Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How Can We Get Schools to Foster Healthy Eating Habits?

By Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer, NaturallySavvy.com

Convincing kids to eat healthy foods is tough, but getting parents to come over to the healthy school lunch camp can be even tougher.

A few of the moms at my kids school have been waging an uphill battle with some of the parents at my kids' school. Some parents have been downright belligerent about our suggestions, mocking the healthier suggestions we've made--even simple things like natural freezies or healthier cookie alternatives. It's particularly sad given the whole point is to encourage the school to help foster good eating habits among children so they can focus better in the classroom and learn more throughout their day.

Schools should be taking an active role in educating children about healthy eating, including leading by example. First and foremost, we know that healthy eating is related to performance in school, and let's face it: a school is for learning, and kids need to learn how to eat better.

Study after study has shown that healthy eating and regular exercise are the keys to combating the childhood obesity epidemic we're facing in North America. An estimated 17% of kids aged two to 19 are obese according to the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and various studies have indicated overweight or obese children are more likely to become obese adults.

Ways Schools Can Make Fundraisers Healthier
At some events, my kids' school has charged more for the healthier option, and that can understandably be a real deal-breaker for parents on a budget. We think that schools should be taking the high ground and purchasing healthier products even if it eats into the total money raised. It's worth it in the long run.

Here are a few ways schools can raise money while offering healthier foods to kids:

  • Barbecues: Look for nitrate-free hotdogs, and all-natural hotdogs and hamburger patties. Source buns from a local bakery rather than using highly processed buns.
  • Pizza Lunch: Choose healthier options, such as whole-wheat crust and look for pizzerias that use nitrate-free pepperoni. For dessert, suggest healthier junk food options such as all-natural or organic cookies and ask for them to be made with less sugar.
  • Bake Sales: Ask parents to use healthy ingredients in goods for bake sales, such as oats, dark chocolate (instead of milk chocolate), and raisins. Reduced-sugar recipes are also great, and schools could suggest organic cake mixes for healthier cupcakes when parents are baking at the last minute.

Educating Parents
We also think schools should be taking a proactive approach when it comes tolunches and snacks. It's tough to get parents to invest in healthier foods when money is tight, but there are non-confrontational ways to approach parents.

A simple seminar on healthy lunches could be a great addition to parent nights or orientation. Schools could bring in a nutritionist to talk to the parents, but they should try to avoid asking a parent with a student at the school to speak, since it could create friction with another parent who is resistant to change.

Speak to your kids' teachers about broaching the subject in the classroom. I noticed the kindergarten teachers at my kids' school are very proactive in encouraging parents to send healthy snack options for their kids since they notice how what the kids are eating are directly affecting their behavior. They also talk to the kids about healthy food options and include it in their curriculum (my daughter recently came home with an arts and crafts project she did in school and showed me all the healthy food options she chose to include in it). It would fantastic if the teachers from the older grades would do the same. Kids respect their teachers and if the mandate is coming from the teachers themselves, kids may be more prone to listening and encouraging their parents to send it healthier lunches and snacks.

Another option is to get kids involved in encouraging healthy food purchases and eating by creating a school recipe book for healthy snacks and lunches. A digital copy could be emailed to parents and/or students (depending on the age of the student), which would ensure it doesn't get lost and also keep expenses low, not to mention save a lot of paper.

Schools have an opportunity to teach kids about the value of a healthy diet. It's a lesson that will stay with the students for a lifetime--and chances are that lifetime will be longer and healthier if they're putting good things into their bodies.

Taken from www.TreeHugger.com

Monday, November 22, 2010

Preparing the Environment- Provided by Susan Mayclin Stephenson of Michael Olaf Montessori

Preparing the Environment

Susan Mayclin Stephenson

Michael Olaf Montessori

Many children in the USA have too many toys!
So what do we get for them for the holidays?

Children want, children need, their parents time and attention. Recently there have been many 1-minute bedtime story type books on the market; what is that message to families? And toys that are advertised for children to use all by themselves alone in their room, fantasy toys where children can create a perfect world where there are many people who share their daily lives! Or electronic items where they learn to turn to a machine instead of other humans for happiness. Or plastic toys that give the message that children are not worth the real thing or the best quality. Where is this heading?

Each year the Michael Olaf Montessori Company has reduced the number of items they carry for children, focusing on better and better quality items that families can use together, or that teach about the real world of plants, animals and humans, and the beautiful world of the arts.

The following text is adapted from the Michael Olaf publications, Please feel free to share anything on this page with friends, teachers, family, anyone who wants the very best for the next generation.

Preparing the Environment

Constant preparation and adaptation of the environment to the ever-changing needs and tendencies of growing children is essential in the Montessori method of raising and educating children. The first consideration is physical safety, and then the proper support for free movement, exploration, making choices, concentrating, creating, completing cycles-all of which contribute to the optimum development of the child.

Natural materials instead of plastic, and attention to simplicity, muted colors, beauty, all contribute to the mental and physical health and self-respect of the child.

Reflecting the Child's Culture and Introducing the World

It is important that the environment reflect the child's heritage but also introduce the world. Look for items that are made by local artisans, or make them with your children, explore ethnic neighborhoods.

Make your home a unique reflection of your own unique part of the world. Include music, books, foods, crafts, stories from your parents and grandparents lives, but also include the same elements of cultures from around the world so your child learns that everyone is connected and he is a member of an international community.

Birth to Three

When parents are getting ready for the first child, they will be overwhelmed by ads on what they "need" for that child. It seems that these ads are aimed at selling things far more than providing what is really good for the child. Many items are not only over stimulating for the young child (too many objects, uncomfortably bright colors) but they hamper the natural development of important abilities such as language (pacifiers) and movement (cribs, swings, and high chairs) and even sometimes can be dangerous (walkers and off-gasses from plastic).

A simple, natural, and gentle environment, that encourages feelings of safety, and encourages the child to communicate with others and to move-that is the superior environment for the child from birth to three..


A child will develop more fully-mentally, emotionally, and physically-when she is free to move and explore an ever-enlarging environment. But in order to give the child this wonderful freedom, we must explore the home or day care environment with a fine-tooth comb. When a child is free to leave his floor bed and to move about his room, and later the other rooms-careful attention must be paid to covering plugs, taping wires to the wall or floor, removing poisonous plants and chemicals, and removing any objects that could harm the child. As the child begins to crawl quickly and to walk, the adults must continue to childproof the house.

General Environment Principles

Here are some things to keep in mind when organizing a child's environment.

(1) Participation in Family Life: Even from the very first days invite the child into the life of the family. In each room-the bedroom, kitchen, dining room, living room, front hall, and so forth.

(2) Independence: The child's message to us at any age is "Help me to do it myself." Supporting this need shows respect for and faith in the child. Think carefully about family activities in all areas of the home, and arrange each space to support independence. A coat tree, or low clothing rod or hook wherever the child dresses or undresses (front hall, bathroom, bedroom, etc.); a stool or bench for removing shoes and boots; inviting shelves for books, dishes, toys.

(3) Belongings: This brings up a very important point. It is too much for anyone to care for or enjoy belongings when there are too many out at one time. In preparing the home environment for a child, have a place to keep clothing, toys, and books that are not being used.

(4) Putting Away & The Sense of Order: "Discipline" comes from the same word as "disciple" and our children become disciplined only by imitating us; just as we teach manners such as saying "thank you" by modeling this for our children instead of reminding, we can teach them to put away their books and toys only by gracefully and cheerfully doing it over and over in their presence. People are always amazed at how neat and beautiful a child's environment can be withthe right guidance.

The Environment & The Absorbent Mind

During the first years the child will absorb, like a sponge, whatever is in the environment, ugliness or beauty, coarse behavior or gentleness, good or bad language. As parents we are the first models of what it means to be human. If our children are in a childcare setting or an infant community we must exact the same high standards.

Quality and beauty of the environment and of books and materials are very important in attracting, satisfying, and keeping the attention of the child. If the child is exposed to beautiful mobiles, posters, rattles and toys, made of wood and other natural products, as an adult she will help create a world with the same high standards.

Toys, rattles, puzzles, tables, and chairs-made of wood-develop an appreciation for nature and quality and protect the child from unsafe chemicals that are found in many synthetic materials.

Pictures on the wall, hung at the eye-level of the child, can be beautiful, framed art prints, or simple posters. All of us have been influenced by our first environment, and nothing helps create beauty in the world as much as giving beauty to the very young.

Toy Storage
Rather than tossing toys into large toy boxes, it is more satisfying to the child to keep them neatly on shelves, hung on hooks, kept ready to work with on wooden trays or small baskets. This also makes putting away much more logical and enjoyable. The Chinese art of placement, Feng Shui, teaches that clutter, even hidden under a bed or piled on the top of bookcases, can cause stress.

The Outside Environment
Sometimes we forget that daily life was first carried out in the outdoors, people coming into their homes for shelter from the elements. This is still the instinct of the child. In the first days of life, just a breath of fresh air and a look at the tree branches moving in the wind each day is sufficient; soon a daily walk in the baby carrier or stroller; and before you know it, walks led by the child, where each new thing-cracks in the sidewalk, parades of ants, puddles, brick walls, weeds and thistles-many details which we as adults previously overlooked, will enchant the child and make a short walk into a long drawn out discovery. Sometimes a "walk to the park" can take an hour, and one may not even get past the front sidewalk.

It is very good for us adults to slow down, forget our plan, and follow the child as he discovers, smells, sees, hears, and touches the outside world.

Welcome the child to your outside work-washing the car, working in the garden, whatever you can do outside instead of inside­-there is always some little part of the real work that a child can do.

Try to create an outside area where the child can not only do outside activities such as playing in a sandbox, but activities he would be doing inside, such as washing his hands or the dishes, looking at books, doing a puzzle.

Age 3-6

Children at this age often prefer to work on the floor instead of at a table-on rugs or pieces of carpet that can be rolled up or put out of the way when not in use. This marks the workspace just as would a table.

Toys, books, and materials can be attractively arranged on trays and in baskets, on natural wood or white shelves according to subject-language, math, geography, history, science, music, and art. Each object has a special, permanent place so that children know where to find it and where to put it away for the next person when finished. Tables and chairs that support proper posture are important at every age.

Age 6-12

This child is interested in right and wrong, in the far distance past, cultures, countries, great people, exploring with the mind. He wants to explore with his mind and now has the imagination to do so. Give him books and projects, coop games, real work in the real world. He is building the groundwork for a valuable, interesting and enjoyable future.

He needs space for silence and uninterrupted time to think great thoughts.
Whereas at age 3-6 the world was brought into the house of children, now the child begins to go out into the world, for field trips such as shopping at the grocery store for a cooking project, getting office supplies, interviewing subjects for history projects, or visiting museums, and so forth.

The Environment for All Children.

There are two important things to keep in mind in organizing a child's environment in the home.

(1) Have a place in each room for the few, carefully chosen child's belongings: By the front door a stool to sit on and a place to hang coats and keep shoes. In the living room a place for the child's books and toys-neatly, attractively organized. Think out the activities and the materials for all living spaces and arrange the environment to include the child's activities.

(2) Don't put out too many toys and books at one time. Those being used by the child at the moment are sufficient. It is a good idea to rotate-taking out those books and toys that have not been chosen lately and removing them to storage for a time. Children grow and change and they need help to keep their environment uncluttered and peaceful.

The Environment & the Mind

Everyone at every age is affected by their environment. Habits of organizing the environment reduce stress and aid the development of an organized, efficient, and creative mind.

A child who joins in the arrangement of an environment, and learns to select a few lovely things, will be aided in many ways with this help in creating good work habits, concentration, and a clear, uncluttered, and peaceful mind.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Healthy School Lunch Bill

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is up for a vote in Congress during the Lame Duck Session. Although we normally don't copy an entire article to the blog, we felt that this issue has such an impact on healthy school lunches that it warrants a longer read.
Please take the time to read the article below.
By Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, The Hill

Congress returned to Washington this week to a crowded calendar and much uncertainty about the future. Undoubtedly, some members on both sides of the aisle would prefer to defer legislation until the new Congress convenes in January. That may be an appropriate strategy for controversial and partisan bills, but it would be a needless disaster for the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which needs only the House’s final approval to become law. Congress must not adjourn before approving this vital legislation. The 31 million kids who depend on school meals cannot wait.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act reauthorizes and modernizes the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. It passed the Senate unanimously in September and may be considered on the House’s calendar this month.

There’s universal recognition that school meals aren’t healthy enough. Nutrition standards are so lax that junk food frequently dominates cafeterias, school stores and vending machines. And federal reimbursement rates are so low that school meal programs are forced to rely on cheap, unhealthy products loaded with saturated fat, salt and sugar.

The bill approved by the Senate makes meaningful strides toward improving the school lunch and breakfast programs. It will get junk food out of our schools once and for all, provide resources to train cafeteria workers to create healthy and tasty menus, and expand the after-school supper program.

The benefits of healthy school meals are widely understood. Common sense tells us that kids can’t learn on an empty stomach, and research confirms that young children without access to reliable and healthy meals fall behind their peers academically by the third grade.

Also, the quality of school meals can have a powerful impact on the childhood obesity epidemic, arguably the greatest long-term public health threat facing our nation. Today, children consume more than half their weekday daily caloric intake at school. If they’re getting unhealthy foods, loaded with empty calories, it sets them on a path to obesity that’s very hard to break. Studies show that four out of five obese teens will become obese adults, with a heightened risk for heart disease, diabetes and a host of other serious chronic illnesses. We all pay a price for these preventable diseases, in higher health costs, reduced worker productivity, and, according to one recent study led by a group of retired generals and admirals, decreased military readiness.

The reauthorization hit a speed bump this fall amid concerns that it emphasized nutrition at the expense of preventing hunger. There shouldn’t be any conflict between these priorities, because the research shows a clear connection between hunger and childhood obesity. When families can’t consistently afford the healthy foods that support an active life, they rely instead on the cheapest calories available: fast food, junk food, and other filling options that pack on extra pounds but don’t provide the range of nutrients children need to thrive. These lowest-income families are the most reliant on school meal programs. In fact, for the millions of students whose families are facing severe economic hardship, school meals are often the steadiest and most reliable source of food—and sometimes the only source.

Our nation’s lagging economy makes the need for urgent action all the more apparent. Since the downturn began, about 1.5 million more students now receive free and reduced-price lunches. The Senate bill would automatically qualify an additional 120,000 children who are enrolled in Medicaid for free and reduced-priced meals without putting their parents through the hassle of filling out additional paperwork. That means more meals for children who might otherwise go hungry.

During the past month, many have worked to allay concerns about the bill’s impact on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other food-security initiatives. Those most concerned about hunger now solidly support this bipartisan bill, recognizing that when we prevent obesity, we fight hunger—and vice versa. The diverse coalition supporting the bill also includes education groups like the national PTA, health advocates like the American Heart Association, and the nation’s leading food and beverage manufacturers.

The House of Representatives should follow the lead of a unanimous U.S. Senate and pass the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Let’s feed the 31 million American children who depend on and deserve healthy school breakfasts and lunches so they can learn and thrive.

Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey is president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Schools Struggle to Provide Healthy School Lunches

The federal government is working to improve school lunches around the country through initiatives such as the National School Lunch Program. But many schools still struggle to provide healthier lunch options.

Schools run into all kinds of obstacles when it comes to improving school lunch - no on-site kitchen, limited resources, cost, etc. An article in Organic Authority explores some of the issues regarding providing healthier school lunch.
"In 2009, a study appearing in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association revealed 94% of school lunches failed to meet U.S. Agriculture Department's standards; many schools served food with excessive salt and total fat. And worst of all, the number one meal served in schools is chicken fingers and French fries. You've heard of brain food? That's brain dead food!

'I'm not sure why we can't sort this out,' Gerry Pugliese writes. 'American kids are already falling behind the rest of the world in education rankings, so at the very least - in a nation as rich as the United States - we can serve these little ones good food.'" - Organic Authority, "More money needed for healthy school food," by Gerry Pugliese.
Organic Fresh Fingers works with individual schools to help solve these problems faced by schools and set up a healthy, organic, locally-sourced hot school lunch program. All of our meals qualify for the National School Lunch Program, and we work to advise schools on how to qualify and register for the program without cutting corners when it comes to the quality of food served.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Salem's very own DREAM TEAM has entered a NATIONAL contest to create healthy school lunch recipes for kids


Nov. 9, 2010

Evann Remington
Organic Fresh Fingers, Inc.
P: 503-371-1108
C: 415-533-0122

What do you get when you put David Roasales, Chef/Owner La Capitale, Kori McVeety, RD, LD Sodexo Food Service Manager, Evann Remington, President/CEO Organic Fresh Fingers, Inc., Debbie, Jones and Basie Seibert, local foodie mom and her Salem/Keizer school children in a room together? The WINNING TEAM for the National Healthy KIDS Competition?

The Recipes for Healthy Kids Competition is an initiative of Let's Move! with the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Challenge will bring together food service staff, chefs, students, and community members to develop creative, nutritious, tasty and kid-approved recipes that schools can easily incorporate into National School Lunch menus.

Winning teams will receive cash prized for the Salem-Keizer School districts as well as a trip to the White House kitchen to prepare their dishes for the First Lady and share recipes with school districts around the country. The team will work to develop three recipes to submit by December 31, 2010.

About the Team:
David Rosales is a graduate of California Culinary Academy in downtown San Francisco. He has spent 15 years in the bay area's top restaurants including stints at Lalime's and Chez Panisse. Additionally, he has traveled extensively through Spain, France, Italy and Mexico. David opened Fonda in Berkeley and Mexico DF in San Francisco, both as executive chef. In 2003, David was named one of five "Rising Star Chefs" by the Chronicle. Recently, David has returned to his hometown of Salem, Oregon, to open La Capitale Brasserie, which serves casual bistro food, sourcing products from local farms and ranchers in the Willamette Valley, and Andaluz, a Spanish tapas bar next door to La Capitale.

Evann Remington founded her most recent business Organic Fresh Fingers, Inc. in early 2007 with a mission to provide fresh, local, natural and organic high quality food for children. Evann's company now serves schools and school districts throughout Oregon. She regularly speaks around the State of Oregon about the positive impacts of community based food systems and provides consulting to educators who wish to improve their school's lunch program.

Korinne McVeety, RD, LD holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics from Idaho State University. Since then, Kori has been working as a dietitian for over 8 years in schools and hospitals to educate people about nutrition. She currently works as the Food Service Manager and Registered Dietitian for Sodexo in the Salem-Keizer School District.

Deborah Seibert started Whole Home Health, LLC in 2008, and provides home care and nutrition consulting and services to a diverse clientele throughout Northwest Oregon. Prior to forming her own company, Deborah owned and operated her own catering company in Colorado Springs, CO., and has worked with several high profile hotels and restaurants in the Portland area, including The Heathman and Pazzo Ristorante. Deborah is also the mother of the team's two children taste testers!

Jonas Seibert is in fifth grade and is a ferocious reader. Jonas enjoys playing music, playing baseball, swimming, playing golf and creating many new spaceships with Legos. Jonas has several aspirations in life that include being an inventor, a writer, and sometimes a pilot.

Basie Seibert is in fourth grade and thinks that every day is fantastic. Basie enjoys reading, playing the cello, singing in the Willamette Girlchoir, playing golf, swimming and learning how to bake with her mother. Basie has several aspirations in life that include being a wing-walker, an artist, and a teacher.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Salem schools to grow their own veggies

Three Salem schools will have the opportunity to grow their own vegetable gardens thanks to a grant from the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

As part of the Oregon legislature's "farm-to-school" program, students at Parrish Middle School, Leslie Middle School, and Grant Elementary are building and tending their very own raised garden beds. The produce they raise will go straight to their school's lunch line.
"The garden beds ... provide a unique learning opportunity. 'It's connections with the soil, it's connections with the cycles of life, growth, and putting things on your table,' [environmental teacher Fran Alexandar] said.

'A lot of students don't get an opportunity to work with soil,' she said. 'It's the first experience for some of these kids.'" - Statesman Journal, "Students grow food for their own school lunch lines," by Stefanie Knolwton.

Always a fan of locally-sourced food, Organic Fresh Fingers is happy to see these kids learning about fresh produce and where it comes from.