Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit: Smarter Lunchrooms

The Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit is coming up on May 20 & 21, 2015! This conference is geared towards school nutrition directors, managers, and business managers, and promotes healthy students and healthy school nutrition programs. The summit will be held at Four Points by Sheraton, Norwood and is sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition.

Adam Brumberg

Adam Brumberg

On May 21, Adam Brumberg will provide the lunch keynote on how to promote your school nutrition program, Nudge Marketing. Brumberg is a Research Specialist in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University and the Deputy Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. He also coordinates research run by the Food and Brand Lab and the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Childhood Nutrition Programs (the BEN Center). Brumberg received his B.S. in Marketing and Food Industry Management from Cornell University in 2009.

At the conference, there will be three learning tracks: Resource Management, Continuous Quality Improvement, and Promotion and Marketing. The Promotion and Marketing track will cover how to increase your participation and enhance your program by using promotion and marketing techniques that will capture students and make your program shine. Promotion and marketing strategies include using Smarter Lunchrooms techniques. The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement began with the BEN Center in 2009, with a goal to equip school lunchrooms with evidence-based tools that improve child eating behaviors and the health of children. In the Promotion and Marketing track, Brumberg will build off of his keynote address, discussing the important topic of how to increase your program’s bottom line.

More information about the Healthy Kids, Healthy Programs Summit can be found on the JSI website and in the brochure. Find additional resources on Smarter Lunchrooms in the JSI Resource Center.

South Middlesex Regional Gets Back to Basics with Fresh Vegetables and Fruits

South Middlesex Regional Vocational Technical High School hosted a favorite JSI Workshop to Go on Wednesday April 8th: Back to Basics – Fresh Vegetables and Fruits. School nutrition staff received a hands-on culinary training, learning healthy new ways to spruce up vegetables and fruits for school meals.

JSI instructor Chef Brendan Gallagher taught the staff about the importance of vegetables and fruits in our diets, culinary techniques to prepare fresh produce, and different ways to incorporate them into different meals.


Chef Brendan presenting roasted vegetables to the staff.

Some tips included:

  • Use as minimally processed vegetables and fruits as possible.
  • Emphasize and encourage the consumption of vegetables and fruits to students.
  • Offer vegetarian menu items as options, along with a typical meat entree, to expose students to meatless choices.
  • Source locally grown products for the school cafeteria.
  • Encourage kids to try unique and new foods.
  • Sneak vegetables and fruits into any and every meal you can – try putting kale on pizzas, in soups, or in other entrees.

The staff were eager to prepare the recipes and practice the skills they learned.


Staff members working hard to prepare the Roasted Vegetable Wrap…

…And the final product – whole wheat tortillas filled with roasted peppers, onions, and carrots, and a little bit of ranch dressing and cheddar cheese!














All of the resources featured in the Back to Basics – Fresh Vegetables and Fruits workshop, and other Workshops to Go, can be found in the JSI Resource Center.

South Middlesex Regional is one of many schools taking full advantage of the MetroWest Health Foundation grant. This grant makes funds available during the 2014-2015 school year for the 25 MetroWest towns, covering the cost of up to two JSI Workshops to Go. Each school district from the MetroWest area is eligible! Be sure to schedule your training before the school year is up!

And take a look at South Middlesex Regional’s pride in their JSI trainings – with their aprons, badges, and certificates proudly hanging in their kitchen! Way to go!IMG_2147

Chefs Move to Schools with NFSMI

On Thursday, April 2, chefs and school nutrition staff learned about the Chefs Move to Schools movement in a webinar with Chef Jason Morse of NFSMI. The Chefs Move to Schools initiative involves creating partnerships between chefs and schools. Studies have found that involving professional chefs with school meal programs can promote the consumption of healthy foods by students.

Several Keys to Success for a chefs in schools program include:

  • Support
  • Collaboration
  • Mentoring and educating

In the webinar, Chef Morse provided many suggestions for chefs entering a new school system:

  • Hold hands-on bootcamps for the school nutrition staff
  • Understand the school nutrition staff’s daily responsibilities and challenges
  • Learn about the school foodservice model, including the school nutrition regulations and standards
  • Provide new ideas, such as new recipes
  • Think outside the box for how to use USDA Foods. For example, sun butter is nut free and is delicious in granola bars.
  • Be able to lead and inspire children of all grade levels
Chefs Move to Schools

Visit the Chefs Move to Schools website at

Events and competitions can help to promote your chef and school meal program, such as:

These are just some ideas to get you started. If you are interested in learning more, visit our Chefs in Schools page in the JSI Resource Center for additional resources.

Strategies to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity

On Saturday, March 7th, school professionals gathered at Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School in Palmer for the Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom Annual Winter Conference for Educators, Growing Minds through Massachusetts Agriculture. This conference was aimed toward teachers and other educators and provided countless activity ideas, resources, and connections to bring agriculture to the classroom.


Strategies to Promote Healthy Eating & Physical Activity

JSI instructor Meg Whitbeck, MS, RD presented a session on Strategies to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity. She covered different ways to promote healthy eating and movement for all ages through education, incentives, and fun activities in the classroom, schoolyard, and school garden.

Wellness policies were identified as the first place to look to help promote healthy lifestyles in the classroom. Each school district’s wellness policy, driven by the community’s stakeholders, has different components to be upheld and implemented. Meg encouraged educators to look here first, and then create a focus for a program or initiative.

Meg strongly encouraged everyone to continue educating about healthy choices, as this is proven to impact children’s eating habits. Nutrition education can be incorporated into all different aspects of the curriculum.

Some helpful resources and ideas Meg shared included:

  • Host a BOKS before-school program, which are FREE programs before school that get the students moving for a brain and body boost before a day full of learning.
  • Hang posters and other visuals around the classroom and school promoting healthy food and exercise habits – a passive but effective way to reinforce a healthy lifestyle.
  • Take “Brain Breaks” to give kids a brief moment of movement to refocus their energy, such as this fun YouTube dance!
  • Flaunt your own healthy snacks, challenge students to bring healthy foods, and try new fruits and vegetables in the classroom with them.
  • Host a health fair run by the students, which actively engages them in nutrition education and has the potential to be a fundraising opportunity.
  • Hold food tastings, or Chefs Move to Schools events (which are FREE!) to spark students’ interest in healthy food.
  • Go on farm tours and field trips, and take advantage of Farm to School opportunities.
  • Start a school garden at your school, whether it be small potted plants in the classroom or a plot of soil in the schoolyard.


    Meg Whitbeck presenting to a group of enthusiastic school professionals.

Holly Alperin, EdM, MCHES, Nutrition Education and Training Coordinator of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) attended the session and spoke about an opportunity in Massachusetts with the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement. The DESE and JSI were awarded a Team Nutrition grant to be implemented over the 2014/15 and 2015/16 school years; 50 schools in Massachusetts will be provided with training and technical assistance to implement Smarter Lunchrooms strategies in their cafeterias as part of the Wellness Initiative for Student Success. The Wellness Initiative for Student Success is a hands-on, multi-session experience that guides school wellness teams to advance efforts for a healthier nutrition and physical activity environment for students and staff. Find out more information about the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement in the JSI Resource Center.

Be sure to explore all that JSI offers, including the following professional development programs and resources:

SNA Chapter 3 Meeting: Gluten-Free at School

On March 26, school nutrition directors and managers attended the School Nutrition Association of Massachusetts Chapter 3 Meeting Gluten-Free at School at Marshall Middle School in Billerica. At the meeting, participants increased their knowledge and awareness about gluten-free diets to meet the special dietary needs of students.

Christanne Harrison - Green-Free at School

Christanne Harrison from JSI discusses gluten-free diets at schools


Christanne Harrison from JSI taught the differences between:

  • Celiac disease: a genetic, autoimmune disorder where an individual is unable to digest gluten.
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity: an adverse food-induced reaction where an individual is not able to digest gluten normally, but does not have celiac disease.
  • Food allergy: when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein, an allergen, as a threat and attacks it.


The nutrition staff learned about gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and crossbreeds of these grains, that causes adverse symptoms in celiac disease. Participants identified food sources of gluten by looking at sample lunch menus and reading food labels. They found that hidden sources of gluten may be found in meats, such as hot dogs, bread and flour products, cereals, vinegars, and salad dressings. Gluten-free labeling is voluntary, so it is important to read food labels carefully to identify hidden sources of gluten, and to contact the food manufacturer if you are unsure if a food is gluten-free.

Participants shared gluten-free options that they have at their schools and learned about gluten-free alternatives, including gluten-free pizzas and breads, gluten-free chicken nuggets, and gluten-free cereals.

SNA Chapter Meeting Gluten-Free at School

SNA Chapter 3 Meeting: Gluten-Free at School in Billerica

Strategies to avoid cross-contact at school were explored by reviewing scenarios where cross-contact could occur. Ways to avoid cross-contact include preparing gluten-free foods first, having separate color-coded kitchen equipment for gluten-free foods, proper hand washing, and washing equipment and surfaces thoroughly with cleaning agents.

Learning about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity is important to address the needs for students on gluten-free diets. Find out more about celiac disease and gluten-free diets in this handout from NFSMI and from resources in the Special Dietary Needs page in the JSI Resource Center.