Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sodexo Pulls out of Ohio School District

School lunch cannot keep going in the same way it has been for the last 20 years, and the article below is more proof of that. Until parents, school administrators, and food service companies are ready to make real changes to improve the quality of school, we'll see more and more stories like that of the Columbus City Schools below.

Private food-service vendor Sodexo will pull out of its $13 million-a-year contract with Columbus City Schools on Dec. 21, putting an end to the firm’s effort to serve Ohio’s largest school district.

The contract, which started in the 2009-10 school year, contained a provision for Sodexo to opt out, and the company is taking it, said district spokesman Andrew Marcelain.
Sodexo officials wouldn’t say why they are pulling out.

In a written statement, the firm, based in Maryland, said it has met repeatedly with the district “to find a mutually beneficial framework to continue our relationship.”

Sodexo is ending the relationship “after much discussion and review of alternatives,” the company said.

Marcelain said Sodexo is “committed to work with us through the winter break” so there is a smooth transition to the district taking over the work.

District spokesman Jeff Warner said Sodexo employs eight people who work in the district to plan meals that meet nutrition guidelines; order all food and supplies; and assess schools for how service could be improved. The district doesn’t expect to hire any staff to replace those people, and it doesn’t expect food service to be disrupted, Warner said.

Food-service workers are district employees, but the Sodexo employees purchase the food and plan about 60,000 meals that are served each day, including 35,000 lunches. The program feeds about 70 percent of students. Because of its size, Sodexo can purchase food at a lower cost than the district can, officials said.

Because much of the food-service operation’s costs are fixed, Sodexo thought it could improve the bottom line by getting more students to eat meals. That strategy apparently has failed.
Sodexo’s contract requires the company to pay the district for any money lost in the program. Two years ago, Sodexo paid the district $1.7 million to close an end-of-year gap. The payment for last school year hasn’t been announced yet. The firm rewrote the contract to limit its loss to no more than $500,000 in the future.

In return for the risk of a loss, Sodexo initially was to have collected up to 7.5 percent of any “profit” made on the district’s food-service program, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture vetoed the plan. The food-service program gets the bulk of its money from the federal free- and reduced-price-lunch program, which is administered through the USDA.

School board member Stephanie Groce, who pushed for changes in the money-losing food-service program before Sodexo was hired, said that Sodexo failed to stem the losses because it didn’t control salaries and benefits.

The district is “going to have to look at everything” if it hopes to bring the program into the black without dramatically raising student food prices, Groce said. Students who pay full price currently pay $2 to $2.50 for a lunch, depending on their grade level.

-Saturday October 8, 2011; By Bill Bush; The Columbus Dispatch

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Boys & Girls Club of Salem to Serve Fresh n' Local Lunches

Every day of the summer and every afternoon during the school year, the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion & Polk Counties provides free lunch to children and youth throughout Salem and Keizer. For many of the youth, this may be the only substantial meal they receive during the summer or after school.

This year, the organization set a goal to have a meal program that provides fresh and healthy food as well as food and nutrition education. To meet their goal, the Boys & Girls Club is joining forces with Organic Fresh Fingers.

Leaders at the Club realized that their meal program didn't reflect the holistic approach that they strive for in all areas of their program, and decided it was time to make a change. “We wanted to offer our Club members meals that were filling and good for them and that would teach them what a balanced, nutritious meal looks and tastes like,” said Sue Bloom, Director of Operations. “The hot meals allow us to serve comfort food to the youth and replicate a family-style meal as they sit down and eat together.”

Organic Fresh Fingers, Inc. will provide a Fresh n' Local meal program to the Boys & Girls Club starting in September. Lunches will be hot, handmade entrees served with fresh, organic fruits and vegetables every day.

“I am very excited about getting hot meals in the fall because I really enjoyed the pot pie and am looking forward to eating some more,” said Tamra, a ten year old member of the Swegle Branch in Salem.

The program also includes a strong educational component, including an educational curriculum, field trips to local farms and orchards, and assisting with on-site gardens.

“We are most excited about the educational aspect of the program,” said Tim Sinatra, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties. “We really wanted to take a 360 degree approach to meals and nutrition, and Organic Fresh Fingers is able to provide us the comprehensive program we are looking for.”

“We are delighted to partner with the Boys & Girls Club of Salem,” said CEO and President of Organic Fresh Fingers, Evann Remington. “It is our belief that every child should be able to eat fresh, healthy food, and we can't wait to start serving the Boys & Girls Club. We're looking forward to taking the youth on field trips to local farms and teaching them about healthy food choices.”

The Boys & Girls Club serves approximately 10,500 youth in Marion and Polk Counties through their Clubs, athletics, and outreach programs. Last year, the Clubs served 81,730 meals and snacks. All youth from first to twelfth grade are welcome to become a member.

Organic Fresh Fingers, Inc. works with schools, non-profit organizations and childcare facilities to provide fresh, local, natural and organic hot lunch programs.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hiring Sous Chef and Kitchen Assistants

Organic Fresh Fingers is hiring! We're currently looking for one sous chef and two kitchen assistants. A short job description of each position is below. If interested, please submit a resume, references and cover letter to Please call 503-371-1108 if you have any questions.

Sous Chef: Full-Time, Hourly Position, Start immediately

The Sous Chef will serve as an assistant to Organic Fresh Fingers' chef. Sous chef will assist chef with preparation of all entrees. Sous chef will also assist with research and development, and help to direct kitchen staff. Must have or obtain current food handlers card. The interview process will include a cooking demonstration to display knife skills, cooking ability, and ability to quickly and carefully follow directions. Food service experience is required. USDA certifications in CACFP and NSLP preferred, but not necessary. Must have or obtain current food handlers card.

Kitchen Assistants: 2 Full Time Positions Available, Hourly Position, Start Date in August

Food Preparation staff will work in the kitchen to assist the chef and sous chef with all aspects of food prep, including cleaning, preparing and packaging of fruits and vegetables. Will assist with general cleaning and maintenance of kitchen area. Must have or obtain current food handlers card. Food service experience is preferred.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

15,000 restaurants order healthy new kids meals

USA; By Nanci Hellmich

Hold the fries and pass the carrot sticks.

Beginning today, kids will find some cool new choices on their restaurant menus — choices that will make their parents happy, too.

More than 15,000 restaurants in the USA representing 19 chains, including Burger King, Cracker Barrel, Chili's, Denny's and IHOP, are participating in a voluntary new initiative called Kids LiveWell.

It's being unveiled today by the National Restaurant Association and Healthy Dining, the company that runs

Many meals that fit into the program will carry an icon of a red apple. They must include an entree, side dish and beverage and contain 600 calories or less, plus meet other nutritional criteria. Some meals that meet the guidelines:

•Burger King's breakfast muffin sandwich with fresh apple fries (slices) and fat-free milk.

•Corner Bakery Cafe's half turkey sandwich served on harvest bread, with a side of baby carrots, fruit medley and low-fat milk.

•Cracker Barrel's kids' chicken n' dumplings with organic apple juice.

These and other meals "meet the gold standard in terms of nutritional content," says Anita Jones-Mueller, founder of Healthy Dining.

"Kids can eat french fries, hamburgers and fried foods some of the time when they are eating out, but not all the time."

Some restaurants have only a couple of kids' meals that meet the criteria now, but they are working on developing more, Jones-Mueller says.

Dawn Sweeney, president of the National Restaurant Association, says the group is planning to expand the program to thousands more restaurants in the coming weeks.

Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest says offering healthier kids' meals at restaurants is important because children are getting about a third of their calories from eating out, and eating out is a big contributor to obesity. "Kids' meals have become synonymous with junk. They are usually a hamburger, a slice of pizza or fried chicken tenders with a side of french fries and a soda.

"We need to get to the point that the kids' meals are the healthiest meals, because kids are growing and developing and forming eating habits that are going to affect their health for the rest of their lives."

Find Kids LiveWell meals on

"This is an exciting beginning for parents who eat out a lot. This is opening the door to much healthier cuisine.

"This (program) is just going to make it easier to eat healthy when you eat out, and for those of us who eat out a lot that's an important for living a healthy lifestyle," she says.

"Almost every restaurant we talked moved very quickly to identify foods that meet the criteria, and some modified their menu items to meet the nutrient guidelines," Jones-Mueller says.

The meals that qualify were reviewed by a team of registered dietitians from Healthy Dining.

Restaurants can get kids excited about eating healthfully, and letting them enjoy the fresh, healthful taste of foods.

What Makes a Healthy Kids' Meal?

Meals in the Kids LiveWell program must meet the following nutrition criteria:
-- 600 calories or less
And less than:
-- 35% calories from fat
-- 10% calories from saturated fat
-- 0.5 grams trans fat
-- 35% of calories from sugar
-- 770 milligrams sodium

Among the restaurant chains participating in the Kids LiveWell program:

•Au Bon Pain

•Bonefish Grill

•Burger King


•Carrabba's Italian Grill


•Chili's Grill & Bar Restaurant

•Corner Bakery Cafe

•Cracker Barrel


•El Pollo Loco



•Joe's Crab Shack

•Outback Steakhouse

•Silver Diner


•T-Bones Great

•American Eatery

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Family Meals Remain Important Through Teen Years, Expert Says

One aspect of our Fresh n' Local meal program is the emphasis on replicating family-style meals for childcare centers. We strongly believe that there are numerous benefits that come from sitting down at a table and eating a hot meal together. Science Daily recently published an article that outlines the benefits of families eating dinner together.

ScienceDaily (July 12, 2011)
— As children become teenagers, it may be more challenging to regularly include them in family meals, but doing so is key to heading off such problems as eating disorders, obesity, and inadequate nutrition in adolescence, said Barbara Fiese, a University of Illinois professor of human development and family studies and director of the U of I's Family Resiliency Center.

"The common belief is that teens don't want to be around their parents very much, and that teens are just too busy for regular meals with the family," she said. "Parents may not be able to get their families together around the table seven days a week, but if they can schedule three family meals a week, they will safeguard their teens' health in significant ways."

She advises family members to pull out their schedules and find out which nights they can commit to, then follow through and make family meals on those nights a priority.

In the June issue of Pediatrics, Fiese and postdoctoral research associate Amber Hammons reviewed 17 recent studies on eating patterns and nutrition involving more than 182,000 children and adolescents.

The results showed that teens who eat at least five meals a week with their families are 35 percent less likely to engage in disordered eating than teens who don't. The researchers defined disordered eating as binging and purging, taking diet pills, self-induced vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting, eating very little, skipping meals, and/or smoking cigarettes to lose weight.

"For children and adolescents with disordered eating, mealtime provides a setting in which parents can recognize early signs and take steps to prevent detrimental patterns from turning into full-blowing eating disorders," she said.

Children who ate at least three family meals a week were also 12 percent less likely to be overweight than those who ate with their families less often. And they were 24 percent more likely to eat healthy foods and have healthy eating habits than those who didn't share three meals with their families.

The researcher said that families who share meals together are likely to be more connected, which may encourage teens to talk within their families about unhealthy behaviors they've slipped into and other problems they're experiencing.

"If you look at national surveys, the frequency of shared mealtimes does begin to drop off in the teen years, but a lot of that is due to competing demands on teenagers' time due to after-school activities, jobs, and social life, and not for lack of interest," she said.

The study showed that teens are interested in participating in family mealtimes and believe that they eat healthier when they share meals with their families, she said.

According to the expert, research on adolescent development indicates that teens want to stay connected with their parents. "Family meals give them a place where they can go regularly to check in with their parents and express themselves freely," she said.

"If family meals are not a forced activity, if parents don't totally control the conversation, and if teens can contribute to family interaction and feel like they're benefiting from it, older kids are likely to welcome participating," she added.

If you've gotten out of the family meal habit and don't relish the prospect of receiving one-word answers from your teenagers (Q: What happened at school today? A: nothing), Fiese and her colleagues have compiled some conversation starters for both English- and Spanish-speaking families.

Here's one: If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it and why?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Salem-Keizer School District closes down Summer Meal Sites

Many people aren't aware of the Summer Food Service Program, which allows organizations to provide free meals to children in areas where at lease 50 percent of children qualify for free or reduced school lunches. Recently, Organic Fresh Fingers has begun to serve non-profit organizations the food for these Summer Meal Sites. Our goal is to open more of these sites throughout Salem & Keizer. There is a huge need for more of these sites, as only 12% of children who qualify are participating.

The Statesman Journal recently published an article about the Salem Keizer School District Food Services, which is run by Sodexo, a multi-national institutional food service company, being "forced" to close down half of its summer meal sites. And of the remaining 13 sites, only five serve meals all summer. The reason cited for shutting down these sites is because of budget restrictions.

Organic Fresh Fingers has created an innovative way to not only service summer meal sites in a cost-effective way, but also provide higher quality meals, including handmade entrees and organic produce. We refuse to accept the fact that children should go hungry during the summer. It absolutely is financially feasible, and Organic Fresh Fingers is doing it!

Below is an excerpt from the Statesman Journal article. To read the entire article, click here.

The National School Lunch Program, through free and reduced-price meals, ensures that children of low-income families don't have to learn on an empty stomach.

And the Summer Food Service Program picks up where the school year leaves off, feeding kids free meals in areas where at least 50 percent of children participate in the school lunch program.

But last year, only 12 percent of Marion County's children who participated in the school lunch program during the school year received summer meals.

That ranks the county 31st out of the 32 counties in the state that have summer meals programs, according to a Partners for Hunger-Free Oregon analysis...

The participation rate for the Salem-Keizer School District — where 22,684 students out of 39,459 ate free or reduced-price lunches in May — was slightly lower than that of the county, at 11 percent.

This year, the district has cut its summer meal sites by almost half, citing budget cuts, construction at some locations and low participation in others as reasons for reducing the number of meal sites to 13.

Just five of those are serving meals all summer, and three of them have yet to begin.

...Lynne Reinoso, manager of the Summer Food Service Program for the state Department of Education, said the number of the district's sites is concerning.

"It's definitely a problem," she said. "It would be nice if they could increase it."

Teresa White, branch director of the Swegle Boys & Girls Club, said she has seen an increase in the number of meals served at her location this summer.

Instead of the 65 meals per day the branch served last summer, it is now serving about 85 kids per day, she said. Still, she doesn't believe her location is reaching every child in need in the neighborhood.

"I think there's more to be fed, especially since they closed a lot of those sites," White said. "I think it's more of a transportation issue of getting those kids to this site."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Salem Loan Program Creates Growth Opportunities for Local Businesses

Organic Fresh Fingers and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks Awarded Funds

(Monday, June 27, 2011) – Salem, OR – The City of Salem recently launched an innovative loan program designed to foster small business growth and create local jobs – the Fairview Urban Renewal Area (URA) Small Business Pilot Loan Program. Organic Fresh Fingers, a Salem-based food processing company that provides local organic meals to schools and corporate child care facilities, and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, a national leader in the emerging artisan cider industry, are the first companies to be awarded funds from Salem's newest loan program.

“The City is happy to welcome Organic Fresh Fingers and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks to the Fairview Urban Renewal Area,” said Salem Mayor Anna Peterson. “We look forward to these companies, and future recipients of this loan, growing and creating further job opportunities in Salem.”

Salem’s Fairview URA is located east of the Salem Municipal Airport and south of Madrona. The Small Business Pilot Loan Program originated as an innovative approach to aid qualified local businesses in their expansion efforts, benefit the residents of Salem, and satisfy the financial objective of the URA plan. The interest rate, term, and optional deferred payment are intended to assist businesses with their expansion transition and give them incentive to immediately grow new jobs for eligibility for up to 70% loan forgiveness. As part of the University of Oregon Sustainable Cities Initiative, Community Planning Workshop graduate students conducted research and identified specialty food and beverage manufacturing, among other industries, as a growing opportunity in Salem.

Organic Fresh Fingers and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, are working with Wildwood Inc., a Salem-based sustainable development company with thirty years experience planning and developing sustainable projects in Oregon, to expand their operations through the conversion of an existing warehouse into an energy efficient commercial kitchen and Ciderhouse. All three companies are committed to sustainable practices, creating local jobs, and adding value to Northwest-grown products.

With the loan from the Urban Renewal Agency of Salem, Organic Fresh Fingers, Inc. will build out a 6,000 square foot food manufacturing facility located at 4070 Fairview Drive in Salem. The construction will include converting the building to “food grade” specifications and the purchase of equipment to increase production and distribution of the Organic Fresh Fingers meal program. The company will also install a solar photovoltaic system, allowing them to utilize a renewable source of energy for production.

“When I started making meals for children from our small (1,460 sq. ft.) kitchen, I couldn't have hoped for faster growth than what Organic Fresh Fingers has experienced,” said Evann Remington, President and CEO of Organic Fresh Fingers. “We are currently operating out of a 2,000 sq. ft. space, and are bursting at the seams. We are excited and grateful for the Urban Renewal Loan Program. With the loan, we will be able to triple our production space, allowing us to fulfill increasing requests for our products. With the increase in production capacity, we are looking forward to hiring several new employees, further stimulating the City's economy.”