Chef-made meals can increase participation school lunch program, raise vegetable consumption

Sept. 30, 2014, News Medical

Gourmet pizza in school? According to a new Food and Brand Lab pilot study, published in Appetite, chef-made meals can increase participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) by 9 percent and overall selection and consumption of vegetables by 16 percent.

Chefs Move to Schools (CMTS), an initiative of [first lady] Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, pairs chefs with schools in order to provide nutrition instruction to students and culinary advice to interested school food service workers.

At a recent CMTS event at an Upstate New York high school (of 370 students), researchers David Just and Brian Wansink (co-directors of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab) and Andrew Hanks [also of the Cornell lab], collected and analyzed school lunch sales and tray waste data before and after the event to determine its impact on student’s food selection and consumption. The professional chef arrived three days ahead of the date of the event to meet the lunchroom staff and observe student preferences. She also held a tasting event after school for students to meet her and taste the foods she was going to prepare for lunch the following day. To comply with the NSLP requirements for a reimbursable meal each student must select one entree, a [carton of milk], and three sides. The chef created five new NSLP compliant entree recipes: meat taco pizza, bean taco pizza, garlic spinach pizza, meat lover’s pizza, and a mozzarella burger. She also prepared a new pre-packaged side salad. Each of these new items was offered as an optional alternative to the regular school lunch choices: pizza or burger, canned fruit and green beans, broccoli and milk. Continue reading

CDC report shows U.S. still not eating enough fruits and veggies

Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables eaten by children and adults is an important step toward preventing and reducing obesity in the United States and lowering the risk of developing many chronic diseases.

The newest edition of the State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables (2013) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides state-by-state information on fruit and vegetable consumption. It also presents environmental and policy indicators that measure a state’s ability to support consumption of fruits and vegetables through increased access and availability in schools and communities. Continue reading

Cheaper fruits and vegetables alone can’t save food deserts

Nov. 15, 2012, Minnesota Public Radio

By Eliza Barclay

Tens of millions of Americans can’t follow the government’s guidelines for healthful eating because they can’t afford or access enough fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes it’s because they live in what’s known as a “food desert,” places devoid of markets with a good variety of quality fresh foods.

Increasingly, researchers want to understand just how the “food environment” — where people buy food, what food is available, food prices, and how food is marketed to the consumer — has become the problem. And even as cities from Philadelphia to Chicago to Detroit mobilize to hydrate the food deserts, it’s becoming clear that even if you make fresh produce affordable, people may not buy it. Continue reading