New school meal regs get the spotlight at SNA

Experts said with focus on scratch-cooking districts have been able to keep up with regulations.

July 19—With new federal standards for school meals going into effect this month, and a renewed focus on the issue brought by the first lady, Michelle Obama, thousands of school chefs, food service workers and nutrition experts from around the country gathered in Denver this week at an annual conference put on by the School Nutrition Association.

As vendors hawked samples of every imaginable school fare—whole-grain rolls, turkey sandwiches, pizza squares—cooks and school food administrators traded tips on how to improve their schools’ cuisine. These improvements must be made as part of the new federal Department of Agriculture nutrition standards for school meals, which seemed to be the main topic of conversation.

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Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

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