Brain foods

In the Tulsa (Okla.) Public School District, special menus were created to enhance the students' brain function during testing weeks. More fresh fruit and whole-grain options were added to the menus, as well as those options that are high in antioxidants. During the program, breakfast participation increased 4.3%.

At A Glance: Tulsa Public Schools

•Nearly 43,000 students in 88 schools

•42,150 reimbursable meals served daily

•74% free and reduced

•Breakfast participation increased 4.3% during testing weeks, April 10-25, when Brain Foods were served

•60 elementary schools served Brain Foods at both breakfast and lunch

•Brain Foods menus increased offerings of fresh fruits and protein while decreasing or eliminating high sugar items


Since 2002, when No Child Left Behind was signed into law, the importance of testing in schools has increased as administrators try to meet academic standards to receive federal funding. In the nearly 43,000-student Tulsa (Okla.) Public Schools, Child Nutrition Services teamed up with the district’s brain-based learning teacher—a teacher who develops educational techniques based on current psychological and neurological research in order to provide a classroom environment that is conducive to learning—to offer foods during testing weeks that, it is hoped, would increase students’ memory and attention, enhance learning and, ultimately, increase test scores.

Concentration: “This whole thing started when an administrator asked if we could serve grapes at breakfast during testing week because research had shown grapes helped a lot with things like concentration,” says Lisa Griffin, the district’s child nutrition coordinator at this Sodexo account. From this simple question, a new program was launched: Brain Foods. “I asked him if there were any other foods that the research had found to be helpful, and he said to contact Lynn McKenney. I did and that’s how Brain Foods started.”

For her part, McKenney, pathwise specialist—a teacher who supports new teachers in their first two years in education—and the district’s brain-based learning teacher, says: “We didn’t want our foods to fight against efforts the children were making in the classroom. We know that food and nutrition builds brain function, so we wanted to do something to complement what the teachers were doing in the classrooms with nutrition.”

During testing weeks, foods that were proven by research to increase the brain’s cognition, memory and alertness were substituted for the regular offerings. “Most of the foods we wanted were high in antioxidants and also high in fiber, so that there is a slow release of glucose and not a fast one that causes the blood sugars to vary,” Griffin says. “We also wanted foods high in protein, which is good for keeping the blood sugars level so students can perform well.”

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
fish tacos

From High Liner Foods.

Younger consumers are driving an increased focus on sustainability, and more consumers overall are demanding a wider variety of seafood on menus. With shifting interest in seafood, operators need to be familiar with the seafood consumer—who they are, what they’re looking for and when they eat it—to more effectively boost interest in seafood dishes.

Understand consumer habits

Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian report finds that 65% of consumers eat seafood at least occasionally (once every 90 days or more), either as an...

Industry News & Opinion

The Missouri House of Representatives has initially approved a bill that would enable students with dietary issues to forgo mandatory meal plans at public colleges and universities, U.S. News reports.

Approved Tuesday, the bill would grant students with medical documentation of food sensitivities, food allergies or medical dietary issues the right to opt out of meal plans.

Supporters of the bill say it will allow students to not have to pay for food they can’t safely eat, while opponents say that the bill will negatively impact schools financially. According to legislative...

Industry News & Opinion

A study released by Sodexo indicates that gender-balanced management improves team performance.

The 2018 study is an expansion of a previous Sodexo study that launched in 2014. The expanded study analyzed 50,000 managers in all levels of management from 70 entities around the world over five years.

The study found that teams managed by 40% to 60% women had better employee and client retention, saw fewer workplace accidents and increased their operating margins and employee engagement.

Industry News & Opinion

Rick Farmer, executive chef for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and Stephanie Powers, executive chef of Spring Harbor, a retirement community in Columbus, Ga., were crowned the winners of MenuDirections’ 2018 Culinary Competition.

Split into teams of two, chefs had 60 minutes to prepare and plate their own entrees using a preselected basket of ingredients such as beans, mushrooms and orange sauce. Each dish was judged on its presentation, taste and creativity.

The winning dish was orange glazed pork with a black bean and wild mushroom cake topped...

FSD Resources