England replicates Finland’s school lunch system

Finland’s free school lunch system is gaining attention around the world.

Finland’s free school lunch system is gaining attention around the world.
Lehtikuva / Markku Ulander

Next autumn, England will begin providing free school lunches to children aged between four and seven. The inspiration behind the decision came from Finland’s nearly 70-year-old school food system. Also Scotland will provide free school lunches from the beginning of next year.

An adviser to the project has been the internationally renowned Finnish public health expert Pekka Puska. In addition the Finnish Embassy in London and the Foundation for the Promotion of Finnish Food Culture ELO have set up a school food network designed to encourage British people to develop their country’s school meals. According to the ELO foundation, the transformation of the English school lunch has been long awaited.

The effects of free school lunches were studied in London between 2009 and 2011. A healthy, regular school meal improved learning results as well as children’s behaviour. These research results encouraged the creation of a more thought-out school food plan that is based on the Finnish system.

— The phones have hardly stopped ringing here in Finland. The free school lunches we offer all our school children are a unique phenomenon in the world. England’s school food plan has its own chapter dealing with Finnish school meals and health improvement achievements, says Pekka Puska.

Finnish school meals have also raised interest in other countries.

— Our foreign visitors have always loved what they have seen and experienced here, say both Päivi Palojoki, Professor of Home Economics Pedagogy at the University of Helsinki, and Marjaana Manninen, Counsellor of Education in charge of developing school food at the Finnish National Board of Education.

www.elo-saatio.fi

www.finemb.org.uk

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MDE School Nutrition Programs Handout on Grains

National School Lunch Program

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946.

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

NSLP Legislation

NSLP Regulations

NSLP Policies

Guidance and Resources

Offer Versus Serve (OVS) – Updated 2015-2016 Guidance Manual

Tools for SchoolsTools for Schools offers topic-specific policy and resource materials to assist schools in meeting the new nutrition standards. Refer to the latest regulations, find free nutrition education curricula, or get ideas for adding tasty, kid-friendly foods to enhance your school meals program.

  • Nutrition Education and Promotion
  • Recipes and Culinary Techniques for Schools
  • School Nutrition Improvement
  • Policy Guidance

Nutrition Standards for School Meals – The final rule, Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, updated the meal patterns and nutrition standards for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs to align them with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Improvements to the school meal programs, largely based on recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, are expected to enhance the diet and health of school children, and help decrease childhood obesity.

Certification of Compliance – The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act provides an additional 6-cents per lunch reimbursement to school districts that certified to be in compliance with the new meal patterns.

Additional Resources

Related Documents
MDE School Nutrition Programs Handout on Grains PDF icon

Failing to Make the Grade: How the School Lunch System is Falling Short of Its Purpose

Sam Rourke

1,000 dollars a month reads the income box of my computer screen as I check out another family at the Central Food Pantry. There stands a woman with four children by her side. I glance at her cart, full for now, but wonder how it will realistically last for an entire month given her paltry income. Inside her cart lies limited amounts of meat and produce and countless piles of donuts and processed food. This is the harsh reality that the pantry faces – the individuals at the pantry need as much food as they can get their hands on, but due to limited resources the pantry can often only provide cheap junk food. As I look at her four children, ranging from age 5-12, I am thankful that these children have the National School Lunch Program to rely on. Twice a day during the week, they can rely on their school to provide them a lunch and breakfast for free or an extremely reduced price.

But what are they really eating? A quick check of any school lunch menu around the country quickly reveals meals that aren’t exactly most people’s definition of  “nutritionally-balanced” as the NSLP claims. Staples in my high school and countless others, were chicken nuggets, hamburgers, and mac & cheese. These were normally offered with some form of fried potato and an optional vegetable that many students didn’t take. Fortunately, I was in an economic position where I could choose most days to bring a healthy lunch from home to avoid the junk that the school gave out on a daily basis. However, for many in my town and across this nation school food is their only choice if they want to stave off hunger. Here in Boone County, 31.5 % of children receive free or reduced lunch, meaning they live at or near poverty and have no choice but to accept the food school’s present on a daily basis (“Kids Count Data Center”). The school lunch program is unable to meet the needs of those who rely on it daily for their daily sustenance and contributes to rising childhood obesity rates and poor school performance. In this paper, I advocate for workable solutions parents can take to improve the school lunch program and ensure it becomes an asset in a healthy diet rather than its current status as a hindrance with numerous negative consequences.

Beginnings of a Failure

The National School Lunch Program began in 1946 under Harry S. Truman as an effort to “safeguard the health and well-being of the nation’s children” (Gunderson 1). Since its inception the program has been the subject of continuous controversy as it struggles to meet the health needs of an ever-growing number of students. With over 1/3 of the nation’s children overweight or obese according to the Center for Disease Control, concerns over what children are consuming have become ever more prevalent among parents across the United States (“Obesity and Overweight”). Serving over 32 million children a year, the lunch program certainly plays a large role in what our nation’s children consume on a daily basis (“NSLP Fact Sheet”).

Rampant Regulations and Paltry Funding = Anything Becomes Acceptable

Funding is one of the obvious problems with the school lunch program and certainly the most criticized. Healthier foods simply cost more to make and many schools across the country don’t have the resources necessary to improve the quality of their food. The National School Lunch Program cost 10.8 billion to administer last year, a sharp increase from only 3.7 billion just 20 years ago (“NSLP Fact Sheet”). While NSLP receives some reimbursement for each lunch they sell, most of the funding comes through students paying for their meals. However, this amount continues to decrease as more and more students qualify for free and reduced lunch. According to a USDA fact sheet, 81.7 percent of meals in 2011 were given as a free or reduced lunch (“Child and Adult Care Food Program”). The program simply cannot support this percentage of children who pay very little back into the system and have their meals subsidized almost completely in their entirety.

While funding is certainly an issue, it is unrealistic to believe the government will be drastically increasing funding in today’s economic climate. Another significant problem is the unnecessary regulations that bog down the lunch system. A Fox News article from last winter, shows how off-based many of these regulations in the program are. A preschooler had to eat a school-supplied meal of chicken nuggets instead of eating their home-prepared lunch (“School Lunches Deemed Unacceptable”). Apparently their lunch of a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, apple juice and potato chips just wasn’t up to the high standards of the USDA. Jamie Oliver was also able to expose some of this illogical regulation through his “Food Revolution” show the past few years (Gunlock 1). The very first meal Oliver made was denied because it didn’t meet government standards. The problem? No bread. His lunch of roast chicken, brown rice, salad and yogurt with fresh fruit wasn’t good enough for the USDA. How was the school meeting the bread requirement for the day? Plain old white pizza crust. A couple episodes later Oliver again prepared a healthy meal consisting of a vegetable pasta dish, baked chicken, and a fruit cup. Again he was told the meal did not meet standards and thus would not be reimbursable. The problem this time? Not enough veggies. The solution? Add french fries (“Children, Parents, and Obesity”). These examples clearly illustrate how the inflexibility of school lunch regulations further exasperates the problem of unhealthy food. Many of these regulations are dictated by the large corporations that supply the industry, leading to such things as pizza sauce and fries inclusion in the vegetable category. In 2011, when the USDA was proposing changes to the program that would have decreased potato consumption and increased the amount of tomato needed to qualify for a vegetable serving, food companies jumped in to block the changes. According to an investigative article published in the New York Times, companies such as Con Agra and Del Monte spent 5.6 million lobbying congressional representatives to vote against the proposed revised standards (Nixon 1).  This unfortunate example shows that many of the regulations within the system are set by large food suppliers desperate to keep their money, who have somehow convinced legislators that there product is the only thing kids will consume.

With these strict regulations and lack of funding to meet them, the USDA has begun to set a strikingly low standard for many of the products they end up doling out to children every day. The hottest topic regarding this lately has been the USDA’s continued acceptance of “pink slime”, despite the fact that McDonald’s and Taco Bell have rejected the concoction. The substance is made by “grinding together connective tissue and beef scraps normally destined for dog food” (Knowles 1). Microbiologist Carl Custer, a 35-year veteran of the Food Safety Inspection Service, stated, “My objection with having it (the pink slime) in the schools is that it’s not meat” (Knowles 1). It is a pretty sad state when we are feeding millions of kids something that we aren’t even really sure what to call it. In my own high school, we had a regular main dish called the “panther rib.” After three years of eating it, I’m still not really quite sure what the concoction was made of. I personally avoided it whenever possible, but most other kids reluctantly ate it with no other choice in hand. The few times I did eat it, I actually thought it was pretty good, but I couldn’t get over the fact that I wasn’t sure what I was eating. Daily lunches, like the one chronicled above, that leave parents unsure of what their children are eating on a daily basis are not acceptable to any healthy society.

Mentally and Physically Unhealthy Children

School lunches are often blamed as a contributing factor in the ever- increasing rates of obesity in children. A recent study by the University of Michigan found that 38% of students who routinely eat school lunch were overweight or obese, as compared to only 24.4% of children who bring their own meals (Bruske). This may have something to do with the fact that 91.2% of the children who brought lunch from home consumed fruits or vegetables on a regular basis as compared to only 16.3% of children eating school food (Bruske 1). According to a 2009 Center for Disease Control study, obesity costs the U.S. 147 billion in health costs every year and that number continues to rise as obesity rates rise among children and all age groups (CDC’s LEAN Works! – A Workplace Obesity Prevention Program).

While weight gain is a serious consequence and the most commonly discussed, children face many other consequences tied to reliance on school lunch as well.  A study in Canada published in the Journal of School Health found that students who eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, protein and fiber, coupled with less fat calories, did better on their literacy tests than those eating foods high in salt and saturated fat. (Asbridge,Florence,Veugelers). Additionally healthyschoollunches.org, a website dedicated to improving school foodstates that more than 70 percent of schools struggle to meet the maximum saturated fat requirement set forth by USDA. Add in the fact that a disproportional amount of students who rely on school lunch come from poor families and you can see how the school lunch program contributes to poorer children being fatter and less academically successful. The effects don’t stop there as inadequate nutrition can also severely hamper a child’s cognitive development according to the American Psychological Association (“Changing diet and exercise for kids”). Every parent wants their child to perform well in the classroom, but every day you allow your child to consume school lunch you hamper their ability to be a star student.

Fight for More Funding

Concerned parents and any caring citizen all over this country need to continue to remain vigilant in the fight for improvements to school lunches. Over the past couple of years it seems lawmakers are finally hearing the cries of citizens concerned for the health of our nation’s children. Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act last year as the first major overhaul of the program in 15 years (Wootan 1). Under the new regulations, schools will be required to offer fruits and vegetables every day, increase the amount of whole-grain foods and reduce the sodium and fats in the foods served, according to an MSNBC article (Wood 1). However, they will only be getting a .06 cent increase in funding per meal, presenting many schools with the hard task of meeting healthier standards with a very unsubstantial increase in funding. Improving the standards is an important step, but this solution alone won’t create any substantial change. Increased funding is always welcome but there have been many attempts on the federal level to increase support for nutritious eating and all have largely failed up to this point.

Make your Kitchen Reflect the Change you Want

The next solution as these regulations come into place is to actually get children to eat the foods put on their plates. This is where parents can really make the greatest effort. It is easy to blame the government for failing to feed children healthy foods and that is what many of us do. However, the foods children are exposed to at home play a vital role in their willingness to accept healthier food at school. If a child never consumes vegetables or fruit at home why should they be expected to magically consume these items at school? One key step parents can take is to take the time out of their hectic schedules to sit down and have a family meal together. Family meals increase the likelihood that children will eat fruits, vegetables, and grains and decreases the likelihood of them snacking on unhealthy foods, according to the website Kidshealth (“Healthy Eating”). Another important step for parents is making sure to feed their children a healthy breakfast. According to the American Dietetic Association, children who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom and on the playground, with better concentration, problem-solving skills, and eye-hand coordination (“The Many Benefits of Breakfast”). By providing a healthy breakfast and sitting down for a healthy dinner in the evening, parents can play an important step in ensuring their children are receiving the proper nutrition that may be missing from their child’s school lunch. And feeding your child at home isn’t the expensive venture many make it out to be. A recent New York Times article entitled “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?”, pointed out that a meal for four at McDonalds costs around $28 dollars while a meal of chicken, vegetables, salad, and milk can be made for only $14 dollars. With proper planning and budgeting parents can make serving healthy food at home a reality without emptying their wallets.

Get Involved at School as Well

It doesn’t just have to be at home that parents and concerned citizens can get involved in ensuring the quality of your children’s food. In a journal article entitled, “A Revolution in School Lunches” Douglas McGray takes a look at some of the positive reforms in regards to school lunches across America. McGray profiles a company called Revolution Foods, a fast-growing for-profit company that caters healthy breakfasts and lunches to mostly lower-income schools, as an example of positive reform in cafeterias across America. The company’s executive chef, Amy Klein, acknowledges the challenges of getting children to eat healthy food, but through careful techniques she has been able to feed approximately 30,000 kids (McGray 50). Another prime example of adults taking action has occurred in Appleton, Wisconsin over about the last decade, as profiled in a report prepared for Sen. Russ Feingold by Natural Ovens, the initiative’s founding company. In 1997, Natural Ovens, from nearby Manitowoc, began the program to bring healthy foods into local schools. Since that time Appleton’s program has experienced a remarkable turnaround in student behavior with Principal LuAnn Coenen reporting a dramatic decrease in dropouts, expulsions, drug use, and possession of weapons among students. Though the program has cost the school district some extra money to provide healthier food Coenen said repeatedly in the article that it has been well worth it because of decreases in violence, vandalism, and litter, which has reduced costs in other areas (“A Different Kind of School Lunch”). These examples highlight how when parents and concerned adults do take action real change does occur. Parents need to make it a prerogative to be creative and come up with solutions to improve the food situation at their child’s school. Maybe it’s a garden outside, a weekly farmer’s market field trip, or a complete overhaul of the lunch program like these two districts did. Whatever it is, make a promise to not be content with the status quo and be willing to step up and be the initiator of the change you want to see in your child’s school.

Parting Words of Wisdom

As the waistlines of America’s children continue to expand, numerous factors play a role. Undoubtedly one of the factors responsible are the nutrient deficient and often unhealthy meals provided everyday by the National School Lunch Program to over 32 million children. Children who eat these meals are more likely to be overweight and suffer many other consequences as well, including decreased school performance and cognitive development. As a parent, each one of you wants the best for your child. It is time for you to start realizing that what you feed your child has a direct correlation to many important factors. An easy step is to take matters in to your own hands and make your child a healthy lunch everyday. However, if that doesn’t sound reasonable parents can at least take control of what they feed their child at home. You need to take action by ensuring you feed your child a healthy breakfast to start the day. Then when evening comes and the urge to stop by McDonald’s for dinner arises, you have to be able to resist and instead choose to prepare a healthy meal at home. These children that are exposed to healthy options at home will be more likely to choose more nutritious options when in line for school lunch. These children will then be prepared to perform well in school, on the athletic field, and maintain a healthy body weight through their childhood and into the future. In other words, any parents wish for their child.

 

Reference List

“A Different Kind of School Lunch.” Natural Oven’s Report on Wisconsin School Project. Summer 2010. Web Report. 25 April 2012. http://www.feingold.org/Bluebook/page-09-wisconsin.pdf

Asbridge, Mark; Florence, Michelle; Veugelers, Paul. “Diet Quality and Academic Performance”. Journal of School Health. 78.4 (2008): 209-215. Academic Search Complete. April 17, 2012.

Bittman, Mark. “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?”. The New York Times. 24 Sept. 2011. Web. 27 April 2012.

Bruske, Ed. “New study says school food makes kid fatter”. Grist. 15 March 2010. Web. March 2012.

“CDC’s Lean Works! – A Workplace Obesity Prevention Program”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nov. 16 2011. Web. April 2012.

“Changing Diet and Exercise for Kids.” American Psychological Association. Web. April 2012.

“Child and Adult Care Food Program.” USDA. April 2012. Web. April 2012. http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/ccsummar.htm

Gunderson, Gordon. “The National School Lunch Program”. USDA. Web-PDF. 9 March 2012. http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch/AboutLunch/NSLP-Program%20History.pdf

Gunlock, Julie. “Children, Parents, and Obesity.” National Affairs. Winter 2011. Web. April 2012.

“Healthy Eating.” Kids Health. Feb. 2012. Web. April 2012.

“Kids Count Data Center.” The Annie E. Casey Foundation. 2008. Web. April 2012.

Knowles, David. “Partners in Slime.” The Daily. Winter 2012. Web. 25 March 2012.

McGray, Douglas. “A Revolution in School Lunches.” Revolution Food Inc. 175.16 (2010): 50-53. Academic Search Complete. Web. March 2012.

Nixon, Ron. “Congress Blocks New Rules on School Lunches”. 15 Nov. 2011. Web. April 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/16/us/politics/congress-blocks-new-rules-on-school-lunches.html

“NSLP Fact Sheet.” USDA. October 2011. Web. March 2012. http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/lunch/AboutLunch/NSLPFactSheet.pdf

“Obesity and Overweight.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 21 2010. Web. April 2012.

“School lunch deemed unacceptable.” Fox News. Fox News Channel, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 15 March 2012.

Suddath, Claire. “School Lunches”. Time Magazine. Oct. 2009. Web. 13 March 2012.

Wood, Sylvia. “Students to see healthier school lunches under new USDA rules”. MSNBC.com. 25 Jan. 2012. Web. March 2012.

Wootan, Margo. “A Landmark Step As The Child Nutrition Bill Is Signed In To Law”. Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. 22 Dec. 2010. Web. 25 March 2012.

Zelman, Kathleen. “The Many Benefits of Breakfast” Healthy Eating and Diet. Web MD, Summer 2007. Web. 26 April 2012.

Bosco System Lunch Prices – Wordware’s School Lunch Software

Lunch Menu

By Berry, Carol

CLICK HERE to Login to Your Family Hot Lunch Account  

HOT LUNCH MENU

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

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December 2015

November 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

Bosco System Lunch Prices
Grades K-8:  $2.60 (no second entrees or meals for K-8)
Grades 9-12:  $2.70 ($1.55 for second entree OR $3.25 for second meal)
Adults & Sr Citizens:  $3.25
Extra Milk:  $.30
Reduced lunch price for eligible students – $.40

**Please note – The School Meals Initiative for Healthy Children has established nutritional guidelines that the school lunch program must meet to qualify for commodity foods and financial assistance.

Wordware’s School Lunch Software

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions

Programs

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946.

School Breakfast Program (SBP)

The School Breakfast Program (SBP) provides cash assistance to States to operate nonprofit breakfast programs in schools and residential childcare institutions. The program is administered at the Federal level by FNS. State education agencies administer the SBP at the State level, and local school food authorities operate it in schools.

After School Snack Program (ASSP)

The National School Lunch Program offers cash reimbursement to help schools serve snacks to children in afterschool activities aimed at promoting the health and well being of children and youth in our communities.

Special Milk Program

Begun in 1955, the Special Milk Program is administered at the Federal level by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its Food and Nutrition Service, formerly the Food and Consumer Service. The Special Milk Program (SMP) provides milk to children in schools and childcare institutions that do not participate in other Federal child nutrition meal service programs. The program reimburses schools for the milk they serve.

Schools in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Programs may also participate in the SMP to provide milk to children in half-day pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs where children do not have access to the school meal programs.

Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) provides all children in participating schools with a variety of free fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the school day. It is an effective and creative way of introducing fresh fruits and vegetables as healthy snack options. The FFVP also encourages schools to develop partnerships at the State and local level for support in implementing and operating the program.

Summer Nutrition Opportunities

There are three summer nutrition program opportunities from which SFAs may select to offer meals to students during the summer months and/or other vacation periods.

For more information and resources on the various programs click on a program title below:

Segregated Charter Schools Evoke Separate But Equal Era in U.S.

John Hechinger
December 22, 2011 — 10:31 AM IST
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Hmong Charter School
Students run under a mural depicting ancient Hmong leader Chi You and the Hmong flight from Vietnam during gym class at the Hmong College Prep Academy on Dec. 14, 2011 in St Paul, Minn. Photographer: Craig Lassig/Bloomberg
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At Dugsi Academy, a public school in St. Paul, Minnesota, girls wearing traditional Muslim headscarves and flowing ankle-length skirts study Arabic and Somali. The charter school educates “East African children in the Twin Cities,” its website says. Every student is black.

At Twin Cities German Immersion School, another St. Paul charter, children gather under a map of “Deutschland,” study with interns from Germany, Austria and Switzerland and learn to dance the waltz. Ninety percent of its students are white.

Six decades after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites, segregation is growing because of charter schools, privately run public schools that educate 1.8 million U.S. children. While charter-school leaders say programs targeting ethnic groups enrich education, they are isolating low-achievers and damaging diversity, said Myron Orfield, a lawyer and demographer.

“It feels like the Deep South in the days of Jim Crow segregation,” said Orfield, who directs the University of Minnesota Law School’s Institute on Race & Poverty. “When you see an all-white school and an all-black school in the same neighborhood in this day and age, it’s shocking.”

Charter schools are more segregated than traditional public schools, according to a 2010 report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. Researchers studied 40 states, the District of Columbia, and 39 metropolitan areas. In particular, higher percentages of charter-school students attend what the report called “racially isolated” schools, where 90 percent or more students are from disadvantaged minority groups.
Charter-School Birthplace

In Minnesota, the birthplace of the U.S. charter-school movement, the divide is more than black and white.

St. Paul’s Hmong College Prep Academy, 99 percent Asian-American in the past school year, immerses students “in the rich heritage that defines Hmong culture.” Its Academia Cesar Chavez School — 93 percent Hispanic — promises bilingual education “by advocating Latino cultural values in an environment of familia and community.” Minneapolis’s Four Directions Charter School, 94 percent Native American, black and Hispanic, promotes “lifelong learning for American Indian students.”

Charter schools, which select children through lotteries, are open to all who apply, said Abdulkadir Osman, Dugsi’s executive director.

“Some people call it segregation,” Osman said. “This is the parent’s choice. They can go anywhere they want. We are offering families something unique.”
Nobody ‘Forced’

That’s a “significant difference” between Minnesota charters and segregated schools in the 1950s South, said Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change at Macalester College in St. Paul.

“Nobody is being forced to go to these schools,” said Nathan, who helped write Minnesota’s 1991 charter-school law.

Ever since Horace Mann crusaded for free universal education in the 19th century, public schools have been hailed as the U.S. institutions that bring together people of disparate backgrounds.

The atomization of charter schools coincides with growing U.S. diversity. Americans of other races will outnumber whites by 2042, the Census Bureau projects.

Even after a divided Supreme Court in 2007 ruled that schools couldn’t consider race in making pupil assignments to integrate schools, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy urged districts to find other ways to fight “de facto resegregation” and “racial isolation.”

“The nation’s schools strive to teach that our strength comes from people of different races, creeds, and cultures uniting in commitment to the freedom of all,” Kennedy wrote.
Diverse Workplaces

Citing Kennedy’s words, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder this month called for schools — including charters — to combat growing segregation.

Along with breeding “educational inequity,” racially-divided schools deny children the experiences they need to succeed in an increasingly diverse workplace, Duncan said in announcing voluntary guidelines for schools.

Charter schools may specialize in serving a single culture as long as they have open admissions, and there’s no evidence of discrimination, said Russlynn Ali, assistant education secretary for civil rights.

The education department is encouraging charter schools to promote diversity. Charters could expand recruiting and consider lotteries that give extra weight to disadvantaged groups, such as families living in low-income neighborhoods or children who speak English as a second language, Ali said in a phone interview.
Immigrant Magnet

Minnesota, 85 percent white, is a case study of the nation’s growing diversity. Since the 1970s, Minneapolis and St. Paul have become a magnet for Hmong refugees, who fought alongside Americans in the Vietnam War. In the 1990s, Somalis sought refuge from civil war.

St. Paul, where the nation’s first charter school opened in 1992, is 16 percent black, 10 percent Hispanic and 15 percent Asian-American, according to the U.S Census Bureau.

Charter schools should be similarly diverse, recommended a 1988 report that provided the groundwork for Minnesota’s charter-school law.

“We envision the creation of schools which, by design, would invite a dynamic mix of students by race and ability levels,” the Citizens League, a St. Paul-based nonprofit public-policy group, wrote in the report.
‘Great Failure’

Instead, in the 2009-2010 school year, three quarters of the Minneapolis and St. Paul region’s 127 charter schools were “highly segregated,” according to the University of Minnesota Law School’s race institute. Forty-four percent of schools were 80 percent or more non-white, and 32 percent, mostly white.

“It’s been a great failure that the most segregated schools in Minnesota are charter schools,” said Mindy Greiling, a state representative who lobbied for the charter-school law when she was a member of a suburban school board in the 1980s. “It breaks my heart.”

Segregation is typical nationwide. Seventy percent of black charter-school students across the country attended “racially isolated” schools, twice as many as the share in traditional public schools, according to the report from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

Half of all Latino charter-school students went to these intensely segregated schools, the study found. In the West and the South, the two most racially diverse regions of the country, “charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools,” the report said.
Hmong Roots

They also serve as havens for minority students who need extra help, said leaders of Minnesota charter schools.

Christianna Hang, founder of Hmong College Prep Academy, said she designed the school so children, mostly first-generation Americans, didn’t feel adrift in public schools as she did when she arrived in the U.S. in 1980.

In the Hmong academy’s central hallway, a tapestry depicts families living in Laos, fleeing the Vietnam War and arriving in America. The school’s roughly 700 students, in grades kindergarten through 12th grade, learn Hmong.

“I came here for my parents as much as for me,” said Mai Chee Xiong, a 17-year-old senior. “I was very Americanized. I wanted to be able to speak with them in our language, and I wanted to understand my roots.”

In the 2009-2010 school year, 26 percent of Hmong Academy students met or exceeded standards on state math exams, while 30 percent did so in reading. About half passed those tests in the St. Paul Public School District.
Harvard Banners

To raise expectations, classrooms adopt colleges, hanging banners from Harvard University, Yale University and Dartmouth College over their doors.

“If we don’t do something to help these kids, they will get lost,” Hang said. “If they drop out of school, they will never become productive citizens, and there’s no way they will achieve the American dream.”

Dugsi Academy, the school for East Africans, and Twin Cities German Immersion School make for some of St. Paul’s sharpest contrasts.

Until this school year, the two schools were neighbors, across a busy commercial thoroughfare in a racially diverse neighborhood. At different times of the day, the kids used a city playground in front of the German school for recess. Dugsi has since moved three miles away, across a highway from the Hmong academy.

The German Immersion School is a bright, airy former factory with exposed brick and high ceilings.
Fluent German

“Eva, was ist das?” kindergarten teacher Elena Heindl asked one morning earlier this month as she pointed a red flashlight to letters, eliciting the name of each one in German.

To succeed at the school, students must be fluent in German to enroll, unless they enter before second or third grade, Julie Elias, a parent, told prospective families on a tour this month.

“You can’t just move into the neighborhood if you want to go to our school,” Elias said. The school is legally required to take anyone picked in its lottery, though it counsels parents against enrolling in older grades without German knowledge, said Annika Fjelstad, its director.

The school, which includes many families with one parent who speaks German or that have German relatives, holds special events at the Germanic-American Institute in a $1.3 million St. Paul house with a ballroom. Children like to call the institute “our school’s mansion,” said Chris Weimholt, another parent giving the tour.
No Buses

In the 2009-2010 school year, 87 percent of children at the German school passed state math tests and 84 percent did so in reading, according to the Minnesota Department of Education. Fifteen percent qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program, compared with 71 percent in St. Paul. The school doesn’t offer bus transportation, so most parents drive, often carpooling, Elias said.

The language requirement and lack of transportation prevents poor families from attending, said Greiling, the state legislator, who has toured the school.

“A regular public school could never have that kind of bar,” she said. “It seems an odd thing that this would be legal.”

The German program doesn’t have buses because they would cost $100,000 a year, too heavy a burden for an expanding school of 274 that wants to maintain classes of 20 students, Fjelstad said. An immersion school can’t take kids who aren’t fluent after early grades, she said.

In February, the school formed an “inclusivity” task force to find ways to make the school more reflective of the community, Fjelstad said. The school will try to improve recruiting through its relationship with community organizations, such as a neighboring YMCA, she said.
International View

The school offers a different kind of diversity, said Weimholt, a nurse whose grandfather emigrated from Germany after World War I. “It doesn’t look diverse by skin color. But families straddle two different continents. The school truly has an international perspective.”

So does Dugsi Academy. Children learn Arabic and Somali along with English and traditional academic subjects. A caller last month heard no English on a school voice mail.

One morning in late November, a sixth-grade social-studies class discussed immigration with 28-year-old Khaleefah Abdallah, who himself fled Somalia 12 years ago. The boys wore jeans and sweatshirts. The girls sported hijabs, or traditional Muslim head coverings with skirts or long pants.
‘Melting Pot’

Abdallah asked his class about the idea of the American “melting pot:” immigrants assimilating into U.S. culture. He suggested another metaphor, a “salad bowl,” where people from different backgrounds mix while retaining their own identity.

“I agree with the salad bowl,” Fadumo Ahmed, 12, dressed in a black hijab and sneakers with pink laces, told the class. “We all come from different places, but we still want to keep our culture.”

Students shared stories of the challenge of co-existing in mainstream America.

Ahmed Hassan, 12, complained about a boy on a city playground who made fun of the long traditional robe he wore one Friday.

“He told me it looked like a skirt,” Hassan said. Abdallah told the class that, under the U.S. constitution, Americans have the freedom to express themselves through their clothing.
Test Scores

Dugsi, a low-slung red-brick building in an office park, has about 300 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Almost all qualify for federal free or reduced lunches, according to the state. Only 19 percent passed state math exams in the 2009-2010 school year, while 40 percent did so in reading.

The school’s test scores reflect families’ backgrounds. said Osman, the Dugsi director and a former employee of the U.S. Embassy in Somalia, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1993. Parents work as cab drivers, nurses and grocers, Osman said. Many had no formal schooling.

It would be better if one day Somali students could go to school with children from other backgrounds, Osman said.

“That’s the beauty of America — Latinos, Caucasians, African-Americans and Native Americans, all together in the same building, eating lunch and in the same classrooms,” Osman said. “It would be something wonderful. That’s what I’m thinking of for my own kids and grandchildren.”

Food Processors and Ingredient Suppliers Study School Lunch Programs for Innovative Ideas

Processors and ingredient suppliers need to collaborate in creating meals that are nutritious and desirable for this picky and often overweight demographic.

By Mark Anthony, Ph.D., Technical Editor

School lunch nutrition programs come in as many forms and approaches as there are school districts. But one constant is that budgets are always tight. However, processors who participate in the efforts to better feed our children can find satisfaction in not only doing the right thing but in creating products for a significantly large demographic. Case in point: The New York school system alone serves more than 1 million meals per day.

“Schools meals are expected to be universally acceptable to all students, so we have push back from both ends of the spectrum,” says Twyla Leigh, nutritionist for Collier County Public Schools in Naples, Fla. “They’re either ‘too healthy’ or not organic/vegan/scratch-cooking enough.”

Leigh admits school nutrition professionals realize that “one size does not fit all” and continue to seek out manufacturers of better tasting, healthy options, even as they are “challenged with labor issues, food safety concerns and balanced budgets.”

“School nutrition programs are expected to be self-supporting, paying for all food, labor, uniforms, equipment, water, electricity, gas, trash pick-up, payroll and human resource services.”

That according to Leigh and colleagues Terri Whitacre, director of school food and nutrition services for the Charlotte County Public School System in Punta Gorda, Fla., and Stacey Wykoski, foodservice director for the Jenison/Hudsonville School Food Service group in Jenison, Mich.

The three provide recommendations that manufacturers “should avoid MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, nitrates and items that are known to be issues in the food supply.” They also believe that GMOs are going to be a “big topic” moving forward. “Manufacturers also need to take the lead in better food labels: sugar listed on a label should refer to added sugars, not natural and added combined,” they note.

Food allergens also will become more challenging with the increase in children who have food intolerances or allergies, says Leigh. “Gluten and peanuts are big issues with school-age children. Being involved with national ingredient and food label access, even with scanners and a more usable way to obtain this information, to link it to the school menus would be a huge victory for manufacturers, school nutrition and the children.”

Waste not

There are huge challenges facing any program designed to feed wholesome, desirable meals five days per week to hundreds of kids at a time in three or more 30 minute blocs around the noon hour. The biggest, perhaps, is an endless schoolyard tug-of-war between the cost of production and the staggering cost of plate waste.

New Farm to School curriculum puts high school students in charge of tapping into healthy, local foods

MINNEAPOLIS – The new Farm to School Youth Leadership Curriculum released today connects high school students with local foods and farmers, while giving them a leadership role in developing their school’s Farm to School program. The first of its type, the curriculum was developed for 11th and 12th grade students by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and takes students through the tasks of evaluating school lunch menus, partnering with food service staff, talking to farmers and sourcing local foods—all while fulfilling national and Minnesota curriculum requirements.

“The curriculum was designed not only to teach students about their local food system and connect them with farmers in their community, but also to give them the opportunity to take ownership over their school’s menu,” said IATP’s Senior Program Associate Erin McKee VanSlooten. “We know that despite the rapid growth of Farm to School programs around the country, the legwork of connecting with farmers and sourcing local foods can often be difficult for school staff on top of their day-to-day work. Our curriculum puts that work in students’ hands, while teaching them about their local food scene.”

The Farm to School Youth Leadership Curriculum is comprised of six lessons that can be taught consecutively over a semester or as single lessons or activities to complement other classes. Each lesson contains a lesson summary, facilitator preparation notes, activities, worksheets, recommended optional work and further resources for students and teachers. Lessons include themes such as “School Lunch: How Does it Really Work?” and “Communicating with Producers of Local Foods.”

Natasha Mortensen, agriculture educator and FFA advisor at Morris Area High School, helped write and develop the curriculum from activities she created for her own classroom.

“My students have taken ownership of the Farm to School program in our school, and have developed leadership and team building skills as they completed tasks in learning about our local food system and seasonal availability,” said Mortenson. “This curriculum is both about implementing Farm to School and growing young leaders that understand how to build a program from the ground up.”

Development of the Farm to School Youth Leadership Curriculum was a collaborative process, including consultation with educators, food service professionals and Farm to School experts, supported by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the John P. and Eleanor R. Yackel Foundation, the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

“The Center for Prevention has a long history of investment in healthy food environments promotion, in particular the Farm to School programs across Minnesota.” said Janelle Waldock, director at the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “Programs linking fresh fruits and vegetables to schools can have an enormous impact on student health, learning outcomes and lifelong dietary habits, not to mention positive economic impact for local economies. Empowering students to lead the program themselves, will ensure continued positive outcomes on into the next generation.”

Find the curriculum and associated resources available online at www.iatp.org/f2s-curriculum.

– See more at: http://www.iatp.org/documents/new-farm-to-school-curriculum-puts-high-school-students-in-charge-of-tapping-into-healthy-#sthash.1P7adJZV.dpuf

COMMITTEE ON NUTRITION STANDARDS FOR NATIONAL SCHOOL LUNCH AND BREAKFAST PROGRAMS

VIRGINIA A. STALLINGS (Chair),

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania

KAREN WEBER CULLEN,

Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine, TX

ROSEMARY DEDERICHS,

Minneapolis Public Schools, Special School District No. 1, MN

MARY KAY FOX,

Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., Cambridge, MA

LISA HARNACK,

Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, MN

GAIL G. HARRISON,

School of Public Health, Center for Health Policy Research, University of California, Los Angeles

MARY ARLINDA HILL,

Jackson Public Schools, MS

HELEN H. JENSEN,

Department of Economics, Iowa State University, Ames

RONALD E. KLEINMAN,

Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

GEORGE P. McCABE,

College of Science, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

SUZANNE P. MURPHY,

Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, University of Hawaii, Honolulu

ANGELA M. ODOMS-YOUNG,

Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition, University of Illinois at Chicago, IL

YEONHWA PARK,

Department of Food Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

MARY JO TUCKWELL,

inTEAM Associates, Ashland, WI

Study Staff

CHRISTINE TAYLOR, Study Director

SHEILA MOATS, Associate Program Officer

JULIA HOGLUND, Research Associate

HEATHER BREINER, Program Associate

CAROL WEST SUITOR, Consultant Subject Matter Expert and Writer

ANTON BANDY, Financial Officer

GERALDINE KENNEDO, Administrative Assistant,

Food and Nutrition Board

LINDA D. MEYERS, Director,

Food and Nutrition Board