Each month, the Tasting of the Rainbow initiative gives students the opportunity to sample a different fruit or vegetable as part of the school meals program. Since research has repeatedly shown the importance of frequent exposures to new foods for improved acceptance, this is a tremendous opportunity to expand students’ healthy food favorites. Recently featured foods include asparagus, butternut squash, jicama, and eggplant.
“Grow it, know it, try it … love it!” is the phrase coined by the National Gardening Association to describe the nationwide effort to get students interested in gardening. School gardens provide wonderful opportunities for learning experiences which allow students to be involved with growing, harvesting, preparing, and ultimately eating healthy fruits and vegetables.
School gardens continue to grow in Anne Arundel County. A partnership with the Department of Health and the Department of Recreation and Parks afford many students in the county a first-hand experience on how food grows.
Unlimited Fruits and Vegetables
Included with every school lunch served in Anne Arundel County Public Schools is our one of kind, unlimited, fresh fruit and vegetable offering. A minimum of two fresh fruits and three fresh vegetables are featured daily. Dramatic increases in the consumption of these important foods have been noted since this option began a few years ago.
The Summer Food Service Program was created from the realization that the need for learning and good nutrition don’t stop when the regular school year ends. “Food that’s in when school is out” is the motto of this essential USDA program. Its goal is to provide critically needed nutrition during summer break by serving free meals to children ages 2 to 18. Summer 2012 meals were served at multiple school sites which were completely open to the public and also at various other summer school and camp sites across the county.
Farm to School
Farm to School is an initiative which is jointly administered by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland State Department of Education. It’s an opportunity to bring special attention to schools which feature Maryland grown foods as part of school meals. Through this collaboration, students learn where their food comes from, how it’s produced, and the positive health benefits of eating these items. In addition, it supports local farmers and decreases the impact of food transport on the environment. Activities culminate with the annual Home Grown School Lunch Week, celebrated each September as part of the back to school festivities.
Not only do we celebrate in September, Anne Arundel County Public Schools continues to purchase local fruits and vegetables from within a 150 mile radius throughout the school year, depending on availability.
School Meals Make Over
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is resulting in the first major change in school meals in 15 years. Its goal is to raise a healthier generation by aligning new child nutrition program standards with the recommendations of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The result will be an increase in the amounts and types of fruits and vegetables offered, more whole grain items on the menu, and calorie ranges more closely aligned with the needs of students at different ages.
Long range requirements are geared toward substantially decreasing sodium content.
Weekly targets for the amounts of dark green and red/orange vegetables have been established along with requirements for beans/peas and other vegetables to ensure that a wide variety of the critical nutrients from these foods are provided.
Anne Arundel County Public Schools Food & Nutrition Services continually strives to improve and expand our services to students and families in order to provide nutritious and affordable meals. It’s safe to say that this on-going commitment will be advanced by the much anticipated makeover of school cafes. New signage featuring fun, brightly colored designs will soon be incorporated into each school café to further the goal of promoting health choices such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and milk as part of the “Healthy Students, Healthy Schools! Cultivating Communities of Wellness” theme.