Study: Giving a boring food a cool name helps children make healthier meal choices

Sept. 14, 2013, Star Gazette

By Bob Jamieson

Cornell University experts have found ways to get America’s school kids to eat healthier school lunches.

They say their techniques are low cost, even no cost, and nudge students to more nutritious offerings by manipulating the lunchroom environment.

“A lot of our work is experimental. We will actually go out in the field and run experiments in schools to see what will happen,” said David Just, associate professor and co-director of the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs. Continue reading

NYC school lunch menus serve up healthy eats

Sept. 5, 2013, Times Ledger

By Kevin Zimmerman

When New York City children shuffle into the cafeteria on Sept. 9 most probably won’t notice any changes at that first back-to-school lunch until they roll their trays up to the cash register.

For kids who pay for the mid-day meal, the price jumps up a quarter. But those children who qualify for reduced-cost meals will see their tabs fall from 25 cents to nothing.

“Two things are happening,” said Eric Goldstein, CEO of School Support Services. “We used to have paid, reduced and free lunches. Now we’ll just have paid and free. And for kids who pay, the cost is going from $1.50 to $1.75.” Continue reading

Fast food: Students struggle with healthy options in short lunch periods

Aug. 28, 2013, NBC Bay Area

By Joanna Lin

The green beans are portioned and displayed in orderly rows. The lasagnas are steaming up their plastic covers. The workers stand ready, their hair netted and aprons tied. The bell rings, and a stream of nearly 1,000 students flood in to Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School’s cafeteria, barely slowing as they load cardboard trays with apple juice, chicken wings, and sliced cucumbers.

Because lunch is free for all students at Bravo, in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, no one pauses to pay. Still, during the lunch rush this day in May, food service worker Rodelinda Gomez stops a few.

“Hey! Hey!” Gomez hollers to students with no greens on their trays. “Come on and get your vegetables. You have to get them!” Continue reading

Some districts quit healthier school lunch program; kids turn up their noses at low-cal meals

Aug. 27, 2013, The Washington Post

After just one year, some schools around the country are dropping out of the healthier new federal lunch program, complaining that so many students turned up their noses at meals packed with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that the cafeterias were losing money.

Federal officials say they don’t have exact numbers but have seen isolated reports of schools cutting ties with the $11 billion National School Lunch Program, which reimburses schools for meals served and gives them access to lower-priced food.

Districts that rejected the program say the reimbursement was not enough to offset losses from students who began avoiding the lunch line and bringing food from home or, in some cases, going hungry. Continue reading

USDA awards contract to Chobani Greek yogurt for school lunch test

July 26, 2013, The Post-Standard

By Mark Weiner

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded a contract to Chobani of Chenango County, N.Y., to supply four states with its Greek yogurt for a school lunch pilot program, according to members of New York’s congressional delegation.

Earlier this month, the USDA gave its permission for New York, Arizona, Idaho, and Tennessee to test Greek yogurt as a meat alternative in subsidized school lunches this school year. On July 29, Chobani was selected as the winning bidder to supply the yogurt. Continue reading

Minneapolis Public Schools food truck promotes healthy lunch for all kids

July 23, 2013, Twin Cities Daily Planet

By Margo Ashmore

“My son ate broccoli and carrots for the first time, seeing his peers do it. And the ranch dressing helped,” said Andrea Worsfeld, picnicking at Jackson Square Park [in Minneapolis, Minn.] with her 2-year-old son, his 6-week-old sibling, and another mother and her children. They’d come for swimming, but stumbled upon the free meals for kids offered from the Minneapolis Public Schools food truck.

Elijah Dodds and Bobbi Varichak, who staff the food truck, said they served 54 lunches on July 11. “The kids run to the truck when it comes,” Varichak said. “They are very thankful, they always say thank you.” Continue reading

USDA’s new nutrition standards mean healthier food options in school vending machines and snack bars

June 27, 2013, USDA Office of Communications

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on June 27 that under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards, America’s students will be offered healthier food options during the school day.

“Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Parents and schools work hard to give our youngsters the opportunity to grow up healthy and strong, and providing healthy options throughout school cafeterias, vending machines, and snack bars will support their great efforts.”

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools — beyond the federally-supported meals programs. The “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards…reflect USDA’s thoughtful consideration and response to the nearly 250,000 comments received on the proposal earlier this year. Continue reading

Obesity: Pre-ordered lunch key to healthy eating

May 3, 2013, Medpage Today

By Joyce Frieden

Children who pre-ordered their school lunches are more likely to choose healthy foods than children who made spontaneous lunch choices, a small study found.

“When students did not order but instead selected their entrée as they entered the lunch line, it appears that hunger-based, spontaneous selection diminished healthy entrée selection by 48 percent and increased less healthy entrée selection by 21 percent,” Andrew Hanks, Ph.D., of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and colleagues reported in a research letter published online in JAMA Pediatrics in conjunction with the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting. Continue reading

Fruit, not fries: Lunchroom makeovers nudge kids toward better choices

April 2, 2013, NPR [The Salt Blog]

By Kevin Charles Redmond

Gone are the days of serving up tater tots and French toast sticks to students. Here are the days of carrot sticks and quinoa.

New nutritional guidelines announced in 2012 require public school lunchrooms to offer more whole grains, low-fat milk, and fewer starchy sides like french fries. But short of stationing grandmothers in every cafeteria, how do you ensure that students actually eat the fruits and veggies they’re being offered?

A minor lunchroom makeover could make a big difference, says Andrew Hanks, a behavioral economist at Cornell University. Continue reading

Strict school lunch standards tied to healthy weight

April 8, 2013, Reuters

By Andrew M. Seaman

Strict school lunch standards that are similar to new regulations from the U.S. government may be tied to healthier body weights among students, according to a new study.

“I think it’s evidence that healthier school lunches have a positive effect but it’s preliminary evidence. It’s far from definitive,” said Anne Barnhill, who studies food policy at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia but was not involved with the new research.

The new findings, published in JAMA Pediatrics on April 8, bode well for the standards introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in January 2012 that — among other moves — set maximums for calories offered during lunch and mandate that only skim or reduced-fat milk are offered to students. Continue reading