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California Students Served Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner at School

By Kelsey Murray

There’s been a lot of news recently about schools offering free breakfasts and lunches to students who are from low-income families. Now, 200 schools in California are also starting to offer free dinners to students who participate in after-school programs.

In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This act made it possible for after-school programs to receive funding to provide dinner for free or at a reduced price. Under the act, schools must have an educational component to their after-school programs, such as tutoring services of health and nutrition classes. Also, in order to receive funding, at least 50 percent of the students who participate in these programs must qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

Gary Petill is the director of Food Nutrition Services at San Diego Unified. Currently, his school district is serving dinner to around 1,650 students, but he expects that number to rise to more than 2,000 by next month and more than 13,000 students by next year.
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Obama Administration to Set School Vending Machine Standards

School lunches and childhood obesity are hot topics this year and as they should be. The current stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in every five children are obese. That’s a clear picture that our kids need more help. The lunch standards are being changed and now the standards for food outside the cafeteria are being challenged.

It’s estimated that $2.3 billion in snack foods and drinks are sold each year in our schools. The Obama administration is set to propose a change in what is sold in vending machines and school snack stores. The new standards are expected in a few weeks. Experts assume that the new guidelines will mirror those of the school lunch standards: reduction of sugar, salt, and fat amounts.

There are many impacted by these changes. Schools may face restrictions on school fundraisers, as many sell candy and sweets to raise money for sports, music, and art programs. Food and beverage companies fear that the guidelines will be too strict and they will lose revenue if they can’t sell in the schools. Many companies feel they’ve made changes to their inventory to reflect the need for healthier foods.

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Fake Vending Machine Dispenses Good Health and Hope

Many advocates fighting to end childhood obesity are also fighting to get vending machines out of our kids’ schools. The machines are filled with unhealthy, low-nutrient foods and soda. Many people want to see them kicked out of the schools for good. However, Utah schools may have the one vending machine advocates may start fighting to get in their own schools.

Rose Park Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah has welcomed a new addition to its halls. Thanks to the LiVe public service program, Intermountain Healthcare has installed a fake, talking vending machine. The vending machine looks like any other, full of sweet and salty treats. The difference is that the snacks are fake and the machine doesn’t take money. When the children select an item the machine dispenses a morsel of healthy information.

“I’m a vending machine and can’t move without someone’s help,” a cartoon-like voice says when a student chooses a Lava Cake. “Keep buying food like this and we’ll have that in common.”

The young elementary students are having fun with the machine, even if they are fooled at first. Some of the children have tried to dislodged the faux treats before they realize the game. Older students have taken younger children to the machine to show them how it works and to hear what it might say.

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Congress Claims Pizza is an Acceptable Vegetable for Our Kids

When I helped the first graders at my son’s school with their food group assignment recently, I was amazed at how many were confused about where to place types of food. So many didn’t know what a green bean was, or what strawberries were. Most were completely unaware that fish was a “meat.” It was disheartening and a good glimpse at the nutrition blunders our kids deal with. After hearing this morning’s news, things are going to get much more difficult. According to Congress, pizza will now be placed in the vegetable category.

Surely, I’m not alone in the jaw-drop response to this news. I re-read it just to make sure I was getting this right. But in clear print, the fact that school lunch pizzas contain tomato paste allows Congress to mark it as a vegetable, therefore keeping it on the menu multiple times a month in schools all over the country.

A congressional committee is responsible for this and other ridiculous staples being allowed to stay on our kids’ menus. As a fightback against the Obama administration’s proposal to make school lunches better and healthier for our kids, a bill was released late Monday entailing all the guidelines.
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INFOGRAPHIC: Childhood Obesity Epidemic by the Numbers

Childhood Obesity Epidemic Infographic
Brought to you by MAT@USC Masters in Teaching

The week of October 10 is National School Lunch Week, an effort to examine and raise awareness around a particular angle of school nutrition. For 2011, the theme is “School Lunch – Let’s Grow Healthy.” According to the NSLW, this “provides the opportunity to try something new and promote locally sourced foods.

Many school are growing their own gardens, sourcing ingredients for cafeteria meals from local farmers, and some are expanding the knowledge students have of the food industry by inviting farmers to the school or taking field trips to local farms.
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