Tag Archives: School Lunches

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.

 

Fed Up: Let’s Really Move Big Food Out of School Lunches

Sugar Isn’t the Only Villain in our Surging Obesity Epidemic

Katie Couric’s new documentary Fed Up is an eye-opening experience for most Americans. As the film shows, it’s nearly impossible to exercise your way out of eating pepperoni pizza, greasy fries, and a glass of low-fat chocolate milk—typical fare in K-12 school lunch rooms and family restaurant chains throughout the country. Exercise isn’t enough. We need to change what we’re eating.

healthy-school-lunches
But that’s where Fed Up misfires. It takes aim at sugar as if it is the sole devil in the lunchroom. But scapegoating sugar removes the much-deserved blame from the avalanche of meat and dairy piling up on the center of our plates – and school lunch trays. No amount of sugar reduction is going to help if people are still going for the meat and dairy.

A gram of sugar has only 4 calories. A gram of fat—from cheese, chicken, beef, or anywhere else has 9.

Compared with a century ago, Americans now eat 75 pounds more meat and 30 pounds more cheese per person, per year. In the last 30 years, consumption of cheese has tripled, fueling our childhood obesity epidemic.

Meat and cheese are the fatty staples of the standard American diet. The same diet has a hold on the National School Lunch Program: The sugar industry spent $9 million dollars lobbying in 2013, compared to the combined $17.5 million from the meat, dairy, and poultry industries.

Local beef burgers, pulled barbecue chicken, and turkey sausage need to come with parental permission slips. Countless research studies, including a recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, show consumption of meat doubles diabetes risk. One in 3 children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in their life. One in 5 now graduates high school with a diploma and high cholesterol, an early marker for heart disease, which remains the number one killer worldwide.

While we work relentlessly to teach our students about strong work ethics, academic integrity, and kindness, I can’t say we offer the same when it comes to federal subsidies and nutrition education programs.

The good news is leading medical organizations, including Kaiser Permanente, and political figures, such as former president Bill Clinton, are revolutionizing the way we think about diet and health. Science continues to show that when we make fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes the center of our plates and remove the meat and dairy, our waistlines dwindle, our health rapidly improves, and our need for medication plummets.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest organization of nutrition experts, updated its 2009 position paper to say that well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence. AND also finds people who follow vegetarian diets have a lower body mass index, lower risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of overall cancer.

Let’s really move plant-based foods to the center of our plates and see what happens.

Let’s Really Move School Lunch Ads
Op-Ed: Are Sugar and Sloth the Causes of Obesity?
Dr. Barnard’s Studies on Dietary Trends in America

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