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Team Nutrition

Taking Action for School Nutrition Success

Developing a school menu of healthy, student-approved meals is challenging, make no mistake about it.  But it is achievable with the right support and resources.  That’s why the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN) have partnered to create the Team Up for School Nutrition Success (Team Up) initiative.

Team Up provides school nutrition professionals the opportunity to network and learn best practices from their peers.  Those who have developed tips and tricks to create delicious school menus, increase participation, practice food safety and manage financially-sound program budgets. And with the help and guidance of peer mentors, Team Up attendees can turn their ideas into goals by creating focused action plans for their district.

Local School Wellness Policy Toolkit Now Available

New resources are now available to help school districts engage parents and school staff in Local School Wellness Policy efforts.  A Local School Wellness Policy is a written document that guides school district’s efforts to establish a school environment that promotes students’ health, well-being and ability to learn.  It’s important for parents and school staff to be a part of this process so the wellness policy is representative of both the community and student’s needs.  

The Food and Nutrition Service’s Team Nutrition initiative has developed a free Local Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit that school districts and schools can customize to communicate information about their Local School Wellness Policy to parents and staff.  The kit includes:

Team Up and Show Your Spirit for School Meals!

The school nutrition community is celebrating National School Lunch Week from October 10-14. This year’s theme “Show Your Spirit” is all about encouraging parents, students and school officials to show their spirit for school lunch. Through the Team Up for School Nutrition Success (Team Up) initiative, school nutrition professionals have teamed up to provide nutritious and appealing meals to students, offering plenty of reasons for all of us to show spirit for awesome school meals!

The Team Up initiative, created through a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN), provides school nutrition professionals a unique learning experience.  The initiative is designed to enhance schools’ food service operations by providing training and peer-to-peer mentorship to school nutrition professionals who want to maintain a healthy environment and strong student meal program participation. The goal of this training is to help schools find simple ways to meet the updated USDA nutrition standards from the 2010 Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA), while increasing the number of students enjoying healthy and flavorful school meals.

Celebrating Progress: National School Lunch Week 2016

Cross-posted from the Food Research and Action Center blog:

Last week, children from more than a dozen schools and child care centers across the nation joined First Lady Michelle Obama for her final harvest of the White House garden. This event was more than just photo ops and shaking hands; kids got their hands dirty, harvesting the produce they later used to prepare a healthy meal. This was a neat experience for the students who participated, but it was also representative of the types of activities students are participating in all around the country. School gardens, nutritious snacks, farm to lunch tray meals, and nutrition education are all part of the healthier school environments students are experiencing each and every day.

Today kicks off National School Lunch Week 2016 and continues our month-long observance of Farm to School Month, and this year, there’s a lot to celebrate. More than 50 million children around the country attend schools that participate in USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Not only are their meals full of nutritious foods – with 99 percent of schools nationwide reporting that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards – their entire learning environment fosters healthy habits now and throughout the rest of their lives. The Smart Snacks Final Rule aligned the standards for snacks offered to students during the school day with the nutrition standards that apply to lunch and breakfast. In addition, the recently published Local School Wellness Policy Final Rule ensures that any food and beverage marketing kids are exposed to during the school day must adhere to the Smart Snacks standards, sending a consistent, positive message to students about the importance of healthy eating.

Back to School with Student-Led Smarter Lunchrooms

Teenagers at several schools across the country are working together with school nutrition staff to make changes to the school cafeteria.  Informed by Smarter Lunchrooms’ research, these students are promoting healthful foods to their peers and having a say in menu offerings.  Team Nutrition Training Grants help fund a number of school activities that engage students in nutrition education and wellness activities.  To learn more about Team Nutrition Training Grant activities, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/team-nutrition-training-grants.

The following guest blog describes how Iowa high school students worked with school nutrition staff to alter the way fruits and vegetables are offered in their school cafeteria. Following the changes, other students have taken notice of the new colorful displays, creative menu names, and signs promoting the salad bars. Reading their story, you’ll learn about innovative ways to engage youth in school wellness efforts.

By Carrie Scheidel, MPH, Team Nutrition Co-Director, Iowa Department of Education

As teachers prepared their classrooms for the new school year, school nutrition professionals and students in Iowa were working to make their lunchrooms smarter.   A partnership between the University of Iowa Public Policy Center – College of Public Health, Iowa Department of Education, and five Iowa high schools worked to apply Smarter Lunchrooms’ techniques to make healthy choices easier at school.

Students Get Involved in School Lunch through School Lunch Advisory Councils

There are many ways Team Nutrition schools are involving students in the development of school meal menus and health promotion activities.  These activities can help schools offer nutritious foods in a manner that appeals to children and can help students learn about nutrition and school foodservice.  This guest blog highlights promising strategies for involving students in school meals through the use of School Lunch Advisory Councils.  It also describes how Montana students are playing a role in helping their schools implement Smarter Lunchrooms techniques to reduce food waste and increase consumption of healthful foods.  

Interested in implementing Smarter Lunchrooms techniques at your school? Get started with this free self-assessment checklist from the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Program. Team Nutrition provides nutrition education materials, training tools, and grants to assist schools in creating healthier environments. Learn more about Team Nutrition and how to become a Team Nutrition school at http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/team-nutrition.

Think Nutrition as High School Students Return to School

The start of the school year is a great time to get high school students thinking about the nutrition and physical activity choices they make. USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) and Team Nutrition have a variety of resources available to support high school educators as they guide students on their path to good health.

SuperTracker Lesson Plans for High School Students

CNPP has just released updated SuperTracker Nutrition Lesson Plans for High School Students. This free nutrition education resource for teachers, schools, and health educators helps students grades 9-12 learn how to build a healthy diet using MyPlate and SuperTracker, an interactive food and physical activity tracking tool. Originally released in 2014, the lesson plans have been updated to reflect the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and two new lessons have been added.

Massachusetts' Smarter Lunchrooms Movement

Through the Team Nutrition initiative, USDA provides grants to state agencies to expand and enhance their training and educational activities to help schools provide appealing and nutritious meals, nutrition education and healthier school environments. These efforts are designed to help children get the nutrition they need to learn, grow and be healthy.  In addition to grants, Team Nutrition provides free nutrition education materials to schools, child care settings and summer meal sites that participate in the Child Nutrition programs.

By Samantha Therrien, graduate student, Framingham State University Food and Nutrition Program & Karen McGrail, MEd, RDN, LDN, Director, the John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition at Framingham State University

It’s that time again! As students head back to school many school nutrition programs across Massachusetts are continuing to use Smarter Lunchrooms strategies gained through their participation in a USDA Team Nutrition grant. The research-based Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, established at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Program, focuses on creating sustainable lunchrooms that make the healthy choice, the easy choice for students. The Movement is based on the idea that even small, low-cost changes can make a big difference, and Massachusetts schools are benefitting from this first-hand.

New MyPlate Resources for Families

It’s that time again…back-to-school season is upon us. It’s an exciting time of year for kids, offering a new beginning with the promise of new friends and new experiences. It’s also a great time for families to establish a new routine and work together toward a healthier lifestyle. ChooseMyPlate.gov and Team Nutrition just launched new resources to help your family eat better together, including printable activity sheets, tips for making mealtimes fun and stress-free, and videos featuring real families who share healthy eating solutions that work for them.

Serving Spoons and Healthy Habits – Encouraging Positive Mealtimes and Supporting Family Style Meals in Child Care New materials available as part of Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children: Provider Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Progr

From the foods we serve to the conversations we share, involving young children in mealtimes creates a positive eating environment for everyone to enjoy. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides almost 4 million nutritious meals and snacks each day to children and adults in child care and group day care settings. These mealtimes provide a tremendous opportunity to help children establish healthy eating habits. CACFP providers are engaging children in cooking, serving, and other mealtime activities as a way to get children interested in new foods and to encourage healthful eating behaviors. 

On July 20, 2016, USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) addressed these important topics by adding two new supplemental materials to an existing, comprehensive resource for CACFP providers, Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children: Provider Handbook for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The new supplements, Create a Positive Meal Environment and Support Family Style Meals, offer fun ways child care providers can continue to create positive meal environments and adopt family style meals with children in their care. Through these practices, child care provides can help children try new foods, recognize foods from different food groups in a meal, and practice table manners. Both additions also offer tips and suggestions for including nutrition education activities during and outside of mealtimes.