Get Ready for the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit

Yogurt and berriesIf you are looking for new ideas for recipes for your school meal program, consider incorporating Greek yogurt.  There are many delicious ways to incorporate yogurt into school meals. Greek yogurt can be used in dips, dressings, and soups, and as a substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise. This can help to lower the fat and calories in recipes, while increasing the protein and dairy content to help meet the school meal requirements. Consider using the JSI Recipe Tool for a quick and easy analysis of your recipe – the JSI Recipe Tool will show if the recipe is compliant with the state and federal snack standards, as well as provide meal component information.

Chef Tim Reardon

Chef Tim Reardon from Chobani® will demo Greek yogurt recipes for schools at the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit on May 21

Ideas for how to incorporate Greek yogurt into school meals can be found in these recipes from Chobani® Greek yogurt. Click on the following links to access the nutritional information of some of these recipes, which were analyzed with the JSI Recipe ToolChobani® parfait, strawberry banana smoothie, and hummus. Chef Tim Reardon from Chobani® will be one of the keynote speakers at the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs 2-day Summit on May 20 & 21, 2015.

The Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit will be held at Four Points by Sheraton Norwood. Sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition, this conference is aimed towards school nutrition directors, managers, and business managers, and promotes healthy students and healthy school nutrition programs. The Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit brochure will be mailed in the beginning of March. Stay tuned to The John Stalker Institute for more updates about the conference!

Massachusetts Farm to Cafeteria Conference: Pollinate!

At the Massachusetts Farm to Cafeteria Conference: Pollinate! last month, farmers, school nutrition professionals, and educators gathered at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester to learn about a variety of farm to school topics. Areas included:

  • How to promote and incorporate local foods into school meals
  • Food and nutrition education
  • State and and regional networking
Katie Millett at the MA Farm to Cafeteria Conference

Katie Millet, from the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, welcomes the audience at the Massachusetts Farm to Cafeteria Conference

Many school nutrition directors presented at the conference:

Jenny Devivo

Jenny Devivo from West Tisbury and Chilmark Public Schools

In Farm to School Planning 101, participants learned about ideas to bring local foods into schools. Speakers in this session included Catherine Sands, director of Fertile Ground, Simca Horwitz, Eastern MA Program Director for MA Farm to School, Jenny Devivo, school nutrition director at West Tisbury and Chilmark Public Schools, and Noli Taylor, director of Island Grown Schools. Creating school gardens is one way to incorporate farm to school planning, and can involve:

  • Engaging the local community
  • Recruiting volunteers, such as parents
  • Creating a sense of ownership for school gardens
  • Establishing a vision
  • Beginning a gleaning program

Many suggestions were given to include and promote local foods at schools:

  • Process and freeze local produce to use for future meals
  • Combine local food with canned or packaged food if needed
  • Taking advantage of Mass. Farm to School’s Harvest of the Month campaign, which promotes a different Massachusetts-grown seasonal vegetable each month
  • Have students help to prepare food that will be served in school meals
  • If there is enough support, documentation, and research, schools may consider terminating their food service contracts so that they can take control over their school meals. For example, this happened in the West Tisbury and Chilmark Public Schools.

There are many different ways to increase healthy, locally grown foods in your schools. Read our recaps about the School Gardens and Culturally-Relevant Recipes sessions from the Massachusetts Farm to Cafeteria Conference: Pollinate!. To learn more about the Massachusetts Farm to School Project, visit their website. For additional information related to farm-to-school initiatives, sustainability, and nutrition lesson plans, visit our Go Green for Schools page in the JSI Resource Center.

School Gardens at the Massachusetts Farm to Cafeteria Conference

On January 13, 2015 nearly four hundred supporters of the Massachusetts Farm to School project gathered at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester for the 2015 Farm to Cafeteria Conference: Pollinate!  The audience, including educators, parents, school nutrition professionals, farmers, and policy makers, came together to share ideas, success stories, and challenges.

A number of workshop sessions were offered throughout the day with presentations providing representation from across the state.  One workshop called School Gardens included panelists from two leading school garden organizations: Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom (MAC) and Backyard Growers.  Speakers included Alice Posner and Debi Hogan from MAC, and Lara Lepionka and Meghan Stratton from Backyard Growers.


Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom school gardening resources.

Alice Posner is the MAC Program Associate for School Gardens with a resourceful blog entitled “School Gardening Notes.”  On the blog, Alice offers winter and summer gardening tips, innovative approaches to making your school garden work at your school location, and design tips for garden beds.  In her presentation, Alice discussed the essentials for getting a school garden started and the importance of gaining community support.  She also showcased all that MAC offers as resources: garden-based lessons, workshops, how-to guides, mini-grants, and her blog.

Debi Hogan, the Executive Director of MAC, talked about financial logistics of school gardening and grant writing.  Since 1994, MAC has distributed $220,000 to 310 school organizations for gardens and reached over 13,000 teachers and farm educators through education initiatives.  MAC is a nonprofit organization that provides agricultural education training and resources for Massachusetts educators.  In her presentation, Debi encouraged listeners to apply for grants for school gardens, to write them correctly according to directions, and to appeal to the grant giver.


Meghan Stratton and Lara Lepionka from Backyard Growers.

The final presenters were Lara Lepionka and Meghan Stratton, representing Backyard Growers in Gloucester. Backyard Growers is a grassroots initiative helping to reshape the community’s relationship with food, offering resources and support for vegetable gardens for families, community groups, and schools.  Lara, co-owner of Beacon Street Farm in downtown Gloucester, spoke about the potential outcomes of school gardens, such as food production, science programs, and math programs.  She highlighted children’s positive experiences with gardens and how valuable the seed to fork process is to them.  Meghan Stratton, a FoodCorps service member who works with children in the gardens, spoke to how much the kids really love the gardens and enjoy spending time planting, harvesting, and learning.

For more school gardening information, check out the JSI Resource Center Go Green for Schools category which includes information on school gardening, farm-to-school initiatives, sustainability, and composting.  You will also find related curricula and lesson plans. MAC is sponsoring their 14th Annual Growing Minds Through Massachusetts Agriculture Conference for Educators on Saturday, March 7th in Palmer. Be sure to join JSI Instructor Meg Whitbeck, MS, RD, who will be presenting a session called Strategies to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in the School at the conference.

Amendments to the Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards

On November 12, the Massachusetts Public Health Council approved changes to the Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages, and these revisions will become effective December 5, 2014. The amendments include adjusting some of the state standards to be more in line with the federal standards. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will update Healthy Students, Healthy Schools: Guidance for Implementing the Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages to reflect these revisions.

The John C. Stalker Institute offers three tools to help Massachusetts schools meet both the state and federal competitive food and beverage nutritional standards.

  1. The A-List is an up-to-date and ever-expanding list of vending and snack items that meets both the Massachusetts Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages in Public Schools and the USDA’s Smart Snacks nutritional standards, whichever is stricter.
  2. MassNETS helps schools determine if packaged items, not on The A-List, meet the nutritional standards.
  3. JSI Recipe Tool generates a nutrition facts panel for snack recipes served in the school cafeteria. Once analyzed, these recipes can be easily saved, shared and printed. This online tool helps schools to meet the requirement to make nutrition information available to students for non-packaged items served in the cafeteria.

JSI Resources for Schools 2 (1)

Infographic by JSI Intern Audrey

Visit the School Nutrition Regulations and Standards page in the JSI Resource Center for more information about state and federal standards for foods sold in public schools.

Resources Schools Can Use

If you need resources for your school nutrition program, we have some new materials for you! We’ve added two new categories to the JSI Resource Center, Smart Snacking and Webinars, in addition to updating our collection of links that we feature in our workshops.

Green apples in polished brown wood bowlSmart Snacking

This category features links for information and resources about the Massachusetts and federal snack requirements for public schools.


Young Woman Sitting Looking at Laptop ScreenWebinars

This category features links to free webinars related to school nutrition. Continuing education units (CEUs) are available for some courses.


Black Laptop ComputerJSI Professional Development Resources

We have been updating the resources that we provide in our professional development courses. Take a look!


Visit the JSI Resource Center for the latest information on school nutrition from credible sources anywhere, and at anytime.

Meeting a Wellness Policy Requirement with School Nutrition Lessons

Looking for ideas to meet the nutrition education requirements of your school wellness policy? We have some resources for you!

Kids Getting on School BusFederal and Massachusetts legislation require that school wellness policies address:

There are many ways to incorporate nutrition lessons into the school day. A few popular strategies include integrating nutrition into all areas of the curriculum, such as math and science, utilizing a coordinated school health approach, and partnering with your school nutrition program.

Integrate nutrition into the curriculum:
The JSI Resource Center provides hundreds of online resources in one location to address school nutrition. Suggestions for nutrition-related lesson plans can be found in the Go Green for Schools and Lessons for Elementary, Middle and High Schools categories in the JSI Resource Center.

Coordinated school health:
The Wellness Solution, a collaborative effort with JSI and other partners, provides resources to support and strengthen wellness policies in Massachusetts schools. The site summarizes state and federal wellness policy regulations to clarify the requirements, and provides tools to help Massachusetts schools meet the guidelines.

Partner with your school nutrition program:
As part of the Coordinated Program in Dietetics at Framingham State University (FSU), students intern with school nutrition programs across the state, teaching nutrition lessons in the classroom. The Wellness Solution blog highlights some of the nutrition education lessons that FSU students have taught in schools throughout Massachusetts.

For more information on school wellness policies, visit The Wellness Solution website and the School Wellness Initiatives and Policies page in the JSI Resource Center.

JSI Recipe Tool 101

If you need nutritional information for snack and food items made at your school, we have the tool for you! The JSI Recipe Analysis Tool allows users to create recipes from an ingredient database and analyzes the recipes to determine if they meet the Massachusetts School Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages in Public Schools. Once a recipe is saved, users are able to edit, share, export into a .doc file, and print recipes including the nutrition facts panel, ingredient list, and allergens. The JSI Recipe Analysis Tool is a user-friendly, reliable recipe analysis program, created by registered dietitians at The John Stalker Institute.

Most of the ingredients in the database are from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25 (released in October 2012). Other ingredients are from the Child Nutrition Database Release 16 (released in April 2012).

To learn more about the JSI Recipe Analysis Tool, visit the application webpage, see the screenshots below, and watch this video tutorial on how to add a recipe.

Add ingredients from the ingredient database:

JSI Recipe Analysis Tool

Be instantly notified if the recipe meets MA Nutrition Standards:JSI Recipe Analysis Tool 2

Print recipes including the nutrition facts panel, ingredient list, and allergens:JSI Recipe Analysis Tool Printout

The JSI Recipe Tool is supported on various browsers, including Mozilla’s Firefox, Google’s Chrome, Opera, and Internet Explorer (IE) 9, 8, and 7 (please note that IE 6 is not supported).

An account is required to use this application. Your account will be approved if you are with a Massachusetts school. Register here for an account with the JSI Recipe Tool.

For more information, visit the JSI Recipe Analysis Tool help page.

Food Allergies: Have you scheduled your training?

Food allergies seem to be on the rise, and learning how to deal with them is important for educators and staff in the school environment. JSI offers two food allergy training options for Massachusetts schools: an online food allergy training and a Workshop To Go training option. Both trainings meet the requirements of the Massachusetts Allergen Awareness Act, and provide valuable information on how to differentiate between food allergies and intolerances, read food labels for potential allergens, and identify which foods commonly cause allergic reactions

The 2013 Summer Institute included a session on Aug 14th for Meeting the Nutritional Needs of Children with Special Dietary Requests. This session, presented by Linda Fischer, RD, LDN, educational specialist from DESE, provided an update on the USDA’s recent policy memo regarding special dietary needs including food allergies. Download the presentation, handout and USDA memo.

For more information check out the JSI Resource Center which also provides valuable information on food allergies in the school environment; what school staff need to know, how to recognize the symptoms of an allergy attack, and special dietary needs of children affected by celiac disease, peanut allergies and many others.

~blog written by Farah Khan, FSU graduate food and nutrition student

The Updated JSI Resource Center is Now on our Blog!

The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition (JSI) Resource Center is a comprehensive, easy-to-access collection of web-based school nutrition and wellness resources vetted by JSI’s staff for quality, relevance, and value. JSI designed the Resource Center to be a one-stop source for nutrition resources, reports, lesson plans, training tools, and more for anyone interested in creating a healthy school nutrition environment.

The JSI Resource Center recently moved to a new platform and is now on our blog! Starting from the main page, visitors can access the directory of online resources across nearly 20 categories including school nutrition regulations, training for school nutrition professionals and childcare providers, social media for school nutrition, and nutrition-focused lessons for grades K-12,  We even have a collection of online resources featured in JSI trainings and workshops.

Now there’s no need to spend hours searching online! Using the JSI Resource Center means the work of searching the web for the latest information from credible sources has been done for you. Just point your browser to the JSI Resource Center’s main page and get started!