Health knowledge made personal
Join this community!
› Share page:
Go
Search posts:

Feeding Kids Better Food and Teaching Them About Food Helps Them Make Better Food Choices!

Posted Sep 23 2010 12:11pm

Feeding Kids Better Food and Teaching Them About Food Helps Them Make Better Food Choices!


For four years I was the Nutrition Services Director for Berkeley Unified School District .  The four years was a roller coaster ride of changing the food from a menu of highly processed chicken nuggets, corn dogs, Extremo burritos, pizza pockets and grilled cheese sandwiches, all of which came to us frozen and prepackaged, to fresh food made from scratch.  When I first started in Berkeley these pre-packaged items, which were served in the packaging, with sides of canned vegetables and canned fruit, with nary a serving of fresh produce in sight, were the mainstay of the menus.

Five years later the program looks very different.  All of the food is cooked from scratch in the Central Kitchen at King Middle School by a team of trained chefs and cooks.  Much of the food is procured regionally and seasonally, there are gardens in every school and cooking classes in most of the schools.  Berkeley serves Universal Breakfast to every student, there are salad bars in every school, there is no vending, almost no ala carte and fresh fruit and vegetables are served every day.

Over the years many articles and videos have been written and presented on Berkeley’s program.  Many in the media and in the school food world have either strongly supported the work or strongly opposed it.  For those opposing the most oft sited reasons are that it is not financially viable or that it doesn’t work or doesn’t make a difference.

Well today I am proud to share an evaluation done by the UC Berkeley Center for Weight and Health that is being released this week.  The highlights of the evaluation are:

“The report finds that the School Lunch Initiative (SLI) was effective in increasing student nutrition knowledge as well as preference for and consumption of healthy food, especially among elementary school students. Students’ attitudes about the taste and health value of school lunch improved as changes were put in place. It also found that continued School Lunch Initiative exposure into middle school may play an important role in mitigating the negative changes in eating behaviors that typically occur during adolescence.

More specifically, the key findings are:

More than half of the families of students in the study reported eating dinner together every day. However, fewer than 30 percent of households reported involving their child in meal preparation.

Parents with children in schools that coupled improvements in school lunch with classroom learning and cooking and gardening classes were more likely than students in schools with lesser-developed programs to say that school affected their child’s knowledge, attitudes, and behavior in relation to food.

60 percent in highly developed programs said school changed their child’s knowledge about healthy food choices, compared to 36 percent in lesser developed programs.

42 percent in highly developed programs said school changed their child’s attitudes about food, compared to 19 percent in lesser-developed programs.

35 percent in highly developed programs said school improved their child’s eating habits, compared to 16 percent in lesser-developed programs.

Students in schools that coupled improvements in school lunch with classroom learning and cooking and gardening classes scored higher on nutrition knowledge than those in schools with lesser-developed programs.

Preference for fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, was clearly greater in schools that coupled improvements in school lunch with classroom learning and cooking and gardening classes. In fact, younger students in these schools increased fruit and vegetable intake by nearly one and a half servings per day.

Middle school students exposed to highly developed programs were more likely than those in lesser-developed ones to:

Feel positive about eating food served at school
Like the cafeteria
Think produce tastes better in season
Agree that eating choices can help or hurt the environment

Continued exposure to healthy school lunches coupled with classroom learning and cooking and gardening classes in middle school may sustain increases in fruit and vegetable intake.”

Both the Executive Summary and the Full Report can be found on The Lunch Box website.

    A related photography study of the contents and consumption of student lunches chosen at school and brought from home was conducted for the Network for a Healthy California at the evaluation elementary schools in Year Two. The Network funds the cooking and garden programs at the schools with highly developed School Lunch Initiative components. Students at the schools with highly developed School Lunch Initiative garden and cooking components had more vegetables on their plate and consumed about 0.25 cup more vegetables than at the schools with lesser-developed School Lunch Initiative garden and cooking components. Students who ate school lunch consumed more than three times as many vegetables as students who brought lunch from home.


The other issue that is often brought up is financial viability and sustainability.  As BUSD begins its fifth year of SLI, the program is sustainable and systemic, as well as financially viable.  Participation has continued to climb and the Nutrition Services Department has a fund balance and is budget neutral.  That being said, Berkeley does get funding from a program that used to be called “Meals for Needy,” that allocates additional funding for both breakfast and lunch.

I believe that the result of all of this should mean that the USDA needs to allocate more money to school food as well as allocate funds for cooking and gardening classes, perhaps reauthorization , still stalled in Congress can help.  I believe that Berkeley is a replicable model and that school districts all across the country should and could make positive, sustainable, systemic change toward better school food.

Finally I believe that all of the NGOs, funders and advocates across the country need to come together to work on these issues, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move is certainly leading the way.  We all just need to do one thing to help provide better food for our kids – if we all just did one thing we could make an amazing difference.

On that note what we’re doing to support kids eating healthy is the Great American Salad Bar Project .  We’ve raised over $1.2 million and we’re going to give away over 500 salad bars.  Our goal is a salad bar in every school and through Berkeley’s success; we know this really makes a difference.  Visit our site and apply today!

Post a comment
Write a comment:

Related Searches