Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Healthier School Lunch: Priceless!

No matter the cost of providing healthier school lunch, the cost of not doing so far exceeds that in consequences to our children and our society as a whole. Check out onetray.org to learn more!

Also, take a look at the post below to learn more about the childhood obesity epidemic in our country.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Childhood Obesity - A Nationwide Concern

We found this article from the CDC especially informative and helpful, with links to programs and information below. Through our FRESH n' LOCAL hot lunch program, we work with schools to fight childhood obesity. Unhealthy school lunches are a main contributor to the childhood obesity epidemic in our country.

"Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1%.1,2

Obesity is the result of caloric imbalance (too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed) and is mediated by genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.3,4 Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term health impacts:

  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.5
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.3,6
  • Obese youth are more likely than youth of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults, and therefore more at risk for associated adult health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.6

Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.3

Make a Difference at Your School: Key Strategies to Prevent Obesity outlines 10 evidence-based strategies for schools to implement in addressing childhood obesity.

General information about obesity among young people and specific facts about determining the body mass index of children and adolescents:

checkmarkCDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity

checkmarkChild and Teen BMI Calculator

General information on healthy eating and physical activity in childhood and adolescence:

checkmarkNutrition and the Health of Young People

checkmarkPhysical Activity and the Health of Young People

Article taken from the CDC's webpage.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Washington DC Lunch Revolution

Organic Fresh Fingers applauds the efforts of schools everywhere that are trying to find ways to make school lunch healthier. Our FRESH n' LOCAL hot lunch program also uses all natural, local and organic ingredients to provide easy and healthy lunches to schools along with food education presentations.

"A group of prominent Washington, D.C.-area restaurant chefs has volunteered to introduce a novel concept in school-food service to one Capitol Hill elementary school: collaborating with parents to take over kitchen operations on a nonprofit basis, replacing the prepackaged, reheated factory meals that Tyler Elementary kids currently eat with food cooked from scratch, served on real plates with real cutlery.

Led by Cathal Armstrong, chef and owner of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Va., the group would undo the historically knotty issue of school food finances by putting parents to work in the cafeteria as volunteers, and using the savings in labor to buy better food, much of it from local growers.

... Armstrong['s] involvement with Tyler Elementary stems from a meeting last year with White House assistant chef and food advisory Sam Kass. Last October, Kass provided chefs with a list of local schools to visit and urged them to find a way to get involved in improving school food. Armstrong was assigned to Tyler Elementary at 1001 G Street SE, an economically diverse school with 300 students, 81 percent black and 12 percent white. Sixty percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price meals in the federally subsidized meal program.

Armstrong said he was alarmed by the food he saw being served at the school by the school system's contracted food service provider, Chartwells. "It was just awful stuff," he said. In January, he met with other chefs at Brasserie Beck, where he reportedly said, "What we are feeding our children is an outrage. We should be marching with picket signs and pitchforks in revolution." Armstrong subsequently formed a non-profit corporation -- Chefs as Parents -- to fund and operate a school venture.

Among the group's goals: "Get rid of all processed foods filled with preservatives, additives, food coloring, and other chemicals. Find local farmers, ranchers and dairies from which to buy directly. Find foods that are at their peak of ripeness," as well as "organic or sustainably produced to the maximum extent possible." And "send positive messages about eating to children and lure them into the kitchen."

... School meals have always been hamstrung by poor financing. The federal government currently provides $2.68 to the schools to offer a fully subsidized school lunch, but most of that goes to pay for labor and overhead, leaving only about $1 for meal ingredients. As a result, many schools don't actually cook at all, but rely on reheating cheap, industrially processed convenience foods -- those famous chicken nuggets and tater tots -- for their cafeteria menus.

Health education is part of the proposal, too. The meal program will work with "nutrition professionals to address the larger issues at hand caused by type-2 diabetes and childhood obesity, as well as linking food and meals with behavioral and other issues." - Article from www.grist.com

Friday, January 14, 2011

USDA Announces Healthier School Lunch Guidelines

The USDA announced new school lunch guidelines for the first time in 15 years on Thursday.

"In that time, childhood obesity rates in this country have risen yet more.

Here's an example of a current school lunch:

Breaded beef patty on a roll
Fruit popsicle
Low-fat milk

And here's what a meal might look like under the new rules:

Baked fish nuggets
Whole wheat roll
Mashed potatoes
Skim milk

"The more we can reinforce the right set of choices and encourage the right set of choices, the greater the chances are that we will get a handle on obesity," [said] U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

The underlying requirements are based on an Institute of Medicine study: reduce saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Increase whole grains. Serve both fruits and vegetables daily. And, for the first time, set maximum calorie counts in addition to minimum ones.

"This doesn't mean that we are going to eliminate treats, not at all. But it is a circumstance, situation where treats have a special meaning, a special occasion, a special circumstance that we celebrate with a treat," Vilsack added.

Children consume more than half of their calories at school.

"Schools are supposed to set an example of many, many values of society and one of them ought to be eating well," said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at NYU and the author of "What to Eat". "The schools that I've been in that have the best school lunch programs work with the kids very closely on how the foods taste, get the kids involved in cooking, talk about where the food comes from and make the school lunch program part of the whole educational program. " - abcnews.com

Organic Fresh Fingers applauds the UDSA's proposal, which calls for:

-- A decrease in potatoes (those french fries), corn and other starchy vegetables to one cup a week.

-- A gradual reduction in sodium levels over the next decade.

-- Serving only unflavored milk with a 1 percent fat content or fat-free flavored or unflavored milk.

-- Creating calorie minimums and maximums for the first time.

-- Introducing children to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. A serving of fruit would be offered daily at breakfast and lunch and two vegetables would be available for lunch. Green and leafy vegetables, orange vegetables, beans, starchy vegetables and others must be served over the course of the week so students get one of each.

-- Requiring for the first time that half of the grains served be whole grains.

-- Serving only foods with nutrition labels that show zero grams of trans fat per serving.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Obesity Bill a boon to School Lunch Program

Another success for healthier school lunches at the national level. The US House of Representative recently voted in favor of legislation that's being termed an "obesity bill." The bill would dedicate $4.5 billion over the next 10 years to fighting childhood obesity and hunger.

"The fully-funded, bipartisan legislation was passed with a 264-157 vote, and received a signature from President Obama. The legislation will expand free school meals for the needy and give the government the power to decide what foods are to be sold in schools...

"'We simply could not miss the opportunity to support the well-being of our nation's children,' said [Bill] Pascrell, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and a former educator. "Expanding programs such as those that provide school lunch and breakfast is the right thing to do for our children and its a solid investment in our future.

"'Healthy children are more able to succeed in school and grow into become healthy, successful adults who are able to contribute to their families and communities.'

"The bill's provisions include a six cent per meal increase in federal reimbursement rate for school lunches to improve the nutritional quality of school meals.

"An additional cost per meal will help schools meet new meal standards to provide children with healthier school meals. Also it will call for a reduction in the availability of high-calorie junk foods and sugary beverages in vending machines on school campuses through science-based nutrition standards for all foods sold during the school day per the Department of Agriculture." - Debra Winters, "Obesity bill will expand school meals, provide for better choices."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Do You Know What Your Child is Eating at School?

The following is a portion of an article that addresses the very real concern of what kids are eating in schools today. With Organic Fresh Fingers, you'll never have to worry about whether your children are eating healthy snacks and lunches in school.

"Do you know what your kids ate today? Did they start off with a bowl of sugary cereal then head off to school for a mystery lunch from the cafeteria? Maybe a classmate brought in cupcakes to celebrate a birthday and perhaps a candy prize was doled out after the spelling bee.

"Let's face it, once your kids leave the house for school, do you really know what they are eating?

"... The cafeteria lunch. Sure, you can diligently pack your kids a sandwich, a piece of fruit, a healthy drink -- but the cafeteria meals will come calling -- especially on pizza day.

"While President Barack Obama recently signed The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act into law -- deeming the U.S. Department of Agriculture free reign over the nutritional guidelines of foods sold in schools -- does this mean school lunches will actually be healthier?

Let's hope so. Last month USA Today issued a report questioning the safety of the meat in school lunches and came to the dire conclusion that the meat used at your local Burger King may be safer than the meat used at your kids' school.

"Great. So now we're back to packing our children's lunches again. Fine and dandy -- if you can keep it cold for the four hours until lunch time.

"Because while you may have survived your own brown bag years (or Partridge Family metal lunch box years), your child's home packed lunch -- housed in the school cloakroom all morning -- is probably not being safely chilled. Once that turkey sandwich hits 40 degrees it's only good for about two hours, which means it may be expired before the lunch bell rings.

"So what's the solution to your child's school day food woes- without going overboard?

"Control what you can before at home. That means a healthy, low-sugar breakfast and low-fat snacks.

"Combine the best of school lunches with healthy foods brought from home. That piece of cafeteria pizza is really OK once in a while (c'mon mom, everyone is doing it!) but try to add some healthy side items from home, like fruit or cut-up veggies.

"Pack safely. Use ice packs to keep cold foods cold; use thermoses to keep hot foods hot.

"Talk to your kids about what they ate today. If they've already chowed on an impromptu school-birthday cupcake, that may mean you need to put the kibosh on dessert tonight. And yes, they still have to eat their veggies."