Meeting the Special Dietary Needs of Students

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.

 

Foxborough Public Schools Grow UP with Hydroponic Tower Gardens

Standing at a little over 5 feet tall and 2.5 feet wide, hydroponic tower gardens add a touch of green to Foxborough Public Schools and most importantly, grow fresh vegetables for students to eat year-round. As Janice Watt, the School Nutrition Director at Foxborough said, “It doesn’t get any more local than growing food right in our kitchens.”

Hydroponic Tower with growing lettuce and accompanying trellis to vertically grow cucumbers.

The gardens are spearheaded by Taylor Elementary School’s Kitchen Manager, Jane Rice, and operated by the entire Foxborough School nutrition team. Three of the schools; Ahern Middle School, Taylor Elementary School and Foxborough High School have towers in their schools’ kitchens and grow fresh lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes to serve in the lunchroom.

Initially, the vision for the school gardens was to have a greenhouse. However, the idea evolved into setting up hydroponic tower gardens to sustain a harvest throughout the school year. Jane manages check-ins with each of the three schools and starts the seeds indoors. She distributes the new seedlings to each of the schools after they harvest the fresh produce. She also trains the specific point person at each school to manage the towers which includes planting, harvesting and regular upkeep like checking the pH, feeding the plants and troubleshooting.

At Taylor Elementary School, the facilities department built a window for students to peek in to the kitchen and see what’s growing on the towers. Jane mentioned that special-education students often go to the window and find it to be very calming. Elementary School students do visit the kitchen and learn about the different parts of a plant, actually help plant new seeds and explore how the towers work.

Students can peer into the kitchen and see the hydroponic gardens while walking through the hallway.

During the summer months and school vacation weeks, Jane helps maintain the towers. Janice reiterated, “what school gardens need is a champion,” which is what they have found in Jane.

Janice also said some of the many benefits of using these towers are “…no dirt, no bugs and no weeding” which works well since they are stationed in the school kitchens and team members already have a lot on their plates throughout the day.

The towers aren’t a huge expense but are more of an upfront cost for schools. Towers are about $600 each and Foxborough Public Schools purchased several through grant funds.

Parents and the community have responded exceptionally well to the towers. Jane has also been recognized for her dedication and hard work for these tower gardens and was named one of Rainier Fruit’s Wholesome Heroes. When asked about her long-term vision, Jane said “If I had my way, we’d have a lot more. I would love to fill an entire empty classroom with the hydroponic towers.”

Jane Rice, school garden champion and Janice Watt, School Nutrition Director of Foxborough Public Schools in front of one of Taylor Elementary School’s hydroponic towers.

If you’re interested in expanding your school garden, whether it be a hydroponic tower 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.

JSI Brings Professional Communications to the SNA of MA Chapter Meetings

On Thursday, November 9th, 2017, Keefe Technical High School hosted the SNA of MA Chapter Meeting which featured the newly updated JSI workshop Professional Communications presented by Lynnea Gleason.

Professional communications was designed to strengthen existing skills, navigate through difficult topics, and discover ways to strengthen the communication lines of school nutrition programs.

Key learning objectives include:

  • Identifying effective communication skills for adults and children
  • Practice handling sensitive situations in the work setting
  • Discuss ways to overcome communication barriers

This workshop features many activities to get participants out of their seats and reflecting on these objectives to promote success within their daily operations. Most of our days are spent at work, so having enjoyable relationships and a mutual understanding of one another creates a positive environment and can make the day fly by! Such synergistic productivity not only benefits your fellow employees, but also the children who are getting fed.

Consistency is a key component in school meal programs to control food costs and meet meal requirements. One of the fun and interactive activities, the PB & J sandwich activity, that took place during the workshop showed how messages can be interpreted in many different ways. Even the instructions for making a simple PB & J sandwich require good written communication to properly convey the message the way you want it to be understood. The PB & J activity effectively reinforced the key learning objective and was a hit with the audience!

JSI instructor leads the PB & J activity.

To learn more about about professional communications, visit SNP: Effective Communication for a compilation of links provided in the JSI Resource Center.

2017 Massachusetts Team Up for School Nutrition Success

Written by Marissa Green, FSU Grad Nutrition Student and Jillian Bent, FSU Food and Nutrition Intern

School nutrition directors from across the Commonwealth gathered at Framingham State University on November 29th and November 30th for the Team Up for School Nutrition Success event, sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), and hosted by The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition at Framingham State University.

Event organizers, participants and mentors that attended the 2017 Team Up for School Nutrition Success event.

The two-day agenda included panel discussions and breakout sessions that facilitated constructive dialogue between both mentors and participants on best practices for school nutrition programs. This unique learning experience encouraged school nutrition directors to share common challenges and solutions within their respective school nutrition programs, providing valuable networking opportunities throughout the event. Participants worked with mentors to discuss current pitfalls and establish SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based) goals to make improvements in their school nutrition programs after the event.

Agenda for first day of the Team Up for School Nutrition Success Mentoring event.The first day of the event focused on

The first day of the event focused on financial management and increasing participation key learnings and the second day on menu planning.

Some key learnings from day one included:

  • Grab and go reimbursable school breakfasts are a great way to reach students that arrive late to school so they can also get the necessary nourishment to start their school day.
  • If a menu item isn’t selling, it’s important to revise and/or evaluate your menus, as needed.
  • Customer service is key for school nutrition programs. A smile or greeting can go a long way when you’re working with students.

The second day focused on menu planning and some key learnings included:

Agenda for the second day of Team Up for School Nutrition mentoring event.

  • Cycle menus serve as a great base when menu planning and can be flexible.
  • It’s the people, not the process who impact menu planning the most because people add their own twist on recipes. Staff awareness regarding the importance of recipe standardization is a key for success.
  • Find a “champion” in your school to help implement new programs and increase participation. It could be a student, a nurse, a gym teacher, etc.
  • Promote your program and get active within your community – for example, attend open houses to show parents what their children are eating at school.
  • Improve food quality by simply asking your team if they would eat the food your school is selling.

If you’re interested in learning more and finding additional resources check out Team Up for School Nutrition Success.

“Live-Setting” Culinary Training at Milton High School

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.”

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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!

Smarter Lunchrooms in Massachusetts 2016-2017

School nutrition professionals recognized at the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit.

On Wednesday, May 24th The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition held the second day of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit. In the morning a Recognition Ceremony was held to recognize the schools who participated in the Massachusetts Smarter Lunchrooms Movement and Wellness Initiatives for Student Success as well as other professional development programs offered in the 2016-2017 academic year.

Christanne Harrison discusses the successes of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement in Massachusetts.

In an afternoon breakout session Smarter Lunchrooms Movement: Nudging Students to Eat Healthy Christanne Harrison, MPH, RD, Kristen Morello, SNS, School Nutrition Director (Reading, MA) and Kim Purcell, School Nutrition Manager (Central Elementary School, East Bridgewater, MA) discussed the successes of the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement in Massachusetts.

During this session the presenters discussed new Smarter Lunchrooms resources as well as steps Massachusetts School Nutrition Programs have implemented to make the healthy choice the easy choice. The Massachusetts Smarter Lunchrooms initiative was extended for a second year in 2016-2017 and like the first year, it was very successful! Twenty-five schools in Massachusetts applied for and were chosen to receive technical assistance in implementing Smarter Lunchrooms strategies throughout the 2016-2017 school year. Schools were assigned a Smarter Lunchrooms coach who provided technical assistance including completion of the Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard, identification of goals and an implementation plan, as well as ongoing communication and access to resources throughout the school year. The Massachusetts Smarter Lunchrooms Movement is unique when compared to other states because of the individualized support and communication between the coach and the school.

Kristin Morello (left) speaks about her experience participating in the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement.

Kristin Morello shared some tips with the audience:

  • Involve the staff in completing your school’s Smarter Lunchrooms goals.
  • Complete the cheapest and easiest goals first.
  • Identify one challenging goal that will take planning and collaboration and use that as a school goal.

Kim Purcell discusses Smarter Lunchrooms from a manager’s perspective.

Kim Purcell explained how collaborations within the school can lead to better outcomes with Smarter Lunchrooms goals. In her school, the principal sometimes describes a fruit or a vegetable over the loud speaker and the students are charged with guessing what it is. Engaging all school staff and students is a wonderful and creative way to get students thinking about fruits and vegetables throughout the school day.

The Massachusetts Smarter Lunchrooms Movement was shared nationally at Cornell University at the 2017 Smarter Lunchrooms Annual Symposium on May 12-13th.

Smarter Lunchrooms summary sheets for each of the participating schools:

To learn more about the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement visit the Smarter Lunchrooms category in the JSI Resource Center and consider becoming a Smarter Lunchrooms school in SY17-18.

Sea to School in Massachusetts

Did you know that seafood is the new Harvest of the Month for May? To kick off the month, SNA of Massachusetts’ Chapter 4 hosted a meeting for school nutrition directors, Directors Round Table: New Menu Ideas on Thursday, April 27th at Framingham High School.

The meeting included a presentation by Jamey Lionette, Director of Sustainable Seafood Program at Red’s Best in which he shared how Red’s Best is changing the system of acquiring seafood by offering a “Catch of the Day” package at a set price, all year long. He explained that a rigid demand for certain species of fish exists, but what is abundant and caught everyday is not always what’s in demand. In an effort to cut back on overfishing certain species, The “Catch of the Day” package provides foodservice operations with underutilized and abundant fish species, diverting the pressure away from heavily fished species such as cod. Since the species that are included in the Catch of the Day are all flakey, white fish, they all produce a similar result when used in recipes and can be interchanged without changing the flavor profile or texture of the dish.

School districts in Massachusetts are on-board with supporting local fishermen to get fresh, local, wild-caught, affordable seafood from Red’s Best. At the meeting Jenny Devivo, Chef and School Nutrition Director from Up Island Regional School District on Martha’s Vineyard, demonstrated preparation of two school nutrition recipes: Catch of the Day Fish Chowder and Catch of the Day Crispy Oven Baked Fish Bites. Chef Devivo explained that her students absolutely love the Catch of the Day recipes offered every Friday, even more than pizza day!

If you’re interested in bringing seafood to your school nutrition program, visit the Farm and Sea to School resource category in the JSI Resource Center to learn more.

The Nuts & Bolts of Production Records, CN Labels and More…

On March 22, 2017 the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) presented the Nuts and Bolts Continuation Session Production Records, Recipes, CN Labels, & Product Formulation Statements at Framingham State University. During this in-person session, participants discovered effective ways to make use of production records, standardized recipes, CN labels, and Product Formulation Statements. Participants left the training with the necessary strategies and information to incorporate these topics into their operation. For your convenience, the presentation files for this session and others are available on the JSI website.

The Nuts and Bolts of School Nutrition Programs Continuation Series provides Massachusetts school nutrition professionals with a chance to increase their knowledge about, and ability to implement the USDA National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The training series provides vital information and skills to improve program operations. The flexible online and in-person sessions allows you to select the topic and format that meets your training needs!

Mark you calendar for August 1, 2, and 3, 2017 and kick off the 2017-2018 school year with the 3-day Nuts and Bolts of School Nutrition Programs at Framingham State University. This three day event provides essential training on meal benefit issuance, resource, management and food service operations. Registration will be open soon.

 

Highlights for Day Two of the 2017 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit

Day two of the 2017 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit is full of insightful learning sessions, networking opportunities and a recognition ceremony for school nutrition professionals and programs from across Massachusetts.

Schedule at a Glance for 2017 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit.

The Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mitchell D. Chester EdD will offer words of welcome and address the general session as we return for day two of the Summit. Following this, all Summit attendees will learn about the highly acclaimed Team Up for School Nutrition Success Initiative from ESE Educational Specialists Linda Fischer, MEd, RD, LDN and Sally Teixeira, BA in the general session entitled “Better Together with Team Up: Expanding Your Professional Network”. The Team Up for School Nutrition Success Initiative offered this past fall was such a huge success that we thought, what better place to share this than at the Summit. The session will highlight the initiative which uses a peer-to-peer mentorship model and you will also hear about the experiences and achievements from your colleagues who participated last fall. All learning tracks for the Summit will include a Team Up for School Nutrition morning breakout session that will be specifically designed for each track: Growing, Leading and Maximizing Your Business.

During the afternoon general session, Robert Leshin, Director for the Office for Food and Nutrition Programs will share program updates and essential news for Massachusetts school nutrition programs. This session will be followed by a recognition ceremony honoring individuals and school nutrition programs that have participated in a variety of programs offered during the 2016-17 school year. Whether attendees are receiving an award or supporting these monumental programs and school nutrition professionals, this is a ceremony you can’t miss.

The afternoon learning tracks, scheduled from 2:00-3:30p.m. on May 24, offer a variety of session topics that cater to each track allowing attendees to meet their learning needs and take their professional development to the next level. Check out the sessions in the slide show below:

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Register for the 2017 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit by May 5th. To learn more about both days of the Summit, download the Summit brochure here.

Highlights for Day One of the 2017 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit

May is right around the corner and we hope that you will join us for the 2017 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit on May 23rd and 24th at the Four Points at Sheraton in Norwood, MA. The first day of the Summit is full of educational and networking opportunities for school nutrition directors and managers, two keynotes speakers and impactful breakout sessions throughout the morning and afternoon.

Schedule at a Glance for May 23rd of the 2017 Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit

The first day of the Summit will kick off at 8:00 a.m. with a warm welcome from Robert Leshin, MPA Director of the Office for Food and Nutrition Programs and Karen McGrail, MEd, RDN, LDN, Director of The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition.

Keynote on “The Four Voices of Change,” will be presented by David Hulings, Motivational Transition Coach at Hulings and Associates, L.L.C. on May 23rd.

The morning keynote “The Four Voices of Change,” will be presented by David Hulings, Motivational Transition Coach at Hulings and Associates, L.L.C. , who brings over thirty years of motivational training experience to the Summit.

As an experienced one-on-one executive coach for K-12 school nutrition professionals and administrators, we were thrilled when Hulings agreed to not only present the keynote address, but to also spend the entire day at the Summit. You will not want to miss his two breakout sessions in the Leading Your Business  learning track to help you cultivate your leadership skills and strengthen your workforce.

Keynote on “How to be Resilient in Times of Stress,” by Dr. Arthur Ciaramicoli, EdD, PhD, Author of The Stress Solution on May 23rd.

 

 

The lunch keynote address “How to be Resilient in Times of Stress,” will be presented by Dr. Arthur Ciaramicoli, EdD, PhD, Clinical Psychologist and Author of The Stress Solution. Described by his audiences as an engaging and articulate speaker, Dr. Ciaramicoli will help you discover how perception and empathy can be used to reduce stress and create a happier life.

School nutrition directors are encouraged to register managers for the Growing your Business learning track on day one of the Summit to attend the “Utilizing the Cafeteria as a Classroom,” breakout session offered by the Institute of Child Nutrition. This session provides the tools and resources that will help managers develop and enhance a program that will be recognized as an integral part of the education system.  Utilize your cafeteria as a classroom and help students turn nutrition knowledge into action!

Interested in enhancing your program’s purchasing and procurement process? The Maximizing Your Business learning track is for you! Get in the driver’s seat and take control of your program’s purchasing and procurement with tried and true financial management strategies.  This track will also cover what to expect and how to prepare for a procurement review.

Be sure to register for the SNA of MA Reception immediately following the Summit on May 23rd from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Relax with your peers and vendors while enjoying light snacks in the ballroom of the Four Points by Sheraton. Participate in a scavenger hunt designed to help you learn about available products and services. Get fun facts about your vendors and school nutrition. This is networking at its best!

Each day of the Summit provides 5½ continuing education hours to meet USDA Professional Standards training needs. Don’t forget to register by May 5th.  We hope to see you there!

The two-day conference is sponsored by the Office for Food and Nutrition Programs at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition.