Tag Archives: School Lunches

More Milk, More Problems

milk-fracture

Science Contradicts Milk Marketing

This week, another study has illustrated that milk actually has a negative effect on bone health. Researchers in Sweden published findings in the British Medical Journal showing that women who drink milk have a higher incidence of bone fractures—and an increased risk of mortality from heart disease and cancer.

According to the study, women who consume three or more glasses of milk per day have a 60 percent increased risk of developing a hip fracture and a 93 percent increased risk of death. And each glass of milk increases mortality risk by 15 percent.

However, this news should not come as a shock to anyone outside of the dairy industry’s advertising department. A 2005 review in Pediatrics showed that milk has no effect on preventing stress fractures in girls. In fact, the research linked higher milk consumption with higher fracture risk.

For strong, healthy bones, it’s important to have enough calcium and vitamin D. However, animal products tend to leech calcium from bones, yet plant foods do not have this effect. One cup of collards has 268 mg of calcium. Spinach has 245 mg in a single cup, while a cup of soybeans has 261 mg. When you take fortified orange juice and fortified tofu into account, it’s easy to obtain more than the daily calcium recommendation of 1,000 mg.

Regardless of what milk marketers would have you believe, vitamin D is not naturally occurring in dairy milk. Last week, we examined a recent Canadian study suggesting that children who consumed dairy milk had higher levels of vitamin D. After reviewing the research, we learned that the dairy milk was fortified—while the plant milks were not. Any fortified non-dairy beverage can provide the necessary nutrients, without the cholesterol and saturated fat found in milk.

The science is there: milk does a body bad. Let’s wipe off the milk mustaches and remove milk from the school lunch line. To learn how you can help get milk out of schools, visit www.HealthySchoolLunches.org.

10th Anniversary of the Golden Carrot Award

golden-carrot-award-10th-anniversaryThe Physicians Committee’s Golden Carrot Award is celebrating its 10th Anniversary! Since 2004, the Golden Carrot Award has acknowledged schools and food service directors who work to create programs that encourage students to eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, and plant-based meals for improved health and disease prevention. Every year, school food service directors submit applications detailing their menus, and Physicians Committee doctors and dietitians declare the winners based on which schools provide the best nutrition environments for students.

I’m excited to announce the 2014 Golden Carrot Award winners:
MUSE School CA, based in Calabasas, Calif.
Desert Garden Montessori School in Phoenix, Ariz.
Lincoln Public School District in Lincoln, Neb.

Over the past decade, the Golden Carrot Award has celebrated dozens of delicious plant-based lunches, Meatless Mondays, school gardens, and an all-vegetarian cafeteria! The Golden Carrot Award predates Let’s Move, the Smart Snacks in Schools program, and even the school soda bans.

While we are excited to see many school menus improve, we need to continue look beyond soda and potato chips to the main culprits of childhood obesity: meat and dairy. Cheese is the top source of saturated fat in the American diet, and a cup of nonfat milk has more sugar than a serving of Frosted Flakes. Milk is also linked to both prostate and ovarian cancers. When it comes to red and processed meat, just one serving per day increases the risk of death from cancer and heart disease. With these risks, it’s hard to believe that some schools still serve pepperoni pizza and ham sandwiches.

But by moving plant-based fare to the center of the tray, we can conquer these statistics by helping students crave delicious disease-fighting foods. Children love fruits and vegetables, when you give them the chance. Carrot coins, filled with nutritious beta-carotene, went as fast as Halloween candy at a recent nutrition lecture with more than 100 students in Montgomery County Public Schools.

After 10 years, what we know for sure is teaching students about preventive nutrition is a community effort. I encourage parents, doctors, and teachers to continue to team up to shape the future health of our next generation.

Fortunately, our Golden Carrot Award winners are leading the way. I’m looking forward to the next 10 years of award applicants and seeing firsthand how more and more schools are shifting toward nutritious, plant-based fare!

Students at Desert Garden Montessori eating lunch.

Students at Desert Garden Montessori eating lunch.

For information and resources, please visit www.HealthySchoolLunches.org .

Kids Love Kale—No Biggie!

“When I have a kid who says ‘I love kale!’ that’s a big deal.” That’s what Robert Groff, principal of New York City’s P.S. 244, The Active Learning Elementary School, told congressional staffers at a recent Physicians Committee event on Capitol Hill. But soon it won’t be such a big deal, thanks to the work TALES and other schools are doing to make healthy school lunches the new norm.

Groff knows that kids will love vegetables and legumes—and won’t miss mystery meat—if food service directors just give them a chance. He noted the positive changes—including added energy and lower BMI—in his students after the school moved to an all-vegetarian menu. And the statistics support him.

In the New York City 2012-13 school year, 21 percent of public school students were overweight or obese. But that statistic is changing, and severe obesity in New York City public school students has decreased. Some officials credit this to healthful school lunch menu changes, acknowledging that providing kids with fruit instead of fruit snacks—and beans instead of burgers—can make a huge difference in their health.

A sample healthful school lunch tray from the Physicians Committee briefing on Capitol Hill.

A sample healthful school lunch tray from the Physicians Committee briefing on Capitol Hill.

Groff is not alone in revolutionizing school lunches. Broward County’s program manager for nutrition education and training Darlene Moppert, chef Anne Cooper (aka the Renegade Lunch Lady from Boulder, Colo.), and many other school food administrators are dedicated to providing healthful lunches for their students. For the past 10 years, the Physicians Committee has presented the Golden Carrot Award to school food service directors who perform exceptional work providing healthful school lunches. Just a decade ago, it was difficult to find schools offering low-fat, plant-based options. But as more and more administrators realize that providing kids nutritious meals has positive effects lasting long after the lunch bell rings, it’s getting harder to pick a single winner!

Despite the school lunch food fight going on in Congress, there is something we can all do to highlight the good results that come from subbing fruits and veggies for hot dogs and hamburgers. Do you know a school food service director who has gone above and beyond to champion students by helping his or her school serve low-fat, high-fiber meals? Nominate the director for our 2014 Golden Carrot Award! Applications are due by Aug. 15. Learn more and submit an application.

 

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