Masks Can’t Hide National School Breakfast Week Smiles!

Each year, National School Breakfast Week (NSBW) offers an opportunity to highlight the importance of student access to healthy breakfast options in schools. This year’s theme, “Score Big with School Breakfast,” helps relay how balanced school breakfast supports students to be healthy, active and energized throughout the day.

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Benefits of Breakfast Available For All Students

While school meal service might look very different this year, the importance of providing easily accessible and healthy school meals hasn’t changed. Now more than ever, families can count on schools to nourish students to start the school day, with breakfast provided free for all students through special USDA waivers this school year. National School Breakfast Week (NSBW) offers an opportunity to focus on the benefits seen from providing equal access to free meals, with many school districts seeing an increase in breakfast participation.

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Greenhouse, Scratch Cooking & Salad Bar: Recipe for School Meal Success

Through the determination and hard work of the small nutrition department at Platte County School District #2 in Wyoming, grants secured in the past two school years have boosted the meal program with an infusion of fresh food. According to Food Services Director Dawndrea Daly, grants enabled the district to construct a geodome greenhouse on school grounds, pay for a salad bar and increase the number of scratch-made menu options for their school meal program.

The district of about 250 students is small but mighty. Daly proved that this summer, as the sole full-time food service staffer to provide Summer Meals to students through August. During the school year, the department has 3 staff members. The district has an open campus policy for older students, but because of the increase in fresh produce and scratch cooking, Daly said that student meal participation has continued to increase.

Food Services Director Dawndrea Daly was the sole full-time food service staffer to provide Summer Meals to students through August.

“It is our hope that by implementing these programs, we are making a good impact on our students’ lives, beyond feeding them healthy and nutritious food,” said Daly. “We are thrilled that they are enjoying the scratch meals we put so much time and thought into creating.”

Scratch cooking had been a large part of the small district’s food service history, however, over the years the use of prepared foods increased. When Daly became director, scratch cooking made a big return. Menu options including pizza, soups, lasagna, rolls, cinnamon rolls, breakfast burritos and more started to be made in-house. As Daly explained it, participation has also increased because students “eat with their eyes first,” and homemade foods has enticed them to eat school breakfast and lunch more often.

With hopes that the newly installed salad bar could remain available to students, Daly has worked with staff to provide a safe method where students are served by a staff member to take extra precautions during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, due to the impact of COVID-19 on school learning methods, the school has not been able to utilize its geodome greenhouse in 2020-21. However, when it was installed last year, Daly said students learned how to plant, grow and harvest fresh produce, which was featured in school meals and as part of the new salad bar. In addition to providing local student-grown produce for meals, a Junior Master Gardener Program was implemented allowing teachers to incorporate the greenhouse as part of their science and math lesson plans as well.

Prior to the pandemic, the department also held an on-campus baking program for students with chefs from King Arthur Flour. Students were also given all of the ingredients and instructions to bake fresh bread at home with their families, further emphasizing the benefits of scratch cooking for healthy, growing children.

Winter Break Isn’t a Break from Meals in Many Schools

The holidays can be a hard time for families already struggling to make ends meet. The threat of children going hungry increases when school is out and guaranteed nutritious school meals are no longer available. While many school districts must close food service operations, an increasing number of programs are making arrangements to provide food pick-up or meal service during the break this year to support their communities.

To ensure students are well-fed during the Winter Break, Madison School District Food & Nutrition Services (AZ) has a Free Bulk Food Box Program for children 18 years and younger. Informational fliers in English and Spanish encourage families to sign up in advance for food boxes pick up on December 23.

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Thankful for Students, Schools Provide Holiday Lunch Celebrations

Ask anyone about their favorite school meal as a child and the Thanksgiving turkey lunch usually comes to mind. The love of the turkey day meal remains, but much has changed about what it looks like today. Schools have created new recipes and ways to incorporate turkey in their meals, with a variety of trays, bowls, dishes or curbside pickup containers needed to deliver holiday traditions. Through soups, pot pies, sandwiches, whether carved, sliced, roasted, cubed or diced, turkey is still the star of the show.

Thanksgiving school meal sides include everything from whole grain rolls, mashed potatoes, sweet potato mash, roasted potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, salad, sweat peas and yams, to seasoned corn, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, broccoli and fresh fruit.

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Farm to School Comes to Life at Dover-Eyota Schools

While many schools have adopted a Farm to School program, Dover-Eyota Public Schools (MN) has gone above and beyond to offer their students fresh, locally-sourced school meals. Using apples from their own school orchard to make homemade applesauce and sourcing beef from a local farm to offer freshly-made hot dogs and hamburgers are examples of how they celebrated Farm to School Month, which wrapped up last week.

A Dover-Eyota PS school lunch: buns are from St. Charles Bakery in St. Charles; the hamburger is from Goldenrust Farm in Eyota, whose children attend Dover-Eyota schools; the tomatoes are from Blattner Farm (Produce Plus), whose children went to Dover-Eyota as well; the lettuce is from Revol Greens in Owatonna – making this entrée 100 percent local! 
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Lunchtime May Look Different, But School Meals Are A Student’s Best Friend

Lansing Central School District lunch with rotini and homemade marinara sauce.

School lunch and the way it’s served during National School Lunch Week may look little different in 2020, but schools are still working hard to introduce new menus items and get kids excited about eating health meals at school. Students in Lansing Central School District (NY) know first-hand how school nutrition professionals have risen to overcome challenges to adapt meal service to various in-person and remote learning methods during the pandemic.

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Curbside Lunch Pick-up Doesn’t Stop National School Lunch Week Celebrations

National School Lunch Week (NSLW) looks pretty different this year for Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools (NC) as K-5 students won’t be starting in-school classes until October 19. The district has been running a curbside meal pick-up operation to coincide with distance learning, but they haven’t given up serving nutritious and delicious meals for their students! ECPPS is offering prepared meals that are shelf stable or heat-and-eat selections for middle and high schoolers.

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Lunch Participation Jumps When Students Learn About Local Ingredients

One school district increased school meal participation by educating their students about the local, healthy options they were already sourcing from local Kentucky Farmers. IMG-7308Fayette County Public School’s (FCPS) Nutrition Department (KY) worked closely with their Farm to School program to coordinate the Fayette Farm to School Challenge, a weeklong program filled with taste tests, cafeteria guests and educational programs to help increase student participation.

The Fayette Farm to School program worked to promote the educational aspect to families, students and staff, while the FCPS School Nutrition Department procured and prepared local menu items for the week. They featured recipes including cheesy chicken étouffée, an original created by District Chef Todd Gorrell, containing Kentucky sweet potatoes and butternut squash. The week also showcased how kid-favorites, like hot dogs and Sloppy Joe’s, could be made healthier, using locally-sourced produce and local farm-raised meats. Read more…