News Roundup

School Nutrition Programs across the Commonwealth are working diligently to ensure that students receive real, freshly grown produce while learning about locally sourced food and the importance of healthy eating. Check out recent news highlighting Massachusetts schools in October.

Milton High School kept the growing season going by giving their special education students the opportunity to grow their own garden right in their classrooms. Produce such as kale, lemon basil, and lettuce are harvested by the students that arrive eagerly each day to see the growth of what they have planted. According to Milton’s Food Services Director, Jackie Morgan, the students are not only learning about ownership and responsibility, but also on a path to healthier eating.

Fall River elementary educator Timothy Powers was presented with a Teacher Champion Award by Project Bread and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts for his work in combating student hunger and efforts in helping offer student snack breaks. Timothy also worked to increase student participation in the school breakfast program and launched a new smoothie program to not only provide another breakfast option, but to teach students why breakfast and healthy food is important.

Sandwich students at Forestdale School learned about locally sourced foods that are offered daily in their cafeteria. The second graders were taught how to make their own mini cranberry bogs, sample cranberry juice and Craisins, and tried fish-and-chips using locally caught fish. Students were also able to try October’s “Harvest of the Month”, which featured local pears.

Back to Basics Recipes Now Available Online!

Build Your Own Stir-Fry Bowl Signage

Build Your Own Stir-Fry Bowl Signage

Livening up school menus has just been made simpler with the addition of our Back to Basics Workshops to Go recipes to the JSI website! These student-approved, globally-inspired recipes are standardized and include nutritionals and meal component information. Each set of recipes creates a customizable meal, including a BYO Stir-Fry bowl, Street Taco and Pita Pocket, that your students will love and will fit into your OVS menu.

Would you staff benefit from an extra boost of confidence and culinary skill building? Request one of our Back to Basics culinary Workshops to Go and your staff will be ready to menu these customizable globally-inspired meals. These recipes can be used to freshen up school menus with peach salsa and a build-your-own street taco with the Back to Basics: Latin Cuisine Workshop to Go, feature student favorites such as vegetable stir-fry and chicken teriyaki with the Back to Basics: Asian Fusion Workshop to Go, or introduce new flavors such as tzatziki or shawarma with the Back to Basics: Mediterranean Flavors Workshop to Go.

To help support staff members in executing the new cuisine learned during the Workshops to Go, JSI also offers a Live-Setting Culinary Training which brings the JSI chef back to your school following one of our Back to Basics workshops to guide school nutrition staff during regular production hours. Find more information about requesting a Workshop to Go at your school.

NEW! Coming in early 2020, Back to Basics: Indian Fare Workshop to Go!

News Roundup

Photo: February 2019 SNA Publication

School Nutrition Programs across the Commonwealth are working diligently to ensure that students receive fresh meals and learn about new food topics, while also helping serve their community members. Check out the recent news highlighting Massachusetts schools!

In November, an article detailed the partnership between Framingham State University and Sodexo with Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School. In this partnership, a trial was implemented on the FSU campus to assess the biological effects of different macronutrient diets.

In February, Waltham public schools were recognized for their reworked breakfast and lunch school programs. Some of the upgrades made to the district’s programs included bringing speakers in to do short presentations on food topics for children, incorporating herbs and plants into the curriculum, and partnering with Greater Boston Food Bank to help Waltham residents in need of food.

In February, Boston mayor Marty Walsh discussed My Way Café, which is a new program being implemented into many Boston schools to deliver fresh food to young children. The program allows students the opportunity to choose delicious and nutritious meals cafeteria-style in their schools.

In the February edition SNA magazine, Billerica Public Schools were highlighted for their Food Market – a coordinated program promoted by the BPS School Nutrition department. The Market is open to all residents of Billerica and features a selection of 15-20 different fresh and shelf-stable items and serves around 1,600 community members.

Join the Smarter Lunchrooms Movement for the 2017-2018 School Year

There are ONLY five spots left for the SY17-18 Massachusetts Smarter Lunchrooms Initiative. Funded and supported by the Office for Food and Nutrition Programs at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, join the over 75 Massachusetts schools that have successfully participated in this program to promote healthy food choices in the lunchroom and to boost healthy food sales.

All participating schools receive hands-on technical assistance from a Smarter Lunchrooms Certified Coach. The coach will visit each school and provide:

  • One 3-hour initial visit to complete a Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard. During this visit, the coach will take photos of the current lunch set-up, present a 30-minute Smarter Lunchrooms training for staff and work with each school to create a Smarter Lunchrooms plan of action.
  • One 2-hour follow-up visit to repeat the Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard and take follow-up pictures of all lunch service changes. The coach will also collect production records and help evaluate each school’s success.

With personalized and hands-on support from a Coach, many Massachusetts schools have implemented impactful changes to get students excited about school lunch.

To join the initiative for SY17-18, your school needs both a School Nutrition Director AND Manager who are interested and excited about implementing Smarter Lunchrooms. E-mail the below information to johnstalker@framingham.edu and the Smarter Lunchrooms coordinator will contact you.

  1. Name of the School Nutrition Director AND Manager who will champion Smarter Lunchrooms at their school
  2. Email addresses of School Nutrition Director and Manager
  3. Name of the school, street address, and direct phone numbers of School Nutrition Director and Manager
  4. One to two sentences describing why you would like to participate in the initiative 

Make the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice with Help from the Massachusetts Smarter Lunchrooms Movement

The 25 schools currently participating in the Massachusetts Smarter Lunchrooms Movement are implementing many changes to get students excited about school lunch. From improving food displays to including students in menu feedback surveys, these schools are seeing great results in sales and overall student feedback. Big and small changes can make a huge difference in our schools.

At Wareham High School in Wareham, MA, Food Service Manager Christine Laperriere and her school nutrition team added bright new milk coolers with bottled milk (instead of cartons) to appeal to the more mature high school students. The high school has already noticed a 30% increase in milk sales and by placing the white milk in the front of the chocolate milk, sales almost doubled for white milk.

Wareham High School also added clear fruit bowls in an accessible location for students and started to serve canned fruit in clear cups to make fruit more appealing to students. The school added a cart stocked with condiments and silverware that allows for easy relocation to minimize congestion at the school registers.

According to Laperriere, “…having the Smarter Lunchrooms Program come to my school was a great success!  Having fresh eyes with new ideas is always a plus.” She is also working with the Vice Principal to implement a school survey to gather feedback from students and generate new exciting menu ideas for the school.

Wareham High School in Wareham, MA added bright new milk coolers with bottled milk and displays clear fresh fruit bowls

At Locke Middle School, April Laskey, Director of School Nutrition for Billerica Public Schools is implementing exciting changes in the school lunchroom with the help of Framingham State University Intern, Courtney Torres and the Smarter Lunchrooms team. Laskey said, “…. Courtney has been working on sampling fruit with students, engaging students for input, creating healthy information areas within the cafe and assisting the cafe team in creating visually appealing service lines.”

Locke Middle School added special menu days to have staff and students inspire the school’s menu and the team is now updating the labeling and food signage to encourage students to actually read the information on display.

Torres shared, “I’ve been working with the middle school to help try and promote an exciting environment for our students. As a student, I remember that lunch was something that was looked forward to during the day as a nice time to take a break and be with friends. I’m trying to capture that in the students to make them more excited about school lunch.”

Locke Middle School also started using social media to engage students with a #mealonpoint challenge which encourages students to Instagram a meal that includes a vegetable, grain, protein, dairy and fruit and enter to win a fun prize.

Locke Middle School in Billerica, MA created the #mealonpoint Instagram challenge to encourage students to eat a well-balanced meal and Instagram a photo of their healthy choice for the chance to win a prize.

Locke Middle School in Billerica, MA dresses up the lunchroom environment with banners and updated posters to make it fell more student-focused.

To find additional information about Smarter Lunchrooms, please visit these useful links to the JSI’s Smarter Lunchrooms category in the JSI Resource Center.

The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement is a research-based initiative focused on creating sustainable lunchrooms that help guide students to make smarter choices. The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement was established at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Program and is funded by the USDA ERS/FNS.

The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement Continues to Spread in Massachusetts

With funding and enthusiastic support from the Office for Food and Nutrition Programs at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, The John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition (JSI) is pleased to extend the Smarter Lunchrooms initiative to 25 new schools across the Commonwealth for the 2016-2017 school year. Since May 2015, over 50 Massachusetts schools joined and successfully participated in this program.

The 25 participating schools will receive hands-on technical assistance from a Smarter Lunchrooms Certified Coach. The coach will visit each school and provide:

  • One 3-hour initial visit to complete a Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard. During this visit, the coach will take photos of the current lunch set-up, present a 30-minute Smarter Lunchrooms training for staff and work with each school to create a Smarter Lunchrooms plan of action.
  • One 2-hour follow-up visit to repeat the Smarter Lunchrooms Scorecard and take follow-up pictures of all lunch service changes. The coach will also collect production records and help evaluate each school’s success.

The 2015-2016 program’s success is encouraging as the next wave of this program is about to begin for more Massachusetts schools. For the 2015-2016 program, on average, Smarter Lunchrooms scores increased by 30 percent, fruit sales increased by 9 percent and vegetable sales increased by 51 percent.

To achieve these results, schools implemented simple changes in how they presented food and educated students on healthy food options. Schools used creative engagement tools such as labeling daily fruit options with innovative names, designed signage to call attention to healthy selections and used student surveys to inform future recipe development. Take a look at a few of the low-cost Smarter Lunchroom strategies implemented by schools in Massachusetts.

Whole fruit options are displayed in attractive bowl or baskets at Litwin Elementary School in Chicopee, MA.

Whole fruit options are displayed in attractive bowl or baskets at Litwin Elementary School in Chicopee, MA.

Student groups are involved in creation of artwork promoting menu items at Barrows Elementary School in Reading, MA.

Student groups are involved in creation of artwork promoting menu items at Barrows Elementary School in Reading, MA.

Milton High School in Milton, MA dedicates a menu board to feature the next day’s menu to get students excited about food options.

Milton High School in Milton, MA dedicates a menu board to feature the next day’s menu to get students excited about food options.

To find additional information about Smarter Lunchrooms, please visit this post from the USDA blog and these useful links in JSI’s Smarter Lunchrooms category in the JSI Resource Center.