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HOT WATER—Howard Valentine Coffman Cove School of the Southeast Island School District (193 students) uses wood-fired boilers to heat 30,000 gallons of water for its 6,912-square-foot aquaponics greenhouse.

A few Alaska schools are growing produce for ​their lunch programs in communities where some residents have to drive two hours, one way, to the nearest grocery store. The initiative has also increased employment in these remote areas.​

Students in Baltimore City Public Schools now receive free breakfast and lunch every day under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s Community Eligibility Provision.

To expand food service, the district took advantage of funding through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s Community Eligibility Provision, a federal program that launched in 2011 allowing schools with high poverty rates to replace traditional, tiered-price meal programs.

Starting this fall, all meals at 35 Des Moines schools will be reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

More than half of Des Moines’ 60 public schools will soon offer free breakfast and lunch for about 17,000 students without them having to apply for it.

Teriyaki coho salmon skewers in Alaska. Red chile beef enchiladas in New Mexico. And Vietnamese pho soup in California. Inspired by new nutrition rules, districts are now offering these and other meals in hopes of getting students to eat healthier by appealing to their taste buds.

Competitive foods and beverages sold outside of the federally-reimbursed school meals programs are common in districts across the country.

They’re sold in vending machines and at snack bars, school stores and fundraisers. But with concerns rising about childhood obesity and other health issues, there has been a push for healthier snacks.

Jessica Shelly, food services director of Cincinnati Public Schools, sits with an elementary student during lunch. Their nutritious lunch includes milk, carrots, apple sauce and yogurt.

A Chicago suburban district, realizing it would lose more money than it rakes in, opted out of the National School Lunch Program last month in response to strict, new health regulations. But many districts can’t afford to give up federal subsidies, forcing administrators to find ways to encourage students to eat healthier foods required by federal rules.

New federal rules  cap the amount of fat, sodium, sugar and calories in food available in schools.

As of July 1, students will have a harder time getting their hands on junk food in public schools, as stricter standards raise the nutritional value of what’s available in cafeterias, campus stores, snack bars and vending machines.

Coming this fall, students at six of the nation’s largest urban districts will be served lunch on round plates made of biodegradable sugar cane.

Six of the nation’s biggest school districts have taken another bold step in changing the face of school lunches. The districts in the Urban School Food Alliance—New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas, and Orlando—have banded together to purchase biodegradable trays made of sugar cane to cut down on both cost and waste.

Students at Valley Christian School in San Jose, Calif., buy healthy snacks like coconut water, unsalted nuts and fresh fruit, from a high-tech HUMAN Healthy Vending machine.

As school leaders shift to selling healthier products in their vending machines, they can also take the opportunity to change their business model and consider investing in high-tech machines for a range of benefits.

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