Month in FOCUS
| Feeling hot, hot, hot
Yep, it's hot -- and depending where you are, it seems there's either record-breaking drought or record-breaking rain. Welcome to the rest of summer.
And welcome, also, to our latest FOCUS stakeholders: San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative
, district partner to San Diego Unified School District, and Northern Virginia Healthy Kids Coalition
, district partner to Prince William County Public Schools!
Read on for:
- Exciting innovations from the newest FOCUS district, Minneapolis Public Schools
- An update on the Upper Midwest Regional Learning Lab
- FOCUS folks featured in the newest issue of Childhood Obesity
- A grant opportunity to help expand breakfast in the classroom
- Well-deserved recognition our districts have recently received
...and more, plus the usual updates on policy
, and upcoming events
Bertrand Weber brings his vision of 'real food' to life in Minneapolis Public Schools
Bertrand Weber, left, and Washburn High School chef Larry Jones set up the fresh sandwich bar (Credit: Star Tribune)
"I'm just excited the district hasn't stopped me," jokes Bertrand Weber, Director of Culinary and Nutrition Services at Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), about the kind of fast-paced change he's brought to the district's school food program since he took the position in January of this year.
Before Weber joined the district, all MPS meals were pre-pack rather than cooked in house, and participation was extremely low. With limited funds to work with, Weber has done a lot to make the most of a difficult situation. "I think we've moved faster than anyone anticipated. But it's hard to sit back. We've got to change," he says.
Since joining the team at MPS -- the newest FOCUS district -- Weber has brought his experience and perspective fully into the fold, assessing the landscape and recommending changes from day one. His prior positions with the smaller Hopkins School District, in a Minneapolis suburb, as well as a private food management company, were the stepping stones that led him to MPS.
While working on a farm to school project with Minneapolis Homegrown, his colleague Megan O'Hara mentioned that she wished Minneapolis could find someone passionate and knowledgeable to head up the school food department - someone like Weber. "I thought about it for a few days and decided it was time to come home and do good for my community."
Weber examined the operation and figured out what they could do right away to change the menu. "Within three months, I got everyone excited about serving real food. I'd ask, 'Would you eat what we serve?' If the answer was no, then I'd ask them to wonder why we were doing it," he remembers. To hear the rest of this incredible story of transformation, click here to jump to the FOCUS blog >>
|Latest from the Upper Midwest Regional Learning Lab
In July, Project Director Kymm Mutch created an official Readiness Assessment worksheet and sent it to prospective Upper Midwest Regional Learning Lab (UMRLL) districts to determine their current situations -- and what capacity they have for change.
Having received some illuminating answers, Kymm is now scheduling site visits for the month of August to each of the responding districts, and will use information gleaned from these in-person tours to continue the baseline evaluation process.
We're looking forward to taking the process to the next steps, and will keep you posted about new developments.
|FOCUS districts recognized for their great work|
Jefferson County Public Schools in Colorado has received big local buzz for its mobile Summer Lunch Club. Linda Stoll and her colleagues were faced with the
challenge of attracting kids to school cafeterias during the summer break for free summer meals. Instead, they decided to bring summer meals directly to the kids. Fashioned out of a school bus and retrofitted with a refrigerator, heating trays, tables and chairs, this "food truck" travels around the community at publicized stops to ensure eligible students get free meals in the summer. Click here for more, including a video segment and interview with Linda.
JeffCo's School Lunch Club bus
Houston Independent School District and Miami-Dade County Public Schools have been named as finalists for the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education, the largest education award in the country given to school districts. The prize is awarded each year to honor urban school districts that demonstrate the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement, while reducing achievement gaps among low-income and minority students. Each year, Broad Prize scholarships are awarded to graduating high school seniors in the finalist and winning districts who demonstrate a record of academic improvement during their high school careers, as well as have a financial need. The winning district will be announced at the event on Tuesday, October 23 in New York City. Good luck to both!
|FOCUS staff, stakeholders, allies featured in Childhood Obesity|
We're excited to share with you the August issue of the journal Childhood Obesity, a special issue all about school food. Within are two key pieces by FOCUS staff:
School Food: Point of View Matters [PDF] by Director of Strategic Development Kathy Lawrence and Executive Director Toni Liquori
A 'Real Chicken' Revolution: How Two Large Districts are Shifting the School Poultry Paradigm with Scratch Cooking [PDF] by Learning Lab Manager Laura Stanley and Learning Lab evaluators Kathryn Colasanti and David Conner
The issue also includes pieces from many FOCUS folks, from funders to allies to stakeholders -- including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Dr. Gail Christopher, USDA's Janey Thornton, Gail Feenstra and Jeri Ohmart of UC Davis, Andrew Nowak of Slow Food Denver, and an interview with Rodney Taylor of Riverside Unified School District.
And there's even more! This issue is a must-read for anyone involved in school food, and available for free online.
|Grant opportunity: Healthy Breakfast 4 Kids|
Looking for a way to expand your breakfast program? You may have a chance to do just that: the Food Family Farming (F3) Foundation recently announced the Healthy Breakfast 4 Kids Grant.
The grant provides $2,500 worth of equipment for schools to implement or improve breakfast programs. Applications must be submitted by September 15; 117 grants will be awarded across the nation.
Grantees will be able to order $2,500 worth of food service smallwares or equipment to help support implementing breakfast in the classroom via an online order with Tundra Specialties. As part of the grant program, F3 will create universal breakfast implementation resources to be available to all schools via The Lunch Box.
|Just around the corner: Food Day 2012|
Food Day is a nationwide celebration and a movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. Created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), it is powered by a diverse coalition of food movement leaders, organizations, and people from all walks of life.
Food Day takes place annually on October 24 to address issues as varied as health and nutrition, hunger, agricultural policy, animal welfare, and farm worker justice. Last year, in the inaugural year of the Food Day campaign, over 2,300 events took place in all 50 states. Special Food Day menus were served in FOCUS districts Detroit, Denver, and Portland, as well as in many others such as Boston and Boulder, Colorado.
With schools implementing new meal standards this fall, Food Day is a perfect tie-in to highlight successes and support the work toward healthier school food options. Use the momentum to improve school meals and help schools meet the new USDA standards.
Check out the list of registered events and spread the word by liking Food Day on Facebook or by following @FoodDay2012 on Twitter. Interested in organizing your own event? Visit the resources library and contact the organization with any questions.
FOCUS delivers USDA Foods equitable access sign-on letter
This month, School Food FOCUS sent a letter to the leadership at USDA urging them to improve full school district access to the USDA Foods program. The letter, signed by over 50 FOCUS stakeholders and allies [PDF], suggests a more active role in working with both distributing agencies and recipient agencies to ensure that districts of all sizes have the ability to make the best possible use of this food access and nutrition safety net program that is so vital to the health and well-being of our children.
We will be in close contact with our colleagues at Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), and other USDA agencies to implement effective methods for increasing the flexibility, functionality, and accessibility of USDA Foods for the child nutrition directors who are working so hard to continually improve the quality and healthfulness of the food they serve in their school cafeterias.
Farm Bill passes the House Agriculture Committee
After a full-day markup that started on the morning of July 11 and went into the early hours of July 12, the House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill by a vote of 35-11.
The House Farm Bill includes $35 billion in total cuts, with $16 billion coming from SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps) and $6 billion from conservation programs. The four Republicans who voted against the bill did so based on commodity program disagreements and fiscal concerns, while the seven Democrats in opposition did so because of the deep cuts to SNAP.
The Committee rejected an amendment to restore cuts to SNAP funds (by a vote of 31 to 15), but also rejected several amendments to cut SNAP benefits more deeply. Mounting concerns about SNAP cuts are coming from House Democratic leaders and the Obama Administration as well as the Congressional Black Caucus and other advocacy organizations. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) has provided advocacy tools to speak out against these cuts.
Our allies at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) note, "Despite the title, overall there is very little reform to speak of. This is an anti-reform bill -- bad for family farmers, rural communities, and the environment. It cuts in half the funding for USDA's keystone programs for beginning and minority farmers, and cuts funding for rural economic development by 88 percent when compared to average funding levels of the past three farm bills." Other organizations expressed disappointment in the bill. See posts from NSAC, the Community Food Security Coalition, FRAC, and Food and Water Watch for further analysis. For more must-read details on the Farm Bill and other USDA updates, click here to jump to the blog >>
|Notable news & resources
>> The Farm Bill: What's in it for school food? (Healthy Schools Campaign blog):
Our own Policy Program Manager Sheilah Davidson
authored this guest post about the importance of the Farm Bill on the blog of Chicago Public Schools' FOCUS district partner Healthy Schools Campaign
. She explains the importance of the Farm Bill for school food advocates and why it's imperative to speak up and contact your legislators.
Erin Croom with Georgia students
>> Georgia Organics Farm to School Coordinator Recognized as Public Health Hero (Georgia Department of Public Health): Erin Croom
(right) of Georgia Organics
, FOCUS district partner to Cobb County School District, is profiled in this piece which lauds her accomplishments and positive attitude about her work, including bringing farm to school programs to schools across the state, initiating the Farm to School Alliance, and helping to produce the Georgia Organics
Farm to School Summit. Read on
to learn more about this great person doing good.
>> Oregon Berries (KATU-TV):
From Michelle Markesteyn Ratcliffe
of the Oregon Department of Agriculture
, member of the FOCUS Leadership Council and district partner to Portland Public Schools, comes the first installment of a new partnership with local TV station KATU and magazine Edible Portland to increase awareness around how local agricultural products are produced, their appeal, where to buy them, and how to prepare them. The campaign will include television, print, and online components. Upcoming KATU segments include the importance of gardening with kids and new school meals and regulations.
>> Schools scrambling to serve up healthier lunch choices (USA Today):
FOCUS district Wake County Public Schools
and stakeholder Marilyn Moody
are featured in this look at the various strategies school districts across the country are employing to offer more healthful options in the lunch line and to meet the new federal nutrition standards. Moody explains their taste testing methods to ensure student acceptance of new menu items; they weren't crazy about collard greens, but they loved yogurt, granola, and pluot parfaits. She says, "Little kids are quick to ask, 'Is this healthy?' They want to be perceived as eating healthy choices. They know that is the right thing to do."
>> Six Women, Six Stories Connect on Local Food (USDA blog): O
n July 17, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan co-hosted a Google+ hangout
with six inspiring women in the food movement, from a cattle rancher to a farm to school program director, and even a city mayor. The event was held to launch the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass
, version 2.0.
>> USDA Webinar: One Stop Shop for Product Specifications
: Mary Beth Flowers of USDA Foods/SNS and our own Kathy Lawrence
co-presented this helpful webinar for school food service professionals on Provision 242 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and how using the portal USDA Food Connect
can help purchasers to procure USDA Foods that match their desired specs. The portal includes the ability to compare products nutritionally and to narrow search results by CN label, supplier, UPC, and other advanced search criteria. Click through to the PDF
for slides and directions for how to hear the archived presentation.
>> The School Day Just Got Healthier (USDA):
This new website from USDA explains changes to the school meal regulations that will be in place starting this school year, and provides helpful tools and resources for a variety of stakeholders to help communicate with students, parents, teachers, other school staff, and members of the community. Go directly to the toolkit
, or check out the home page
for everything on offer.
>> Health Impact Assessment: National Nutrition Standards for Snack and a la Carte Foods and Beverages Sold in Schools
[PDF] (Pew Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project):
In July, Pew released its Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on the upcoming National Competitive Foods Rule, which found that the national rule could have a significant positive impact on children's health without having a negative impact on school district budgets. The report recommends that the USDA establish nutrition standards for all foods sold regularly onsite during the school day that are outside of the USDA meal programs; set nutrition guidelines for all beverages sold on school grounds; and adopt policies and practices that ensure effective implementation of the standards.
>> Food Hubs and Values-Based Supply Chains Resource Page (University of California, Davis): The University of California Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI) and the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) have several new resources on food hubs and values-based supply chains available, including toolkits, a practitioners' guide to publications, studies, and more.
Growing Power National-International Urban & Small Farm Conference
Milwaukee's renowned urban farm Growing Power hosts the third annual gathering of farmers, aspiring farmers, renewable energy experts, urban planners, corporate executives, politicians, academics, chefs, microbiologists, and others. The conference will provide guidance on how to plan, develop and grow small farms in urban and rural areas, through breakout sessions, speakers, and tours. FOCUS Regional Learning Lab Project Director Kymm Mutch will present a session at the meeting.
American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting & Exposition
APHA's meeting program addresses current and emerging health science, policy, and practice issues in an effort to prevent disease and promote health, bringing together more than 13,000 national and international physicians, administrators, nurses, educators, researchers, epidemiologists, and related health specialists. FOCUS Executive Director Toni Liquori will be in attendance.
San Francisco, CA
It Takes a Region: Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) Annual Conference
This year, NESAWG celebrates its 20th anniversary with its inclusive, high-impact annual conference. Anyone who takes part in the Northeast regional food system is welcome, and attendees will share exciting efforts underway in the region in production, distribution logistics, research, food access and nutrition, policy advocacy and more. FOCUS Director of Strategic Development Kathy Lawrence, a member of NESAWG for all of its 20 years, and active on the steering committee, will be in attendance helping to plan and implement plenary sessions as well as a half-day Farm to Institution session together with colleagues from Farm to Institution New England (FINE) and others.
Saratoga Springs, NY
School Food FOCUS is a national collaborative that leverages the knowledge and procurement power of large school districts to make school meals nationwide more healthful, regionally sourced, and sustainably produced. FOCUS aims to transform food systems to support students' academic achievement and lifelong health, while directly benefiting farmers, regional economies, and the environment. School Food FOCUS is a program of Public Health Solutions. For more, visit www.schoolfoodfocus.org, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.