Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice
Healthy Tips and Recipes for Institutions
Volume XII, Numbers 2 and 3 Summer 2006
Vegetarian and Vegan Foods in Schools
By Amie Hamlin
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) conducts surveys of foodservice directors
around the country. For the first time they asked if the school offered vegetarian
and vegan options. 25% of elementary, 30% of middle schools, and 36% of high
schools offer daily vegetarian meals (includes eggs and dairy). 5% of elementary,
6% of middle, and 10% of high schools offer vegan options (defined as no meat,
dairy, or animal products). What is not known is how many schools might have
included peanut butter and jelly or salads as vegetarian or vegan options, since
they are offered in so many schools. It would be interesting to know how many
schools are offering vegetarian options other than PB&J/salad, and to find
out what they are serving. That the SNA asked the question on its survey indicates
that there is interest in the subject.
New York City schools hired a professional chef, Jorge Collazo, and one of their
initiatives includes enhanced nutrition standards, to exceed USDA standards
with an emphasis on more plant-based proteins, among other changes. In addition,
the SchoolFood Plus initiative in New York City has as a main objective "Introducing
newly developed plant-based recipes, in cafeterias city-wide, that utilize foods
grown by New York farmers and procured by the NYC public school system."
SchoolFood Plus is a partnership of New York City Department of Education; Office
of SchoolFood; New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; New York
State Department of Agriculture and Markets; Teachers' College, Columbia University
and FoodChange, and was initially funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 2004.
Its goal is to improve the eating habits, health, and academic performance of
New York City public school children while strengthening the New York State
agricultural economy through the procurement of local, regional produce. FoodChange
is a non-profit that works to improve lives through education, nutrition, and
financial empowerment, with recipes that are solely plant-based.
Grady High School in Atlanta has a separate vegetarian lunch line, with options
like veggie burgers, eggrolls, pasta salad, vegetarian pizza, and sloppy joes
made of tofu. The vegetarian service was originally designed for 30 students
in a vegetarian club, and now up to one-third of the 1,200 students get on the
vegetarian line each day. Tom Callahan, the senior vice president of Sodexho,
a foodservice management company (contract management) which provides Grady's
foodservice, noted that Eugene, OR, and other progressive cities in the Pacific
Northwest, are beginning to look at vegetarian lines as well.
Appleton Central Schools in Appleton, Wisconsin made drastic changes to food
available in their public schools. But first they started by making those changes
in their high school for troubled youth. By eliminating all junk foods and artificial
ingredients, offering plenty of fresh whole foods, and a plant-based option
each day, they saw dramatic improvements in attendance, grades, and behavior.
The Bloomfield Central School District, in upstate New York, offers a farmers
market line complete with locally grown vegetables and fruits, whole grain and
bean salads, and two 5-gallon pots of soup each day, at least one of which is
vegan. They can hardly keep the farmers market line stocked, and the soups always
disappear by the end of the lunch periods.
Getting Kids to Like Oatmeal
One school was having a problem getting young children to eat oatmeal. The nutrition
committee got involved, and suggested some changes to the oatmeal, including
a change of name. The new oatmeal had chopped apples, cinnamon, and pure maple
syrup (only 1 teaspoon per serving) and a new name, apple pie oatmeal. It was
kicked off with two dozen balloons, flashing pins for the women serving the
children, a volunteer at the beginning of the lunch line telling the children
about the new apple pie oatmeal, and plain oatmeal to compare it to. The kids
got a fancy pencil for trying both and telling the nutrition committee volunteers
which one they liked most (and they could report if they didn't like it). Out
of 50 students, 4 liked the plain better, and the rest really liked the apple
pie oatmeal. The following week it was tried again, this time comparing peach
pie oatmeal with apple pie oatmeal. The mylar balloons were still flying from
the week before, and this week crazy straws were handed out as a reward for
trying the oatmeals. The result was 50/50 for apple versus peach, and now the
school will alternate the flavors each week. The total cost of the promotion
was $56, well worth it to get 50 children to try a healthy breakfast and to
find out that they like it.
USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (More Please!)
This USDA program which provided $9 million to 225 schools in eight states
and three Indian Tribal Organizations in the 2005/2006 school year encourages
increased consumption of fresh fruits (and dried) and vegetables. Participating
schools are able to purchase locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables,
which then are provided free to the children as snacks. These fruits and
vegetables are explicitly made available as snack foods, to be served at
any time of day other than during meals. They are not permitted to be part
of the school meal program. The pilot program showed that fresh fruits and
vegetables can be provided to children for $94/year per student, and that
students will eat fresh fruits and vegetables when given the opportunity.
Some schools reported lower sales of candy and other less nutritious foods,
increased attention in class, fewer visits to the school nurse, and a reduced
number of unhealthy snacks brought from home. They also felt that it increased
students' desire for a variety of fruits and vegetables, including less
familiar items such as kiwis and pears, and that it helped children who
would otherwise be hungry get more food. In 2004, the Child Nutrition and
Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act made the Fresh Fruit
and Vegetable Program
permanent. Participating states include: Washington, North Carolina, Idaho,
Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin,
New Mexico, Texas, and Connecticut.
Department of Defense (DOD) Protecting Our Children
The USDA was exploring ways to provide more fresh fruits and vegetables
to children. The Department of Defense, Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia
(DSCP) operates a huge nationwide purchasing and distribution program of
high quality American grown fresh fruits and vegetables. In 1995 they partnered
to begin a pilot project to supply fresh fruits and vegetables directly
to schools while also making deliveries to military and other sites.
The program is open to all states, and is currently operating in 43 states,
the District of Columbia, as well as several US territories and is funded
at $50 million. Schools are also allowed to use other funds (federal and
state reimbursements) to purchase additional produce from the DOD, and in
2005 spent an additional $20 million. The DOD works to procure as much produce
as possible regionally. States have the ability to limit the types of produce
their schools may order.
Food is Elementary (www.foodstudies.org)
is a wonderful multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary, food-based curriculum,
which teaches children about food and other information from different cultures.
Children cook the food in the classroom, and the hands-on experiences really
turn them on to foods they wouldn't otherwise try. Food is Elementary won
a USDA award for the most creative implementation of the US Dietary Guidelines.
Antonia Demas, author of Food is Elementary, showed that if children can
see, feel, smell, touch, prepare, and experience different foods, they will
try them if offered in a cafeteria environment and even request them at
FoodChange's Cookshop (www.foodchange.org)
is a New York City program. It is similar to Food is Elementary, but it's
focus is on locally grown foods and teaches children how to cook using 10
different fruits and vegetables grown in New York State, while teaching
the children about the farmers who grew the food, how it grew, and more.
New York Coalition for Healthy School Lunches (www.healthylunches.org)
offers some activity sheets and instructions for activities that teach children
about the fat and sugar in foods. In addition they offer a music CD by Jay
Mankita with songs about healthy foods for elementary children, as well
as activities/lessons to go along with each song. The CD will be available
in the fall of 2006.
Center for Science in the Public Interest (www.smartmouth.org)
has a great children's computer game that teaches kids about the food industry.
Steps to Change
It's really important that if you want to create change in your
cafeteria, you must work with, not against, the foodservice director. Recognize
the difficult circumstances they work under and see if you can problem solve
together as a team. Remember, too, that the cafeteria is just one part of the
whole school food environment, and changes must be made whenever food is available
in schools, so that when students go to school, they get a consistent message
wherever they are in the building.
Excerpts from the Summer
Adding Vegetarian Options into School
by Nancy Berkoff, EdD, RD, CCE
Food Service Hotline
Vegetarian and Vegan Foods in Schools
by Amie Hamlin
School Foods 101
Vegetarian Quantity Recipes
Veggie Pita Delight
Chili "con soya" with Beans
Vegan Pumpkin Pie
Apple Crisp with a Crunchy Granola Topping
Return to the main Food Service page (Vegetarian
Journal's FoodService Update and Quantity Cooking Information with links to
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