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

Learning gardens seek to combat childhood obesity

Dec. 26, 2012, Colorado Springs Gazette

By Erin Prater

Give a child the proverbial choice between candy and a carrot, and he’ll likely choose candy — unless he helped grow the carrot.

The hypothesis was one of many posited by District 11 dietician Jamie Humphrey last fall as she helped to launch a large garden at the Galileo School of Math and Science.

The students proved her right.

“The little cherry tomatoes are so sweet — the kids just eat them up like they’re going out of style,” she said. 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