On August 2nd a session titled “Meeting the Nutritional Needs of Children with Special Dietary Requests was presented at the summer conference for the Nuts and Bolts of School Nutrition Programs. Educational Specialists for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education discussed solutions to common questions about serving students with special dietary needs. Featured discussion points included the documentation of dietary requests, qualifying dietary conditions under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and requirements for meal modifications and food substitutions.
One of the first points of the presentation that initiated discussion among audience members involved whether or not medical documentation is necessary for dietary requests. Multiple scenarios were discussed to clarify when medical documentation is and is not required. The relationship between medical documentation and IEPs, as well as meal modifications and the importance of adhering to meal requirements was also included. Please visit the JSI website for more information about the conference and to view the presentation files for the Nuts & Bolts of School Nutrition Programs Conference including the Special Dietary Needs presentation handout.
To create a successful meal accommodation based upon special dietary requests, it is important to keep three main points in mind:
1.) The need for medical documentation varies based on the situation, 2.) There are different types of meal accommodations from food allergies to texture modifications, and 3.) If applicable, ensure modified meal items meet any and all necessary nutrition standards. Be sure to refer to this excellent guide from USDA-FNS: Accommodating Children with Disabilities in the School Meal Programs, Guidance for School Food Service Professionals.
For additional resources about the special dietary needs of children at school please visit the JSI Resource Center: Special Dietary Needs and Making It Count. Additional training opportunities from JSI include Food Allergies and Gluten-Free at School Workshops to Go, Food Allergies On Demand training. The Managing Life-Threatening Allergies in Schools manual is also conveniently available online for reference.
Food Service Director April Liles and Nutrition Coordinator Haylee Dussault turned an Organic Grow Rack into a garden of opportunity for Waltham Public Schools. April spotted EvanLEE ORGANICS’ Grow Racks at the School Nutrition Association conference in October and immediately saw the potential of growing food indoors to engage students and increase nutrition education throughout her district.
With the dedication and commitment of April and Haylee, five Waltham Public Schools now have these portable indoor gardens. The schools grow plants like herbs, kale, various lettuce varieties and spinach. They are always experimenting with new vegetable plants like the recent addition of radishes to the Waltham High School garden.
The Grow Racks are 4’ wide, 2’ deep and come on wheels. The Racks do not require any outside light because they are powered by timed LED lightbulbs. This functionality allows schools to have flexibility in where they place the Grow Racks and does not require them to rely on the unpredictable New England seasons and weather conditions.
To get started, April and Haylee experimented with one rack at Waltham High School to fine-tune the process. Once they found a successful method, they put together a detailed manual for the other schools to use and in turn, be successful with their indoor gardening. After receiving buy-in from the schools and purchasing the racks, each school selected a “school champion” to spearhead their school’s Grow Rack. April also ran a planning and “set-up” meeting so all schools knew how to integrate these Racks into their schools.
April emphasized the importance of starting slowly when beginning a school garden initiative and more importantly she said, “every school needs a champion to make this all a success.”
One of the many benefits of the grow racks is they are very low maintenance for schools. They just require periodic watering and then the actual harvesting of the produce. The school champion may also need to adjust the height of the lights as the plants grow. There is an initial investment in the structure and the soil but after that April reinforced that, “…you can keep reusing the soil for new plants. You just have to buy the seeds to keep planting. Other than that you just have to water them and the lights are on a timer so schools don’t even have to worry about that.”
April said that these racks, “… provide produce for our menus, connect kids to what we are growing and with the cafeteria. It’s a small investment with a huge reward for nutrition education.”
To promote these Grow Racks to students and to make the produce exciting, Haylee prepares samples for students in the lunchroom. The schools also use these vegetables on the lunch menu with signs that say things like, “Try some lettuce from your very own grow rack.”
Long-term, April shared that she has a vision for phase three of these efforts. The first phase was buy-in and the second phase was to get everyone planting and using the Grow Racks. For the third phase, she would like to incorporate the Grow Racks in ongoing school curriculum and provide more educational material and resources for teachers to be able to do just that. She also sees a huge opportunity to use the school’s harvest in fundraising efforts like selling fresh grown herbs to the school community.
If you’re interested in starting or expanding your school garden, whether it be a Grow Rack or another vehicle for growing fresh produce, Framingham State University offers a 4-week online graduate course called “Growing Your School Garden.” Sign-up today and enjoy the convenience of online learning and help prepare for the school year ahead.
For additional resources on school gardening and “going green,” visit the JSI Resource Center.
Across the country, beans are taking center of the plate on menus, including school menus. To support this popularity, JSI created the Bean-a-licious Culinary Demo conducted by Chef Janyl at SNA of Massachusetts Chapter Meetings. In March, Chef Janyl led the culinary demo at King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham, MA, where school nutrition professionals tasted several delicious bean recipes and discovered first-hand the versatility of beans. Participants also learned how beans can add nutritional value, great flavors and texture to reimbursable school lunches. During her presentation, Chef Janyl shared more about the nutritional and environmental benefits of cooking with beans. They are not only packed with nutrients such as fiber but beans are easy to incorporate in a variety of dishes, including recipes from different ethnic cuisines. Beans can serve as either a vegetable or meat alternate for reimbursable school lunches, are inexpensive and a sustainable food. Beans are beneficial to the environment because they can lower greenhouse gases and do not require a ton of water to grow.
Chef Janyl demonstrated how to make different bean recipes like a Green Goddess Hummus and shared several tips on how to maximize this ingredient in a school kitchen. Some tips included:
- Enhancing the vibrancy of bean dishes with color and different garnishes will make these dishes more eye appealing and exciting for students.
- You can turn one bean dip dish into another one later in the week by adding additional ingredients like spinach to change up the look and feel of the dish without wasting food.
After the Culinary Demo, attendees sampled six different bean recipes including Barbecue Bean Dip and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. Participants walked away with all the recipes and a newfound appreciation for this versatile ingredient. JSI also hosted its first Facebook Live event during the chapter meeting so all JSI Facebook fans could view the demo at home or at school. The video is on the JSI Facebook page, so if you missed it live you can watch the whole demo here.
To find the recipes that were sampled during the Bean-a-licious Culinary Demo, please visit the JSI Resource Center.
Take the next step in your school nutrition career today and sign-up for the Certificate in Excellence in School Nutrition Program this fall. To give you an insider’s perspective, we are sharing how current program participants perceive the program and how the coursework has impacted their careers as school nutrition professionals. Thirty-seven school nutrition professionals have already completed the highly acclaimed program to date. Our graduates give the program high marks, not only for the impactful coursework, but for the expertise and flexibility provided by the faculty, the networking opportunities with fellow students and the skills that are acquired and easily applied in their current school nutrition role.
When considering your career succession, you will be interested to know that this program is the state-recognized certification identified in the hiring standards for school nutrition directors as outlined in section 306 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The certificate includes five undergraduate courses offered through Framingham State University over five semesters in topics designed to increase the competencies, knowledge and skills and advance careers for directors and senior management in school nutrition programs. Classes focus on important topics for school nutrition professionals which include:
- NUTR 616 Nutrition and School Nutrition Programs
- NUTR 617 Foodservice Systems in School Nutrition Programs
- NUTR 618 Management of School Nutrition Programs
- NUTR 619 Professional Development and Communication in School Nutrition
- NUTR 620 Computer Applications in School Nutrition
See what individuals currently enrolled in the Certificate in Excellence in School Nutrition program have to say about their experience:
If you’re interested in applying for the 2018 Certificate of Excellence in School Nutrition program, please complete the no-cost online application no later than August 1st. What are you waiting for? Take YOUR school nutrition career to the next level!
Calling all managers! Take your management skills to the next level at the Management Institute this August 14, 15 and 16 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Devens Common Center. This three-day program is designed specifically for the professional development needs of school nutrition managers to strengthen both leadership and management skills.
Over three days of interactive learning, participants dive into highly relevant topics like leadership, financial management, personnel management, communication, marketing, merchandising, and nutrition. Learn to leverage leadership and management skills to create a positive culture in the lunchroom, market food to students and develop strong communication skills to enhance relationships both inside and outside of their teams.
Here is some of the feedback we received from participants at last year’s Management Institute.
The cost to attend the Management Institute is $250 per person which covers all workshops, materials along with continental breakfast and lunch each day.
If you’re a manager or want your managers to attend the Management Institute, please register online by July 31, 2018. Please submit one registration form for each individual registering.
As we enter the season of eating and indulgences, we want to keep Food Allergies top of mind in Massachusetts schools. JSI offers a self-paced, 2-hour online training on “Food Allergies” to assure your school nutrition staff has the knowledge and skills to address food allergies at school.
This training will highlight the differences between food allergies and intolerances, discuss common food allergens and demonstrate how to identify these ingredients on a nutritional facts label. Real-life scenarios are included so participants can readily apply these key learnings in a school environment. This workshop is also recognized by ESE and MDPH as an acceptable training required in the Allergen Awareness Act, M.G.L.c.140, § 6B.
If you are unable to join Session 3 of this online training, JSI also offers a Food Allergies Workshop to Go which can be hosted at your school and is also recognized by ESE and MDPH. Sign up before November 20th to complete this online training during the next session which will run from December 4-18.
Two exceptional resources included in this training are available online:
- Managing Life-Threatening Allergies in Schools
- USDA Accommodating Children with Disabilities in the School Meal Programs
Additional resources can also be found in the JSI Resource Center’s Special Dietary Needs page.
On Wednesday, September 20, 2017, JSI instructor and registered dietitian Alison Doak presented the Food Allergies Workshop to Go at the Webster Public Schools. The workshop provided an in-depth, interactive lesson for school nutrition staff about food allergies, including life-threatening allergies. Participants learned important warning signs of an allergic reaction, how to identify allergens on a food label, how to make appropriate substitutions, and many other vital pieces of information to integrate into their daily operations.
Key objectives from the workshop include:
- List the top 8 food allergens
- Recognize food allergy symptoms
- Read food labels to identify food allergens
- Identify allergen-free menu substitutions
- Differentiate between a food allergy and food intolerance
- Describe ways to avoid cross contact at school
- Discuss strategies to create an allergy safe environment at school
- Identify the steps of an Emergency Response Plan
If you would like to schedule a Food Allergy workshop at your school, visit our website to request a JSI Workshops to Go. While there, you can find out about our 12 other workshops, too!
To learn more about food allergies, check out the JSI Resource Center. Additionally, the Managing Life-Threatening Allergies in Schools manual contains a wealth of information regarding food allergies and guidelines to create a multidisciplinary approach for allergies in your schools. In addition, the USDA has just released in 2017 the latest guidance on Accommodating Children with Disabilities in the School Meal Programs.
Be equipped to respond to the latest school nutrition issues by enrolling in a 4-Week Online Nutrition, Health and Wellness Graduate course at Framingham State University. With the convenience of online learning, these courses run from October 2- October 29 and explore key school topics like Diabetes in Schools, Exploring Food Allergies, Linking Physical Activity to Academic Performance, and Eating Disorder Prevention.
The 4-week online Graduate courses for Nutrition, Health and Wellness include:
Diabetes in Schools: An overview of diabetes and its impact in schools for teachers, school nutrition directors, school nurses and other school professionals. Topics addressed in this course include: basic understanding of type 1 and type 2 diabetes; dietary management of diabetes and basic carbohydrate counting; and strategies to create a safe environment for students with diabetes. Participants will explore available resources to promote nutrition, physical activity, and student safety.
Exploring Food Allergies: An in-depth review of food allergies for teachers, nurses, and other school personnel. To better understand the issues facing children with these allergies, the course includes: causes, symptoms, diagnostic tools, treatment, prevention, current research and food labeling.
Move More, Learn More: Linking Physical Activity to Academic Performance: An exploration of how movement improves academic performance, classroom behavior, attention span, and the social-emotional development of students. Using evidence-based research, students explore types of physical activities for the classroom and the importance of physical education for students in grades K -12. This course includes strategies for increasing movement in schools with well-designed, effective and sustainable movement opportunities for the classroom and the broader school community.
Preventing Eating Disorders: An overview of how to prevent eating disorders in schools. Topics include: background and statistics on the four diagnosable eating disorders; disordered eating signs and symptoms; the role schools can play in the prevention of eating disorders. Resources and curricula that support healthy body image and media literacy are presented along with other creative ways school staff can incorporate awareness and prevention of eating disorders in schools. The course is intended for teachers, school nurses, school psychologists, and other school professionals.
Each course costs $205 and for those looking for continuing education credits, you can receive 22.5 PDPs for Teachers, 15 PD hours for School Nutrition professionals or 15 CPEUs for Registered Dietitians.
Register online today!
On Wednesday, June 14, 2017, JSI Chef Brendan Gallagher led Milton High School’s nutrition staff in a “Live-Setting” Culinary Training. Milton High School was a pilot school for this concept and is the first school to receive a training of this kind from JSI. “Live-Setting” is a training approach created by Chef Kent Getzin in which foodservice teams train in their live working environment during regular production. This approach allows your nutrition program to still produce meals for the day while simultaneously learning skills they can use everyday.
Chef Brendan worked with the staff to prepare a customizable Vietnamese noodle dish called pho and it was a huge hit! The pho contained homemade broth, lo mein noodles, and chicken or pork. Students could further customize their bowls by adding shredded carrots, bok choy, bean sprouts, Thai basil, mint, lime, hoisen sauce, siracha, soy sauce, or fish sauce. All 186 servings were sold over 3 lunches and the students loved it! One student reported, “it was really good and I think they should make it more often.”
Milton Public Schools’ School Nutrition Director Jackie Morgan was excited about the “Live-Setting” training! She explained that in the past some of her staff have taken JSI’s Knife Skills workshop to go and not everyone was able to attend but “the “Live-Setting” training gives all employees access to skills.” Some of the skills the staff learned during this pilot training include knife skills, how to make a homemade broth including charring onions over an open flame, washing produce after chopping and using a salad spinner to dry it, and seasoning and roasting chicken and pork.
Stay tuned for more information and opportunities to bring a JSI “Live-Setting” Culinary Training to your school in the 2017-2018 school year!