Tag Archives: school lunch

healthier lunches in public schools

15 Oct

6235929961_7ab2fe63d7Throughout the country, many public school students are not loving their new school lunches.

Since August, public schools have been mandated to follow the new nutritional guidelines set out by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, providing more fruits and vegetables while limiting levels of fat, sodium, and calories.

Due to the calorie restrictions, protein portions are smaller, food is less cheesy, and the milk is no longer chocolate, but plain and skim.

Before this regulation, lunches had no maximum calorie limit. Now, high school lunches top out at 850 calories, for middle schoolers it’s 700 calories, and elementary students receive just 650 calories.

Many students are upset that despite smaller portions of heavier food items (like meatloaf and chicken nuggets), lunches have gone up in price, at an average of ten cents per lunch. This increase in price is to help mitigate the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as to follow the federal requirement that lunch prices incrementally rise to help pay for their overall fees.

Despite the fact that many NYC public schools have already converted to low fat milk and whole grain breads, the introduction of more fruits and vegetables has led to more waste. The apples, pears, and bags of baby carrots are often seen in the trash, uneaten.

The New York Times’s Student Opinion blog asked NYC public school kids about their new lunches. They wanted to know if these new regulations are a “lost cause” or if lunch has the potential to be both “healthy and tasty?” Reading some of their reactions, it seems like from their standpoint and despite all the media reaction, not too much has changed. Most students say that next to their greasy pizza is a small scoopful of unappetizingly bland vegetables.

One student said, “I think that a healthier school lunch program is a lost cause. It is spending money that we don’t have for a lunch with fruits and vegetables that we just throw away.” Another student declared, “I believe that the food itself isn’t the problem moreover the overall picture of American health.”

Although some students reacted positively to the changes in school lunch, most students weren’t too thrilled about the change or would prefer for their lunch to remain the same. In spite of many students’ preference to avoid eating the fresh fruits and vegetables, research has shown that children must be exposed to a vegetable ten to twelve times until they are willing to eat it on their own.

For more information about students’ reactions across the country, check out an informative article from the New York Times. To learn more, here is an insightful interview with the Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack.

Perhaps the best solutions are time, teacher participation and food education. With time, we will hopefully see students trying new foods, and liking foods they never though they would. In turn, teachers can act as role models, as they do in the classroom, by creating balanced plates of their own for students to see, and with food education, children will learn why it’s important to eat well, especially at lunchtime, and change will happen, slowly but surely.

Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks

Conventional or Organic?

19 Sep

8099419727_c31c7bbe2cTwo weeks ago, Stanford University published their controversial study in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluding that organic produce has no added nutritional health benefits over their conventionally grown counterparts.

However, one of the few distinguishable advantages of organic fruits and vegetables is that there is a lower risk of pesticide exposure. Despite this, the conventionally grown produce that was reviewed contained pesticide levels within the safety limits set by the EPA.

It was noted in the study that children are especially vulnerable when it comes to pesticide exposure, since they are maturing and their immune systems are more sensitive. Because childhood is a critical period in human development, exposure to pesticides during that time may cause adverse effects.

According to the FDA, foods labeled “organic” must be certified under the National Organic Program. They must also be grown and processed using organic farming methods that promote biodiversity and recycling. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, bioengineered genes, antibiotics, hormones, and radiation cannot be used. For more information on organic food labels, click here. To read about the challenges small farmers face should they chose to become certified organic, click here.

In the study it was found that organic produce has a 30 percent lower risk of containing detectable pesticide levels. The Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of the twelve foods containing the highest levels of pesticides, calling them the Dirty Dozen (with apples, celery, and bell peppers at the head of list). The Clean 15 on the other hand are the foods lowest in pesticides, with onions, sweet corn, and pineapple as the top three least contaminated. Here is their methodology.

What this study did not focus on, was the nutritional, environmental and community value of locally grown produce. Eating local produce offers various health benefits for our bodies, and our planet. According to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, the top five reasons to eat locally are:

  1. taste
  2. environmental concern
  3. community
  4. variety
  5. health

Our food now travels an average of 1,500 miles before ending up on our plates.

At Butter Beans, we have created close relationships with local food purveyors, purchasing as much of our produce as possible from nearby farmers to provide the freshest and most nutritious food to our students. A list of our suppliers can be found here.

Despite the emphatic reactions to this food study, it’s a step in the right direction for the quality and safety of the food we eat daily. This sort of dialogue shows that our communities are taking more interest in different methods of food production, which trickles down to how we feed our families. It is of utmost importance that we nourish ourselves everyday with fresh fruits and vegetables.

First Lady, Michelle Obama sums it up pretty well: “We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu. We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize quality over quantity. And we can help create a culture — imagine this — where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them.”

Photo courtesy of ePsos.de

Welcome back to school!

6 Sep

7891329402_c5a3aa8e50It’s the first week in September, and families are coming back from their various summer adventures, ready to start the school year.

After a long and wonderful summer filled with our food + garden summer camp, our kitchen is bustling again, and our chef and kitchen staff are busy preparing our homemade meals from scratch. Our delivery manager is delivering our food to our schools, and our management team is overseeing logistics to ensure that our operations are running smoothly.

Our food service staff are waking up today and traveling to their respective schools to nourish students at lunch-time with our delicious meals, and engage them in food conversations. Our wellness and food education team are busy planning and preparing to the launch our after-school cooking classes. We are a busy, and happy group of people, all here for one mission: providing children with the nutrition they need to be productive and happy at school, and pairing that with wellness and food education.

As part of our in-cafeteria wellness initiatives, we develop monthly table tops for children to read when they are sitting down at their tables, or waiting on line for lunch. Each month they will find a new culinary technique, along with a fun recipe to make at home. We will be sharing these with you as the school year progresses, and hope you enjoy reading them just as much as they do!

Welcome back, and cheers to a fantastic school year ahead!

Photo courtesy of USAG-Humphreys

intuitive cooking

25 Jul

8161030847_e62134378cCooking by intuition is quite a different experience than cooking straight from a recipe. Recipes allow for some leeway and creative additions however, cooking without a recipe, rather an idea, vision, or craving, inspires room for experimentation and unique creations, ultimately resulting in a big question mark.

Some of us like the safety of recipes, and are more drawn to them, while others enjoy cooking without a plan, and guide their meals with what is present in their fridge and pantry. Some of us like a hybrid; using a recipe as a guide, and adding our own unique spin to those recipes.

At Butter Beans, we use tried and true recipes for our school lunches and breakfast items, however, there is a lot of vibrant experimentation that goes on behind the scenes in order for us to come up with recipes that our students have come to love and expect from our program.

During our after-school cooking classes, we cook from a recipe, but provide our students with room to improvise, by adding a little bit more garlic, or a bit more spice, as they taste their food and season it to their liking. We like to provide our students with a guide to their short but sweet lesson, so that they can learn about the unique flavors and textures of different cuisines. Our students end up eating foods that their parents, and themselves would have never thought imaginable!

During our food & garden summer camp we cook mostly from intuition, but still use a few recipes here and there as our guide. After brainstorming collectively on what kind of meal we want to cook at lunch, we write up a shopping list.

Our campers then get to visit the farmers market and pick out their ingredients. Seeing them take ownership of their recipes is inspiring, as they get excited to pick out the most unique looking peppers, or strangely formed carrots. Once their creation is made, they end up loving every bite of their meal, and enjoy the chatter and friendships that bud from sharing food.

What is your cooking style like? Do you like cooking from recipes or from your own inspirations?

Photo courtesy of Sunbeam Free Photos Art & Fun

Vote For Butter Beans!

25 Jun

For all of you wonderful blog followers out there, we have a short and sweet favor to ask of you.

We have entered a contest to obtain a $250,000 grant to help grow our company, and would love your support! In order for us to be considered for this grant, we will need 250 votes by Saturday, June 30th.

As of this morning we have a grand total of 162 votes, so our goal is indeed reachable. Feel free to spread the word to your respective blog communities, friends, family and colleagues. Thank you for your support in our vision of improving children’s lives through healthy eating and nutrition education.

To vote, visit http://bit.ly/votebutterbeans, and click on the bottom right “Log In & Support” to log in through your facebook account. Search for “Butter Beans” and click on us.

Your vote will help support Butter Beans by increasing the number of children that participate and have access to our nutritious school lunches and snacks, along with growing our nutrition & wellness programs in schools, providing scholarships for our food & garden summer camp, and so much more!