promote your school breakfast program.

Certificate in Excellence Tech Project Leads to an Innovative Approach to Nutrition Education

Brendan Gallagher, head chef at Hillside School in Marlborough, MA.

Brendan Gallagher, head chef at Hillside School in Marlborough, MA.

Brendan Gallagher, head chef at Hillside School in Marlborough, is incorporating innovative strategies into his lunch program to provide nutrition education and engage students. Gallagher is a former student in the Computer Application in School Food Services course part of the Certificate in Excellence program offered by JSI. A technology project is conducted in the course emphasizing one of the National Food Service Management Institute’s core competencies of maximizing the use of computer technology in school food service. Students’ selected a type of technology and identified how it would be applied in their school lunch program. Gallagher took the project one step further implementing his selected technology, digital signage, into his lunch program.The program has been running for the past two years having a remarkable impact on the students. Gallagher has seen an increase in what he refers to as the students’ food IQ. The students are now initiating conversation with the chefs and want to know more about the food they are eating. Gallagher runs fun, humorous and visually appealing food and nutrition messages via digital signage twice a week during the lunch period on flat screen televisions displayed throughout the dining hall. The show is on a continuous loop repeating four to five times which allows for repeated exposure emphasizing the material.

The slide show is prepared ahead of time using slide decks from Nutrislice. Gallagher is able to personalize his show incorporating facts for foods on the menu for the day. He also tailors the show to the students emphasizing humor including a joke of the day and games, such as the broccoli shuffle. Other slides include quotes and facts related to nutrition, and comparing and contrasting of fast food items, which really get the students talking according to Gallagher.

JSI staff and interns had the opportunity to visit the Hillside School and see first hand the digital signage in action. Watch the video below created by FSU Communications Arts Intern Aaryn Chandler of the visit.

Hillside is a private all boys school that serves about 150 students for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Gallagher is passionate about serving students healthy food items and educating them on the importance of healthy food choices to their health.

Certificate-of-Excellence-JSI will be accepting new students into the Certificate of Excellence program for the course, Management of Child Nutrition Programs, starting in the fall. There is a pre-registration form on the JSI web site that those interested should complete.  This program is a unique opportunity to prepare school nutrition professionals for the requirements outlined in USDA’s proposed professional standards and the projects, as seen here, offer real world applications.

Dedication Ceremony for NEW! FSU Experimental Foods Lab

On February 3, 2014, the Department of Food and Nutrition at Framingham State University held a dedication ceremony to celebrate the newly remodeled experimental foods laboratory.

FSU food and nutrition students demonstrate using the impinger conveyer oven by making flat-bread pizzas.

FSU food and nutrition students demonstrate using the impinger conveyor oven by making flat-bread pizzas.

The new lab is furnished with state of the art commercial grade ranges, convection ovens, a tilt skillet, impinger (aka conveyor oven), steam jacketed kettle, and combi oven. Administration, faculty, staff, and students enjoyed a tour of the lab and learned about the different equipment while tasting a vast array of delectable foods prepared by the food and nutrition students.

FSU food and nutrition student, Stephen Poirier, demonstrates the use of liquid nitrogen to make raspberry crystals.

FSU food and nutrition student, Stephen Poirier, demonstrates the use of liquid nitrogen to make raspberry crystals.

During the ceremony, the audience enjoyed the student-led food demonstration using liquid nitrogen to make raspberry crystals from fresh raspberries for a delicious ice cream topping.  This proved to be a perfect demonstration of the food science principles that students gain in the Experimental Foods lab.

The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition will be holding culinary trainings for school nutrition professionals in the new foods lab with the first training, Healthy Breakfast for Kids, over spring break.

The new foods lab is an excellent addition for Framingham State and is sure to be well utilized!

JSI Leads the Way to Meet the NEW! Professional Standards

Last month, the USDA released the proposed rule for the establishment of minimum national professional standards and training requirements for school nutrition professionals. These standards will require all personnel of school nutrition programs to complete annual continuing education and training. Additionally, new hiring standards for nutrition directors will be put in place.

The Certificate of Excellence in School Nutrition Program offered by JSI at Framingham State University offers school nutrition professionals a unique opportunity to advance their education with undergraduate course work.

Certificate of ExcellenceThe program, which consists of five undergraduate courses designed specifically for school nutrition directors and managers, aligns with the requirements proposed for professional standards. Courses can then be easily applied towards an associates or bachelors degree program. Curriculum is based upon competencies  identified by national research conducted by the National Food Service Management Institute and is designed to assure that directors and managers have the knowledge and skills  necessary to support nutrition and education goals.

Professor Karen McGrail and students from the Computer Applications in School Food Services course part of the Certificate of Excellence program.

Pictured from left to right: Tina Farrell, Karen Damaso, Jill Lucius, Anthony Grein, Karen McGrail. Missing from photo is Dina Wiroll. Photo credit: KBerube

With one semester behind them, the students returned in January 2014 to start the course, Computer Applications in School Food Service, taught by Karen McGrail. They met
on-campus for the first of three Saturday classes over the semester – the rest of the classes are conveniently held online via desktop conferencing on Wednesdays after school. The students spent part of their Saturday using and evaluating the JSI Recipe Tool. This new tool developed for Massachusetts schools by JSI, allows the user to enter recipes to analyze, save, share, and print to comply with the state competitive food standards. Interested in learning more? Watch this video to learn more about the JSI Recipe Tool.

JSI is accepting new students for the fall 2014 semester of the Certificate in Excellence Program – email us at johnstalker@framingham.edu for more information.