Articles and Information from GA Foods

Reducing Child Hunger with Summer Food Service Programs

Posted by Jessica Fleigle on Apr 13, 2017 10:10:26 AM

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Millions of low-income children will lose access to breakfasts, lunches, and snacks during the summer when school is not in session. According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), only 1 in 6 low-income children who ate school lunch during the 2014-2015 school year were reached by Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2015.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a federally funded, state-administered program that provides nutritious meals to children in low-income areas during the months when school is not in session. SFSP serves free meals to children and teens ages 18 and younger. 

It is one of the most underutilized government programs. According to FRAC, for every lunch that an eligible child does not receive, states and communities miss out on more than $3.50 per child in federal SFSP funding. That can mean hundreds of millions of unused dollars and five million or more unfed children. 


SFSP Promotion Strategies
 

It is important to promote the Summer Food Service Program in your area in order to maximize the number of children served. We’ve created some strategies that will help you to inform and excite your community. 

  • Gather a group of volunteers and coordinate blitz days to raise awareness and go into the community to educate people about the program. Word of mouth from concerned parents in the community is a great way to inform people of the SFSP in your area. Local high school sports teams are also great volunteers. If high school students support and participate in the program, the younger children may be more inclined to participate as well. 

  • Create informational flyers and distribute them to parents and children during the last week of school. Many times parents are unaware that this program is available at no cost. Have volunteers distribute the flyers to parents who are picking their children up from school and have teachers distribute the flyers to students to share with their parents. 

  • Send a press release to local newspapers and media. Press releases are a great way to reach multiple audiences. Sharing your newsworthy Summer Food Service Program story with local newspapers, radio stations, magazines, and television stations is a great way to generate buzz about your program.  

  • Make your site stand out by serving meals on weekends. Funding is provided for meals served at eligible sites on anyday of the week. Most summer programs only offer meals Monday through Friday, so offering meals on weekends would make your SFSP stand out. Consider advertising weekends as family days and allow parents to participate in the activities

  • Schedule a neighborhood kick-off party to generate interest in the launch of the program. Children are more likely to participate in your SFSP if their friends are participating. Adversiting the first day of SFSP meals as a summer kick-off party will  entice more people to attend.

  • Have a bring-a-buddy day. Word of mouth is a great way to involve more children. Notify the children of upcoming "buddy days" where they are encouraged to bring a friend. Offer prizes or some sort of incentive to those who actually bring a friend. Once the friends attend, encourage them to return. 

Marketing the Summer Food Service Programs in your area can be time consuming, so we created a customizable press release and flyer, as well as a tip sheet for parents/guardians. To download these marketing materials, click here.


SFSP Success Stories

Successful Summer Food Service Program expansion involves intense planning and coordination efforts from the community. We’ve put together a couple success stories from other summer programs. These are excellent examples of using promotional strategies to help increase child participation.

  • Break for a Plate in Alabama is a successful multimedia campaign. The Alabama Department of Education partnered with a design firm to develop a website, logos, advertisements, billboards, yard signs, and other marketing materials. The Break for a Plate campaign significantly increased sites, sponsors, and child participation in Alabama. What you can do: Just like the Break for a Plate campaign, you can use marketing materials to promote your summer program. Creating a unified theme across all marketing platforms made Alabama's campaign successful and memorable. Try to make your marketing materials look unified so that people can easily recognize them. Utilize multiple media forms to spread the word, including handing out flyers outside schools and grocery stores, creating yard signs and placing them throughout the community, and forming partnerships with the local media. 

  • Browning, Montana uses a food truck with oversized pictures of fruits and vegetables on the outside along with the tagline "Kids Eat Here Free". Music blasts from the speakers sitting on the cab of the truck so children know that healthy meals have arrived. An awning and picnic tables fold out from one side of the truck. Incorporating a food truck that made multiple stops improved the child turnout in Browning. Before the mobile feeding model, children had to cross many busy streets to get to summer program sites, which their parents felt uncomfortable with or did not allow. What you can do: If you are located in a rural, urban, or suburban area, the mobile feeding model may work best for you. It eliminates the stress of children crossing busy streets, while providing them with healthy meals. Schedule a community meeting and discuss this option with parents in the area. It takes some planning to get the mobile feeding model up and running, but once everything is in place, the amount of children fed will increase. Try to incorporate music on your truck as this generates excitement (think ice-cream truck!). 


SFSP Meals

Sponsors may prepare their own meals, purchase meals through an agreement with an area school, or partner with a vendor. Sponsors will only be reimbursed if the meals they are serving meet federal nutritional guidelines, so we suggest partnering with a food service company. 

GA Foods offers frozen and shelf-stable meals that are perfect for summer programs. SchoolFuelTM, our frozen meals for kids, are compliant with federal NSLP and CACFP requirements. They can be delivered frozen, or hot and fresh daily. Super PowerPackTM, our shelf-stable meals, are CACFP and SFSP-compliant. These pre-packaged meals require no kitchen and little to no preparation. 

Both SchoolFuelTM and Super PowerPackTM meals take the stress of nutrition planning off your plate. They come in fun packaging and kids love the taste! Contact our experts to learn more about menu options. 

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Topics: Nutrition, Child Nutrition, Summer Meals, SFSP

Benefits of School Lunch

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on Oct 12, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Students-choosing-healthy-foodSince 1962, the U.S. has been celebrating National School Lunch Week in appreciation of the National School Lunch Program. This year's celebrations will run from October 10th to 14th with the theme 'Show Your Spirit'. The theme was chosen to remind students, parents, and school officials that a healthy school lunch is a big part of enabling children to get through the day. 

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) 

The NSLP is the largest federal child nutrition program. It provides school children with meals that are nutritious, balanced and free, or very low cost, every school day. The program was established in 1946 by President Harry Truman when he signed the National School Lunch Act.

National Farm-to School Month

October is also National Farm to School Month. First celebrated in 2011, this month is all about connecting schools and local farms with the aim of ensuring schools have a constant supply of healthy produce. The objective of the National Farm to School Network is also to create opportunities related to agriculture, health and nutrition education, as well as to support local and regional farmers.

Benefits of the NSLP

While celebrating National School Lunch Week, it is important to keep the benefits of the program in mind.

Nutritional benefits

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) published a Child Nutrition Fact Sheet on the NSLP. They found that the program had a number of nutritional benefits to students.

One benefit is in regard to the quality of meals served in schools. In order for schools to be reimbursed for the meals they serve, schools must adhere to strict federal nutrition standards. The lunches must provide one-third, or more, of the recommended quantities of key nutrients. Reimbursable meals also do not exceed the limit of 30 percent fat, and have a maximum of 10 percent saturated fat.

Academic performance has also been shown to be enhanced by healthy school lunches. Research conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has established that kids who participate in the NSLP have healthier lunches than those who bring lunch from home or don't participate in the program for other reasons. 

Scientific research has also established that good nutrition can improve behavior, academic performance, and general cognitive development in growing children. Also, children who are well-nourished participate more in class and extra-curricular activities. 

Another benefit of the NSLP is that it provides an opportunity to teach children about healthy nutrition at an early age. This can positively impact their food choices for the rest of their lives.

Project graduation

The NSLP has been instrumental in keeping kids in school until they graduate. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) releases an annual report on education in the U.S. and other countries, and the NSLP has been an invaluable source of data to establish the number of students living in poverty. However, this is done with the awareness that it should not be confused with the actual number of overall population living in poverty.

For instance, a report filed on April 16, 2015, indicated that in 2012, just a little over half of the students in public schools were eligible for free or reduced-fee school lunches. This was in contrast to the actual poverty rate of public school students which stood at 22% in the same year.

The numbers 

In 2012, the NSLP fed over 31 million children every school day. All the students at schools participating in the program are eligible for regular price lunches but there are several ways that a child can become eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Eligibility is determined by family income. Students from households with an income that is at or below 130 percent of the poverty income threshold are eligible for free lunch. Those from households with an income that is between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty threshold are eligible for reduced price lunch.

Lowering dropout rates with healthy meals

The NSLP has been instrumental in keeping children in school until they graduate. NCES statistics for the 2007-2008 school year indicated that there is a strong link between poverty and students dropping out. 

The Condition of Education Report published in 2010 indicated that high poverty secondary schools produced fewer students who attended four-year colleges; 28% of graduates from high-poverty schools completed four-year college courses compared to 52% of those who graduated from high schools with low poverty levels.

Reason to celebrate

One thing to celebrate during the 2016 National School Lunch Week is the higher number of elementary and high school students who stayed in school because they were ensured a filling and healthy lunch. 

You can find different tools and guides to celebrating National School Lunch Week on the School Nutrition Association website. A child who wants to go to school to develop their potential, should be able to do so without worrying about what they will be eating.

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Topics: Child Nutrition, School Lunch, National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

Teens and Food Insecurity

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Oct 5, 2016 11:00:00 AM

teen_food_insecurity.pngFood insecurity in children is a significant problem in the United States. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates, 7.8 percent of American households with children were food insecure* in 2015 – a percentage that amounts to 3 million households that were unable to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children. Additionally, in 247,000 households, food security was characterized as very low, indicating periods of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.

Food insecurity is known to have detrimental effects on children of all ages. However, according to recent research, teens experience its effects quite differently than younger children. This research, done by the Urban Institute (a research organization that focuses on economic and social policy) and Feeding America (a nationwide network of food banks), examined the unique perspective and struggles of teens who face food insecurity in their homes. This was done via the creation of 20 focus groups made up of teens, ages 13 to 18, in 10 diverse communities. According to researchers, findings were similar across all of the focus groups, and many of them were rather disturbing. Among the most notable findings are:

Food Insecurity in Children: Teens Feel Responsible

Unlike younger children, teens in household experiencing food insecurity frequently feel obligated to help provide for themselves and others. While parents typically try to protect their teens from hunger, as well as those feelings of responsibility, teenagers commonly take an active role anyway. Often, that role includes depriving themselves to ensure that younger siblings have enough to eat, finding ways to bring food into the household, and/or working out ways to stretch family food supplies – eating with friends or relatives, for instance, or saving school lunches to bring home.

Learn more about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act here.

Fear Of Being Stigmatized Deters Teens From Traditional Assistance Avenues

Teens are well aware that food insecurity in children is a widespread problem. Among teens who participated in this study, even those who did not experience food insecurity in their own homes were aware of neighbors or classmates who suffered from hunger on a regular basis. However, in spite of that awareness, teens from food-insecure families were found to work actively to hide the problem in their own homes due to a fear of being stigmatized. That fear led many teens to avoid traditional means of assistance, such as food pantries or free school meal programs, accepting help only from close friends or family in private. 

Some Teens Take Drastic Measures To Help Provide

Researchers found that the vast majority of teens who are determined to assist in providing for their families would prefer to provide that help via income from gainful employment. However, job opportunities for teenagers are very limited, particularly in communities with high poverty rates. Consequently, many teens resort to less conventional methods to bring money and/or food into the household. According to study authors, teens in 8 of the 10 communities involved in this research stated that young people engaged in criminal activity to provide for their families, including shoplifting, drug dealing and theft of items that could be sold for food money. Some teens discussed deliberately going to jail, as well as failing in school in order to be placed – and fed – in summer school. Teens in all 10 communities were aware of teens who resorted to prostitution, having sex in exchange for money to feed their families. Most of these incidents, according to researchers, consisted of exploitative relationships with older adults.

Effective Solutions are Needed

The picture that emerges from these findings illustrates the urgency of effective solutions in addressing food insecurity in children. Study authors stress the need for more research on the affects of food insecurity on teenagers in particular, an issue that has not yet received the attention it deserves.

Many school nutrition programs have had success in eliminating the stigma teens feel when receiving free and reduced school meals:

  • Universal School Breakfast combined with Breakfast in the Classroom - With this model, all students receive free breakfast. It is served in their first period classroom, so there are no barriers like needing to get to school early.
  • 2nd Chance Breakfast - Usually served after first period, individually-packed Grab n' Go meals are available on a cart in the hallways. If not utilizing Universal Free Breakfast, tablet-based point of service allows for a cashless system, charging agains student accounts or eligibilities. 
  • Healthy Meals Vending - These special vending machines are integrated into the school's point of service, allowing reimbursable meals to be charged against student accounts and eligibilities. Placing them in high traffic areas around the school provides easy access.
  • Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) - CEP is now an option throughout the U.S. Under CEP, a school district can offer all meals at no charge to all students, if 40 percent or more of the students are direct-certified for free meals.  CEP can be used district-wide or just in one school. 

While these options do not negate the problem of teen hunger, they do provide students with healthy meals without social stigma. More needs to be done to provide vulnerable teens with effective support and solutions they need to overcome the unique challenges they face in food-insecure households.

The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act expired over a year ago. Congress still has not passed a reauthorization bill for programs that feed our hungry children and teens. For more information, click below.

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*Food insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

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Topics: Child Nutrition, School Lunch, School Breakfast, Food Insecurity, National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

Back-to-School Nutrition Tips for Families!

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Aug 24, 2016 11:00:00 AM

back_to_school_LR.pngAs children head back to school, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages everyone to celebrate Kids Eat Right Month by ensuring children are properly fueled to grow and succeed.

"The start of the new school year coincides with Kids Eat Right Month providing the perfect opportunity to revamp your families' eating habits," says registered dietitian, nutritionist, and Academy spokesperson, Caroline Passerrello. 

Here are some tips for developing healthy habits in your children:

Shop Smart

Get your children involved in planning and shopping for your meals. Make sure the planned meals have a variety of foods and include protein, vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy. At the store, encourage your children to pick out one or two new foods to try. Also, use this time to teach them about reading nutrition labels. 

Cook Healthy

Involve your children in food preparation. Let them cut and mix ingredients. Kids are more likely to try new foods if they help prepare them. This is also a good time to teach them about food safety practices such as washing hands before preparing food. For more tips about cooking with kids, check out this video.

Eat Right

School_Lunch_LR.pngEncourage your child to participate in school meals, such as breakfast and lunch. School meals now have strict nutrition standards that most lunches brought from home do not meet. A study done by Tufts University found that only 27% of the packed lunches met 3 out of the 5 nutrition standards for school meals. 

At the end of the day, sit down for a family dinner. Enjoy a healthy meal and share the day's experiences with one another. Research indicates that families who eat together have a stronger bond, and their children have higher self-confidence, and perform better in school.

 

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Topics: Child Nutrition

Summer Meals Feed Hungry Kids

Posted by Joann Pierre, MS, RD, LDN on May 11, 2016 1:44:24 PM

summer_feeding.pngThroughout the school year, many children rely on school meal programs to keep hunger at bay. Due to food scarcity in the home, these meals may be the only substantial nutrition some of these kids receive each day. However, when summer break arrives, many of these child nutrition programs end and kids are left hungry. This is when they require community assistance to fill the gap. Here are ways that communities can get healthy summer meals to children in need.

The Summer Food Service Program

Summer should be a time of rest and fun. It should also be a time for kids to develop in healthy ways so that they can learn things quickly when the new school year begins. Children living in poverty are at a disadvantage in summer because they no longer have access to the meals they normally get in school.

Hunger leads to increased illnesses and delayed development, which puts these children behind their peers when school starts again. If you wonder what can be done about this, you aren’t alone. Many people are unaware of government resources that are available for providing free summer meals to kids. One of the biggest programs is the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, which provides reimbursement for organizations offering summer meal programsfor eligible children. If you want to mobilize a new summer food service for hungry kids in your area, your first step should be to look over the USDA’s programguidelines and contact them for assistance.

Ideas for Distributing Summer Meals to Children

Using mobile units
Even when there are food programs in place, the number of needy children receiving meals can fall drastically in summer. This usually occurs because many lack transportation to the food sites. Mobile food units solve this problem by bringing the food closer to home.

Different types of mobile units can be used. For example, if a neighborhood contains daycare centers or community centers with kitchenettes, refrigerated trucks can be used to deliver the food and leave it at the site. However, in rural areas and neighborhoods without suitable kitchen areas, mobile units like food trucks are usually a better option. These do not have to be actual food trucks. Many communities have creatively repurposed old buses, campers or minivans to serve as mobile kitchens. 

For the best impact, mobile units should be distributed to several different areas in the community. By planning half hour to one hour stops at various points in neighborhoods, a greater number of children can be reached and fed each day.

Combining meals with fun activities
One of the most important parts of creating a successful meal program is making kids feel welcome. Combining the service with games, contests and athletic events, or bringing in entertainers helps generate more publicity and excitement. Pairing free meals with summer fun can also draw kids who are wary of being identified as poor and hungry. The activities give them another reason to show up.

These events can be held at public parks, schools, recreation centers and similar sites around the community. To reach the most children in large metropolitan areas, it is best to host these at several locations.

Combining child nutrition services with senior programs
Some communities offer programs similar to Meals on Wheels but they deliver food to children in summer and not just senior citizens. However, this isn’t the only way that child and senior services could be combined. By sponsoring summer food service programs at senior centers, assisted living centers and similar venues, you can improve child nutrition while providing social opportunities between generations.

Getting the Word Out

The impact of the best meals program won’t be very strong if few people know about it. No matter how great the program is, it relies on some footwork to make the community aware of it. Here are easy ways to spread the word:

  • Ask television stations to mention it during broadcasts.
  • Put and announcement in the community section of your local newspaper.
  • Distribute flyers to neighborhood churches, shops, homes and community centers.

Flyers should contain all the information that kids and parents need to know about the program. This includes who is eligible for free meals, days and times the meals will be distributed, and what, if anything, kids should bring. In most cases, kids just need to show up to be fed.

Thanks to the help of the summer food service program and local volunteers, summer meal programs can cost little to operate yet they make a big difference in the lives of hungry kids. GA Foods provides food service to summer meals centers, both large and small.  

Improving child nutrition in summer means these kids can perform better the following school year. Healthy mental, physical and social development requires adequate food. As we support summer meals for kids, we are paving the way for a healthier community as a whole. If you are looking for a local program for your children, click here.

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Topics: Child Nutrition, Food Assistance, Food Assistance Programs, Food Security

School Lunch by the Numbers

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Feb 17, 2016 10:00:00 AM

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Are you curious about your child's school lunch program?  Are the lunches nutritious? Are the lunches affordable? Are there a variety of foods offered? There are so many questions surrounding school lunch today, it's no wonder parents find themselves contemplating whether or not they should pack their child's lunch each day.

The National School Lunch Program

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program that has been in existence since 1946, and serves 5 billion lunches to students annually. It is available in both public and private schools. The program provides nutritious meals for free or at a low-cost, for students every day.  

Nearly 100,000 schools/institutions serve school lunches to 30.5 million students each day, including:

- 19.8 million free lunches 
- 2.2 million reduced price (student pays $0.40) 
- 8.5 million full price 

Who Qualifies, Who Benefits

To qualify for free or reduced school lunches year-round, parents or guardians must fill out an application at the beginning of each school year, however, parents can fill out an application at any time throughout the year. Families with incomes at or below 130% of the poverty level are eligible for free school meals. For the current school year, the poverty level is $31,525 for a family of four. Those with incomes between 130% and 185% of the poverty level are eligible for reduced price meals. If your income is above 185% of the poverty level, your child will pay full price for school lunch. 

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (or HHFKA) passed in 2010, strengthened the nutritional standards for meals served under the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and more.  When the standards were implemented, many experts thought school lunch participation would be reduced. Some groups, like the School Nutrition Association, reported the standards were too strict to implement without increased costs and food waste.

However, more than 97 percent of schools are meeting these updated standards, and many schools are even adding fresh, local produce into their meals through farm-to-school initiatives (part of the Farm-to-School Grants program). The USDA also revised their commodity requirements when it comes to school meals and added more than 200 nutritious foods to support the new school meal programs.

Supporters of HHFKA say the new school lunch stardards are the first steps in improving America's diet. Not only are children able to avoid disease by maintaining a well-balanced diet each day, they are also learning how to eat healthy for life. A recent study found the improved nutrition standards resulted in students selecting foods that are higher in the nutrients they need for growth and development, and also showed no change in school lunch participation after the nutrition standards were implemented. 

School Lunch in 2016

This year, the reauthorization of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has been delayed. The Senate Agriculture Committee passed the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act (CNR) in January, but it still needs to pass the full Senate and House. In this bill, schools will be given more time and flexibility to implement sodium and whole grain standards.  It also asks for the USDA to provide best practices on ways to reduce food waste through salad bars and sharing tables.

GA Foods supports healthy child nutrition programs and will continue to update you to potential changes to the law as it goes before the Senate and House for a vote. 

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Topics: Child Nutrition, School Lunch

Child Nutrition Reauthorization Postponed by Congress

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Dec 16, 2015 4:14:07 PM

This update is a follow-up to an earlier article about Child Nutrition Reauthorization. 

Last night, Congressional leaders reached an agreement on a spending bill that will prevent a government shutdown.  The text of the FY16 Omnibus Appropriations Act was released earlier today. Both the House and the Senate are expected to vote on the bill this Friday. 

Cute-elementary-school-girl-eating-healthy-lunch-in-cafeteria-000043847850_Medium.jpgThe bill does not include Child Nutrition Reauthorization despite the efforts of the Senate Agriculture Committee to attach a reauthorization bill onto the omnibus.  However, the omnibus does uphold language from a 2014 omnibus that allows waivers of the whole grain requirement and postpones further sodium restrictions “until the latest scientific research establishes the reduction is beneficial for children.”

Per Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Child Nutrition Reauthorization (also known as the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act) will be considered in January or early February as a free-standing bill.

GA Foods supports healthier meals for children. We will continue to closely monitor the reauthorization of Child Nutrition Reauthorization and any potential changes to the law in 2016.

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Reauthorization of Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Delayed by Congress

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Oct 13, 2015 9:32:42 AM

What is the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act?

According to the Food and Research Action Center (FRAC), more than 1 in 5 children live in households facing a constant struggle against hunger.  The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization (CNR) Act provides the federal funding for school meals and child nutrition programs. The purpose is to ensure low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods. Every five years, Congress reviews the funding levels and develops new policies to strengthen and improve the programs. The current law for CNR is the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010.  The deadline for reauthorizing CNR was September 30, 2015.  This leaves many wondering what will happen to the children served by the programs funded by this act.

Nutrition Standards for School Meals

HHFKA 2010 required USDA to implement nutrition standards based on the 2009 recommendations issued by the the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Prior to HHFKA, the healthy hunger free kids actnutrition standards and meal requirements for school meals were based on the 1995 Dietary Guidelines and the 1989 Recommended Dietary Allowances. IOM’s recommendations are in line with the latest Dietary Guidelines and Dietary Reference Intakes. Here is a summary of the nutrition standards for school breakfast and lunch:

  • Establishes new age/grade groups for menu planning that enables schools to provide age-appropriate meals.
  • Increases the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables offered to students.
  • Requires students to take at least half cup of fruits or vegetables for the meal to be reimbursable.
  • Requires all grains to be whole grain rich by SY2014/15.
  • Mandates fluid milk to be low-fat or fat-free.
  • Limits the total calories that can be offered in a meal with a minimum and maximum range for 5 day school week average.
  • Significantly reduces the amount of sodium allowed over a 10-year period.

Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act 2010 - Five Years Later

The USDA reports that HHFKA and other similar strategies have slowly reversed the childhood obesity trend and children have more energy to learn and grow, greater opportunity to thrive, and better overall health.  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics emphasizes that HHFKA ensures the youngest, most vulnerable populations have access to the nutrition they need to grow into healthy adults. 

However, the School Nutrition Association (SNA) has a different viewpoint. SNA represents more than 55,000 school nutrition professionals that serve students and manage school meal programs. They believe “USDA’s regulations go too far, driving up costs and waste and causing many students to swap healthy school meals for less nutritious options.”

Current Status of Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry had scheduled a markup of a reauthorization bill for September 17. However, the committee chairman, Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) indefinitely delayed the markup, stating that he needed more time to finish writing legislation to reauthorize healthy meal requirements for schools. He said he is still negotiating parts of the bill with Democrats and waiting on the Congressional Budget Office to release cost estimates for the new provisions in the proposed legislation. 

Funding for CNR programs and provisions was extended with the continuing resolution that extended funding for the federal government until December 11, 2015. Senator Debby Stabenow (D-Mich), ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, indicated that a reauthorization bill will be completed by the end of the year.

GA Foods supports HHFKA and healthier meals for children. Through our partnerships with child nutrition programs funded by CNR, we are making a difference in the lives of children. Many school programs depend on us to provide them with meals that meet the nutrition standards, so they can focus on educating and nourishing young minds. GA Foods will continue to closely monitor the reauthorization of CNR and any potential changes to the law.

Download our free white paper, Reauthorization of Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act: Striking a Balance, for more background and information on HHFKA.

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Topics: Child Nutrition, School Lunch

Farm to School Programs: Healthy Kids and Healthy Economy

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Aug 18, 2015 1:04:48 PM

Farm_to_SchoolFarm-to-School Programs

With the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, the National School Lunch Program requires a greater variety of vegetables be served throughout the school week. However, getting children to try vegetables has proven to be a challenge. As a result, many schools are implementing farm-to-school programs. The National Farm to School Program was authorized by Congress in 2004, with the intent to supply fresh, locally grown foods to schools. Children are more willing to try new foods if they interact with the grower.  Local farmers also benefit from financial opportunities by supplying schools and food distributors. 

Besides including locally grown foods on the school menu, farm-to-school activities can enhance classroom education through hands-on learning with school gardens and composting programs. Children learn the source of their food and how food choices affect their health, the environment, and their communities.  School gardens improve children’s attitudes towards produce and they are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables that they grow.

Blog_local_food_sidebarShortening the distance between the farmer and the school, helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and benefits our environment and wildlife. When food doesn’t have to travel so far, it also is less prone to chemical, physical, and biological hazards.

A successful farm-to-school program includes students, parents, farmers, school food service staff, teachers, community, etc. People like to hear about the story of their family, their operation and how they bring their products to market. Other farm-to-school activities can include nutrition education with cooking and tasting activities.

Buying Locally Grown for Families

Buying locally grown food for your family is also a great way to eat flavorful, healthy meals while supporting your local economy! 

The ability to talk with producers when purchasing food allows you to ask questions about pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, animal treatment, fertilizers, and any other queries you may have about how your food was produced.
Plus, knowing your local farmers and food producers gives you a stronger sense of place, relationships, trust, and pride within your community.

To find local food for your family, visit www.localharvest.org.

GA Foods' and Locally Produced Foods

GA Foods is committed to using locally grown and produced foods in all of the markets we serve. Our distributor works with local farmers to source produce.  We use a local dairy for our milk and a local bakery for our breads and rolls.

Buying locally supports Florida's economy and keeps local people employed.  To get an idea of the impact that child nutrition programs have on the local community and economy, watch this video. For information on our child nutrition offerings, click here.

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Topics: Child Nutrition, Healthy Lunch, School Lunch

Your Mom was Right - Breakfast Really is the Most Important Meal of the Day

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Apr 8, 2015 12:34:00 PM

School breakfast improves achievement scoresSS_Kid

A recent study conducted by David Frisvold, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Iowa, finds students who attend schools that participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's School Breakfast Program (SBP) have higher achievement scores in math, science, and reading than students in schools that don't participate. This is consistent with other studies about school breakfast. A brief prepared by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), summarizes the findings from research on school breakfast:

-  Skipping breakfast and experiencing hunger impair children’s ability to learn.
-  Eating breakfast at school helps improve children’s academic performance.
-  School breakfast improves student behavior and learning environments.
-  School breakfast can improve children’s nutrition and protect against obesity.

School breakfast participation is low

The School Breakfast Program is available to all schools, public or private.  Traditional SBP meals are served in the cafeteria, prior to school. However, only half of the kids eligible for free or reduced school lunches, actually participate in SBP. Experts agree that there is a stigma related to eating breakfast in the cafeteria, while the other students socialize.

One approach that is working well is free breakfast for all students, served in the classroom. According to FRAC, the benefits of breakfast in the classroom are:

-  Lowered tardiness and absenteeism rates
-  More fruit and dairy products consumed at breakfast
-  Increased sense of community
-  Increased participation in SBP

Serving breakfast in the classroom pays off

Some teachers push back on serving breakfast in the classroom as they feel it might impact instructional time. But educators that work in schools with breakfast in the classroom say it only takes about 15 minutes each morning. Many schools succeed by using grab-n-go shelf-stable breakfast items that the students take as they enter the classroom.  The teacher uses this time to take attendance, collect homework, or read school announcements. As a result, 76% of teachers see an improvement in alertness during morning lessons and they like knowing their students are energized and ready to learn. 

The time spent with breakfast in the classroom pays off later. Frisvold’s research found that the impact of SBP has on achievement scores is cumulative.  The longer the school participated in the SBP, the higher their achievement.  Math scores were 25% higher at participating schools during a students’ elementary school tenure than would be expected otherwise. Frisvold says, reading and science showed similar gains.  

Implementing breakfast in the classroom

Looking for help implementing breakfast in the classroom at your school?

Download a Teacher's Guide to Breakfast in the Classroom

Click here for more information on GA Foods’ shelf-stable breakfast meals, Breakfast Club.

Download free infographic, What's in the Bag?

BIC_Infographic_LR

 

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Topics: Child Nutrition, Shelf-Stable Breakfast, School Breakfast, School Achievement Scores, Breakfast in the Classroom, Resources for Teachers

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