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Smart snacks and sneaky snacks

September 26, 2016

What’s so smart about those USDA-regulated “Smart Snacks” sold in school vending machines? More whole grain, and lowered sugar, fat, and calories—even if they’re Cheetos, Doritos, or Pop Tarts. These reformulated items are less unhealthy, sure, but new research from… Read More

Remembering Philando Castile

September 19, 2016

On July 6, 2016, the school nutrition community suffered the tragic loss of one of its own when Philando Castile was shot by police during a routine traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Philando—a.k.a. “Mr. Phil” and “Mr. Rogers with… Read More

Why #StopTheBlock?

June 27, 2016

In a move they say will “spur innovation,” Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce have voted to issue block grants for school nutrition programs in three pilot states, cutting them loose from federal mandates and supervision…. Read More

Community Eligibility explained

May 23, 2016

Community Eligibility (CEP) is the most popular program to be introduced to federal school meals programs in many years. To date, 18,247 high-poverty schools in nearly 3,000 districts have begun using it to slash cumbersome paperwork, eliminate stigma, and include… Read More

New research for boosting breakfast

May 16, 2016

From two new studies, research you can use to pitch your breakfast program to students, parents, and school administrators. First, evidence that a morning meal is critical to maintaining healthy weight in adolescents. In fact, two breakfasts—at home and at… Read More

Trending: food courts

May 2, 2016

Food courts at school are an increasingly popular way to win the participation of trend-savvy teenagers. If you’re flirting with the idea for any of your sites, give a close listen to today’s guests. They’re equally prepared to either talk… Read More

From California,
new recipes for success

April 25, 2016

We’ve all heard that too many cooks can spoil the broth, but that’s hardly the case on today’s episode. The new FRESHMeals collection of recipes for schools is the work of several dozen cooks from 18 “California Ambassador” districts pledged… Read More

CNR update:
House committee pushes back

April 18, 2016

Ten days ago, POLITICO’s Helena Bottemiller Evich reported the latest development in the long and difficult path to CNR 2015 (now CNR 2016, as it is more than six months overdue). “The House Education and the Workforce Committee has finally… Read More

“Intact grains” 101

February 22, 2016

When did school children start gobbling up quinoa with such pleasure? And how is it that they’re also reaching for salads made with unprocessed (hence “intact”) and highly nourishing unpolished rice, wheat berries, barley, buckwheat, and farro? Join Coleen Donnelly… Read More

In Maryland, “boot camp”
  for food service workers

January 25, 2016

As we await resolution on CNR 2016, one thing is certain: there will be new technical assistance grants for districts seeking to introduce more freshly prepared food in their cafeterias. Today, we update a Summer 2014 episode about an exemplary… Read More

Trendspotting 2016 with Dayle Hayes

January 18, 2016

For the first time in the history of the USDA school meals programs, success in feeding kids (adolescents especially) is regarded as hip. K-12 nutrition providers, from the people who grow the food to those who serve it, are riding… Read More

Lunch lessons from Japan

December 14, 2015

Kyushoku, or elementary school lunch, is a cherished tradition that embodies values central to Japanese culture: gratitude, cooperation, courtesy, cleanliness, reverence for nature, and pride of place. Much more than a meal, it’s a critical learning period at the heart… Read More

Dora Rivas remembers

December 7, 2015

As the year draws to a close, Dora Rivas joins us to look back and reflect—not just on 2015, but a half century of service as a dietitian and school food service director. Last August, when she left her post… Read More

Reformulation revealed

November 23, 2015

For processors of foods for the K-12 market, new USDA nutrition requirements arrived at the same time as increased public scrutiny of unfamiliar, often unpronounceable additives. Moving towards “clean label” while simultaneously lowering sodium and introducing whole grains is no… Read More

Better school food:
Borrowed, hacked, and shared

November 9, 2015

Today we venture into new territory with the help of Chef Lisa Feldman, who is Director of Culinary Services for Sodexo USA. As a major provider of school meals (413 districts, two million meals daily), it’s influential in ways you… Read More

In West New York, NJ, the kids eat it all

November 2, 2015

New Jersey is called the “Garden State” out of pride in an agricultural heritage that dates back hundreds of years. But in West New York, NJ, in the heart of the most densely populated area in the nation, the farms… Read More

WI students meet the Harvest Challenge

October 26, 2015

High school cooking competitions can be hugely effective in generating excitement around school food, especially during Farm to School season, when students can work with locally grown ingredients. In rural Vernon County, Wisconsin, there are just six high schools, each… Read More

A taste of hope

October 19, 2015

For tribal communities across the Great Plains and Southwest, buffalo is the centerpiece of of traditional culture, a sacred food critical to the restoration of health and independence. As new herds grow on Native lands, a small group of schools… Read More

Fresh food and fresh ideas
from the Iowa Food Hub

October 5, 2015

The USDA definition of a “food hub” is loose enough to include many iterations of the concept. Whatever the business model, most hubs aspire to increase access to local whole foods across the socioeconomic spectrum. And there’s no better way… Read More

USDA on CNR 2015:
a conversation with Katie Wilson

September 28, 2015

Today we welcome the new USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, for another deep dive into conversation about the future of school nutrition programs. While the delay of Child Nutrition Reauthorization can hardly be described as… Read More

What’s new this year?
We hear from YOU!

September 21, 2015

Inside School Food asked listeners to call in about their favorite back-to-school innovations, and they did, from all over the country. Today, with the help of co-host Dayle Hayes, we bring you six of these messages about fresh ideas that… Read More

Towards a “robust HHFKA”:
new SNA leaders speak out

September 14, 2015

To kick off the school year, we are joined by the School Nutrition Association’s newly elected President, Jean Ronnei, and Vice President Lynn Harvey. They take on these roles—and this conversation—at an exceptionally challenging and sensitive time for SNA and… Read More

First tastes matter most

August 10, 2015

Many American children have developed a strong, stubborn preference for sweet and salty processed food before their second birthdays. If they haven’t, it could well be because they became accustomed to healthier flavors much earlier, beginning in breast milk or… Read More

Sustainable New England Seafood
for New England kids

August 3, 2015

For decades, fish at school mostly meant one thing: breaded fingers and patties–tasty enough with ketchup, but completely detached from their natural origins. That’s beginning to change in regions with access to local fisheries and processors. There’s keen interest in… Read More

Courting customers:
Fresh ideas from Chandler, AZ

July 27, 2015

In recent months, we have been hearing a lot about schools in well-to-do communities dropping out of federal meals programs. While the numbers are in fact miniscule, the conversation about them is significant. Dwindling revenue from paying students is a… Read More

Sortin’ it out:
Composting comes to NYC schools

July 13, 2015

Here’s one of the surest signs we have that swift and substantial progress in school food is possible: Beginning this fall, the nation’s largest district will not only be serving on compostable plates, but actually composting them. The introduction of… Read More

High hopes for Farm to School Act 2015

June 29, 2015

With so many elements of Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2015 hotly contested, it’s good to know we can be bullish about Farm to School. After a successful first round of USDA grants under CNR 2010, advocates are hoping to leverage strong… Read More

CNR 2015 walk-through

June 22, 2015

Is Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2015 moving too fast for you? Join the club. We all feel that way, and it’s still only June. Today’s episode will help. Jacqlyn Schneider, Policy Director for the Senate Agriculture Committee under Ranking Member Debbie… Read More

Cafeteria (not!) of the future

June 15, 2015

First off, stop calling it a “cafeteria.” And don’t just re-configure the physical space and the equipment, but the entire dining experience. San Francisco Unified School District is doing just that, in partnership with one of the world’s sharpest, most… Read More

Learnings from West Virginia

June 8, 2015

In West Virginia, many children suffer from levels poverty, hunger, and obesity well above the national average. To meet this troubling challenge, the state’s Department of Education has been exceptionally energetic in its top-down efforts to win student acceptance of… Read More

Tales from the trenches with Chef Cyndie

June 1, 2015

Cyndie Story has consulted in school kitchens in 37 states, where she has spread a gospel of work simplification that can transform the lives of food service staff. The humility and humor with which she approaches the job makes her… Read More

A locavore mayor takes on lunch

May 18, 2015

Where do you set your goal for local food purchasing? How about 50 percent of your total food budget? How about trying to do this in Maine? In Portland, ME, Mayor Michael Brennan believes it can be done; and the… Read More

El Monte magic explained

April 27, 2015

El Monte City School District is celebrated as a leading edge reformer well beyond the cafeteria. Over the years, this high-needs district has established a rigorous, comprehensive approach to student wellness that attempts to touch every aspect of their lives… Read More

Are Smart Snacks half baked?

April 20, 2015

Since July 2014, an interim USDA regulation on foods sold outside the reimbursable meals program requires healthier offerings nationwide. But questions remain. Many of the new “Smart Snacks” are reformulated copycats of highly processed stuff sold outside school. In some… Read More

Reading plate waste

April 6, 2015

Amid widespread complaints about discarded school food, enter a new study that tells us things may be not as bad as they seem. Careful measurements of plate waste taken in twelve Connecticut schools in 2012, 2013, and 2014 tell a… Read More

Good food measures up

March 30, 2015

Of course students eat better when healthy food is prepared with care and skill. We all knew that. Now we have important new research to back us up, the result of a year-long collaboration between the Harvard School of Public… Read More

Feeding summer

March 16, 2015

It’s planning season for USDA summer meals sponsors–the people who know that, for children from food-insecure homes, the last day of school isn’t necessarily a happy occasion. Currently, only a small fraction of students eligible for federally funded summer meals… Read More

Florida (school) food truck sizzle

March 2, 2015

Food trucks are rolling statements about some the values Americans hold dearest: independence, entrepreneurship, and mobility. Authenticity. Creativity. Affordability. With the movement growing so fast across the nation, it was only a matter of time before school food innovators started… Read More

Participation: What’s really going on?

February 16, 2015

Whether your participation is up or down, there has to be a reason. So what’s the reason for the sales slump among students who don’t qualify for free or reduced-priced meals? Many school nutrition professionals say it’s a clear case… Read More

Making FoodCorps work

February 9, 2015

It’s been more than five years since the launch of FoodCorps, the AmeriCorps branch that sends young service workers into school gardens, classrooms, cafeterias, and kitchens, where they’re tasked with generating excitement and support for healthy whole food. Today’s guests… Read More

Kitchen workhorses

January 26, 2015

What’s behind the “True Food” revolution in Minneapolis Public Schools? Ambitious purchasing of industrial-strength gadgets—cook-chill tanks, vacuum baggers, a meat shredder, a “gentle mixer,” and a 30-foot-long sous vide cooker—may be costly, but food costs are down, participation is up,… Read More

Serving food justice at school:
a conversation with Audrey Rowe

January 19, 2015

For Martin Luther King Day, join Audrey Rowe, Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service at USDA, in reflection on socioeconomic justice in school nutrition programs–historically, currently, and going forward as we approach Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2015.

“Bay to Tray” in Monterey

January 12, 2015

There is perhaps no city in the nation more strongly associated with fish than Monterey, CA, home to the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and the setting for John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. But most of the seafood harvested from local waters… Read More

School food social media that rocks

January 5, 2015

We kick off the new year with Dayle Hayes, the activist blogger behind “School Meals That Rock,” a multi-platform social media campaign that draws attention to news of healthy, delicious, sustainable progress in K-12 food service. Last year there was… Read More

Mastering the art of school cooking

December 15, 2014

It took a village to produce New School Cuisine: Nutritional and Seasonal Recipes for School Cooks by School Cooks. This pioneering new book features 78 rigorously tested, fully reimbursable dishes that Vermont children have enthusiastically voted for with their sporks…. Read More

Top chefs

November 24, 2014

Big districts have long employed chefs, and smaller ones are increasingly relying on them as consultants. But what happens when a mid-size district hires a classically trained restaurant industry veteran as food service director? In this episode, we talk to… Read More

New menus = new price tags?

November 17, 2014

What’s really behind the controversy over Healthy Hunger Free Kids 2010? According to today’s guests, it’s dollars that don’t make sense. Join Gitta Grether-Sweeney of Portland (OR) Public Schools Nutrition Services and Gary Vonck, a national leader in K-12 food… Read More

The Urban School Food Alliance
travels to France

November 3, 2014

Food service leaders from six of the nation’s very largest districts–New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, and Orlando–have joined together over shared reform goals: lower prices, larger commodity allotments, more sustainable production practice, and a pronounced shift in not… Read More

Sustainable California chicken
for California kids

October 27, 2014

Three very big districts—Riverside, San Diego, and Oakland—are taking farm to school to the next level with an enormous, year-round commitment to sustainably grown California chicken. Their ambitious purchasing initiative, which has been several years in the making, is designed… Read More

This Radish is golden

October 20, 2014

What community isn’t proud of its school trophies? Across Georgia, there’s a new kind of prize that recognizes exemplary work in farm-to-school, named after a tasty local vegetable. And winning at any level—gold, silver, or bronze—can generate the kind of… Read More

Farm to school program evaluation:
why, who… and how

October 13, 2014

Farm to school purchasing pursues social, environmental, economic, and public health goals. How to evaluate progress in reaching them, and how to share ideas and learning across a diverse, national community of practice? In this episode, learn about two new… Read More

Lunch lessons from teenage chefs

September 22, 2014

Want fresh, USDA-compliant meals that kids will get excited about? How about putting kids in charge? Cooking Up Change does just that. Subjected to the same tight budgets, strict nutrition standards, and logistical challenges that adult school menu planners face… Read More

How smart are your lunchrooms?

September 15, 2014

A school cafeteria can be a highly charged environment. Crowds of students press into the line, eager to zip through so they can get to their friends and recess. They’re hungry. It’s very loud. And they’re only children. Can we… Read More

Let’s talk nutrition standards

September 8, 2014

We kick off the new school year with a discussion of the nutrition standards mandated by the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. This school year, SFAs are being asked to do even more–more fruit, more whole grain, and… Read More

School lunch around the world:
 a 30-minute tour

August 11, 2014

Why are we so riveted by pictures of school meals in other countries? Perhaps because it’s a shared experience the world over, and perhaps because these images are so rich in information. “Unpack a school lunch,” writes guest Andrea Curtis,… Read More

Student-grown produce for lunch?
  Yes, you can!

July 14, 2014

School gardens are now being embraced nationwide, as is farm-to-school. But school garden-to-cafeteria? It’s what’s coming next–well-established in some districts, in fact, which offer valuable resources to beginners.

Do stricter meal standards lead
  to better health outcomes?

June 30, 2014

School food has been commanding headlines for well over a month, as controversy rages over costs and complications associated with implementation of stricter new nutrition standards. If you’re confused over who’s on what side of this debate, and what it’s… Read More

Garbage is a terrible thing to waste

June 16, 2014

Composting and recycling at school isn’t just about eco-friendly waste diversion. It also provides students with a powerful lesson in sound environmental practice that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives. The message is simple: what comes… Read More

The case for fresh and sustainable chicken

June 2, 2014

In Jefferson County, Colorado, a better school lunch often starts with better chicken: locally and sustainably grown, without antibiotics, and prepared from scratch. In the world of K-12 food service, this is widely regarded as an Olympian swan dive off… Read More

A visit to DC Central Kitchen

May 26, 2014

In the schools served by not-for-profit DC Central Kitchen, children formerly accustomed to pizza and breaded chicken fingers eagerly chow down on house-made fresh food that routinely includes beets, cauliflower, and collards. The skilled staff who prepare it are people… Read More

Let’s talk kitchen equipment

May 19, 2014

What do we have? What do we need? And how can we go on doing without under new meal-pattern requirements that call for more—and more perishable—produce, that staff need to safely store, prepare, portion, and serve? Jessica Donze Black of… Read More

Understanding Community Eligibility

May 12, 2014

Community Eligibility is going national. For districts with high percentages of children qualifying for free and reduced meals, this option has the potential to be transformational, providing free breakfast and lunch to all students automatically–without costly and burdensome applications. Schools… Read More