PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS USDA Proposes Criteria for Hiring and Training Early last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a proposed regulation establishing minimum national professional standards and training requirements for school nutrition professionals who manage and operate the federal child nutrition programs. The pending regulation is a provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). In a USDA blog post, Dr. Janey Thornton, SNS, deputy under secretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, and an SNA past president, asserted that “these new standards will ensure that school nutrition personnel have the training and tools they need to plan, prepare and purchase healthy products to create nutritious, safe and enjoyable school meals.” The standards focus on training opportunities intended to strengthen the school nutrition profession, said Thornton. In particular, the regulation would: • create minimum hiring standards for directors of school food authorities, based on school district size; • establish minimum hiring standards for directors of state agencies; and • require minimum annual training for school nutrition professionals at all levels. In recognition of this unfunded mandate, Thornton’s blog post notes that FNS “will continue collaborating with partners to identify free and low-cost training at locations that are convenient and easily accessible.” In a flyer of supportive testimonials published by USDA, SNA Chief Executive Officer Patricia Montague, CAE, notes, “SNA is committed to evaluating the quality and efficacy of school meal programs by advancing professional development opportunities for school nutrition professionals. … Continuous professional development initiatives and professional standards will help ensure students continue to receive healthy, safe meals that enhance the public’s confidence in school nutrition professionals and their programs.” At press time, SNA was using its website as a means to collect member feedback on the proposed rule. The Association has mobilized a representative task force to review the proposal, assess its impact on school meal operations and operators, review comments submitted by members and draft an official comment to submit to USDA. To read the rule in its entirety and submit comments directly to USDA, visit http://tinyurl.com/profstandardproposed. The comment period ends on April 7, 2014 . NATIONAL NUTRITION MONTH Tastes Good, Is Good The eating plan you will stick to is the one you most enjoy planning, preparing and consuming. During the month of March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) encourages you to “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” for National Nutrition Month 2014. The main message of this year’s campaign: Nutritious foods don’t have to be bland, boring or unsatisfying. “When taste is the most influential factor driving what consumers eat, it is important that we find the balance between choosing the foods we like with those that provide the nutrients we need,” said registered dietitian, nutritionist and Academy President Dr. Glenna McCollum in a press release. “This year’s ‘Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right’ theme reinforces that the two choices are not mutually exclusive.” It’s not too late to share this takeaway message with your family and students! Take advantage of AND’s press kit, full of tools and resources for celebrating National Nutrition Month all throughout March— and remember that these messages are evergreen all year long. The toolkit includes ideas for reinforcing nutrition as a key component of good health in schools and the workplace, social media and print graphics, tip sheets and handouts for youngsters, such as coloring pages and word games. Along with National Nutrition Month, AND honors registered dietitians on Wednesday, March 12. The day is meant to commemorate the dedication of registered dietitians as leading advocates for good nutrition in America and around the world. For more information about National Nutrition Month, visit www.eatright.org/nnm. GET INVOLVED Share Your Strength at the Grocery Store As a school nutrition expert, you have the skills to shop smart and make meals that kids love. Now there’s a way for you to share your strength with a larger audience. Cooking Matters at the Store is a campaign to organize free, interactive grocery store tours that empower families to stretch their food budgets so their children get healthy meals at home. It’s part of the national No Kid Hungry initiative to end childhood hunger in America. A tour can be led by any individual, in any community, anywhere people shop for food. It includes two specialized curricula—one for a general audience of adults and one specifically for WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program parents. School nutrition professionals already are armed with nutrition knowledge and experience in shopping on a budget, making you uniquely qualified to lead Cooking Matters at the Store tours. It’s also a terrific opportunity to raise your profile and showcase your expertise within the community—whether you are a cafeteria employee, manager or director Becoming a tour leader is easy; an online learning tool will provide you best practices for designing and leading a tour. It also helps to connect you with ongoing tours in your area. This training takes a total of two hours, but it can be completed in bite-sized chunks. During the 90-minute tour, you will teach participants four key food skills: reading food labels, comparing unit prices, finding whole-grain foods and identifying three ways to purchase produce. Cooking Matters at the Store often ends in the $10 Challenge, an activity where participants use the skills they’ve just learned to purchase the ingredients for a healthy meal for a family of four for less than $10. Participants take home a booklet with recipes and shopping tips, a reusable grocery bag and $10 worth of healthy groceries. A recent evaluation of the program finds that nearly all families (89%) who participate in the tours report saving money on food purchases five weeks after the tour. The majority of participants (76%) report that they buy more fruits and vegetables than they did before the tour. Try it out as a participant yourself and then learn more about becoming a tour leader. Visit www.CookingMatters.org/Store for details. ONLINE RESOURCES Smart Snacks Tools Available Implementing the new Smart Snacks in Schools rule will take a collective effort, involving numerous staffacross individual schools and districts. From assessing the location and stock of vending machines to educating parents and administrators about the new rules, school nutrition professionals can be a great champion in this effort! SNA and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation have teamed up to launch a series of tools to make Smart Snacks a success in your school community. Accessible online through both organizations’ websites, the Smart Snacks Resource features plug-and-play presentations you can use to educate different audiences, taste testing tools to engage students and sample newsletters to spread the word about the new changes among parents and throughout your community. In addition, the Alliance has developed and launched a new Smart Snacks Product Calculator. Take the guesswork out of evaluating potential products for procurement and use this valuable tool to learn how they measure up against the new requirements. Simply enter requested information about the product, answer a few questions and you can determine if the snack, side or entrée item complies with Smart Snacks in Schools standards. The Alliance’s tool has been determined by USDA to be accurate in assessing compliance with its requirements. To learn more about the Smart Snacks Resource, visit www.schoolnutrition.org or www.healthiergeneration.org/smart snacks. To try out the new calculator, visit www.healthiergeneration.org/calculator. EQUIPMENT USDA Awards Equipment Grants Aging facilities, outdated equipment and shrinking budgets hinder a school’s ability to improve the nutrition and quality of the meals served to students. To help in this ongoing struggle, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last December that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would award $11 million in grants to help schools to purchase new kitchen equipment. “Schools are successfully serving healthier meals to America’s students, but the right equipment and training can further their efforts to improve the health of our next generation,” said Vilsack in a press release. “These grants will help schools upgrade equipment to help support nutritious meals, better ensure food safety, improve energy efficiency in the cafeteria and expand participation in school nutrition programs.” Fourteen states, as well as the District of Columbia and Guam, were chosen to receive the grants, which are based on free and reduced-price participation in the National School Lunch Program and the greatest unmet need. These states will then award funds to school districts, with priority given to those who serve high percentages of low-income students. The grant announcement came on the heels of the release of the report, Serving Healthy School Meals: U.S. Schools Need Updated Kitchen Equipment , from the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a collaboration between The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report found that although many equipment updates aren’t wildly out of reach—the top five items requested ranged from $32 to $1,941— many schools simply lack the budget resources necessary to make those purchases. FOOD PROFILE Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia! Ancient Grain Gains Spotlight Everyone loves a good comeback story, and the resurgence of the humble chia seed fills the bill perfectly. Once a mega-novelty in gardening (a term that is used somewhat loosely in this context) in the 1980s, chia seeds are again a talked-about trend. This time, however, they’re out of the planter and into your meals—and now being touted as a weight-loss aid. The premise is this: Chia seeds, which are small and range from brown to black to white in color, expand in your stomach during digestion, making you feel fuller. This, in theory, should cause you to eat less and therefore lose weight. However, the results of at least one independent study could not draw such a correlation. Despite this disappointing conclusion, chia seeds are still a healthy addition to your diet. Like flaxseeds, they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, which offer benefits when it comes to triglyceride levels, arthritis pain, depression and dementia protection; however, chia seeds do not need to be ground or risk going rancid as flax can. They have a mild, nutty flavor, so you should find it easy to stir a tablespoon or so into a bowl of yogurt, sprinkle it on cereal or blend it into a smoothie to gain related health benefits—even if it won’t cause the numbers on the scale to budge. Be careful about introducing too much chia too quickly, though—this is a situation where too much of a good thing isn’t that good. Chia seeds are very high in fiber, and boosting fiber intake potentially can lead to digestive problems. Don’t want to consume chia right now? Don’t worry—Chia Pets are still around. Choose from cats, elephants or even the head of President Barack Obama. Find them at www.chiapet.com—or find the chia seeds themselves at your local natural foods store. NutrıNET National Onion Association http://tinyurl.com/oniontips The site offers helpful prep and cooking tips when using onions in recipes and menus. Did you know high heat makes onions turn bitter? Always use low or medium heat when sautéing. Also featured is a downloadable culinary education sheet detailing how to properly cut onions. Difference Between.com http://tinyurl.com/fooddifferences Do you know the difference between porridge and oatmeal? How about tempeh and tofu? Frozen yogurt and soft-serve ice cream? You will after visiting this site, which offers informative articles featuring easy-to-understand explanations of the differences between two or more oft-confused items. The site’s Food category focuses not just on items, but also on culinary techniques, like braising and stewing. Other categories cover technology, home, health and much more. Junior League’s Kids in the Kitchen http://kidsinthekitchen.ajli.org/recipes Junior Leagues in more than 200 locations participate in the Kids in the Kitchen initiative, which strives to engage kids in preparing healthy meals and educating them and their parents about nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices. The recipes on this site feature healthy, kid-friendly options, including many involving fun food art, such as Palm Tree Paradise, Groovy Grasshopper Dip and Crocamole. Calendar14 Mar14 MAR. 9-11 National Conference, Women Chefs & Restaurateurs Chicago, (877) 927-7787 MAR. 17-19 2014 Annual Conference, Produce for Better Health Foundation Scottsdale, Ariz., (302) 235-2329 MAR. 23-26 Annual Leadership Development Conference, Women’s Foodservice Forum Dallas, (972) 770-9100 MAR. 26-28 Building a Healthier Future Summit, Partnership for a Healthier America Washington, D.C., (877) 883-1786, x500 Apr14 APR. 5-7 Annual Conference, National School Boards Association New Orleans, (703) 838-6722 APR. 8-10 Expo and Conference, Food Safety Summit Baltimore, Md., (847) 405-4124 APR. 10-12 Conference and Trade Show, International Food Service Executives Association Orlando, (800) 893-5499 APR. 15-18 7th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference, National Farm to School Network Austin, Texas, (512) 568-1815 APR. 26-29 Annual Conference, American Commodity Distribution Association Austin, Texas, (217) 241-6747 APR. 28-MAY 2 Annual Conference, National Head Start Association Long Beach, Calif., (866) 677-8724 May14 MAY 6-8 Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids National Invitational Leadership Summit, Culinary Institute of America San Antonio, Texas, (800) 888-7850 MAY 17-20 Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, National Restaurant Association Chicago, (312) 853-5765 DateBOOK March Deaf History Month (Mar. 13-Apr. 15) Music in Our Schools Month National Craft Month National Nutrition Month Women’s History Month Youth Art Month National School Breakfast Week (Mar. 3-7) Read Across America Day (Mar. 3) International School Meals Day (Mar. 6) Employee Appreciation Day (Mar. 7) Registered Dietitian Day (Mar. 12) St. Patrick’s Day (Mar. 17) Spring Begins (Mar. 20) National Agriculture Day (Mar. 25) April Arab American Heritage Month Mathematics Awareness Month National Card and Letter Writing Month National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month National Kite Month School Library Month Soy Foods Month Stress Awareness Month National Public Health Week® (Apr. 7-13) Administrative Professionals Week (Apr. 20-26) National Playground Safety Week (Apr. 21-25) National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day (Apr. 2) National Sibling Day (Apr. 10) National Pet Day (Apr. 11) Easter (Apr. 20) Earth Day (Apr. 22) Arbor Day (Apr. 25) May National Egg Month National Strawberry Month National Teacher Appreciation Week (May 5-9) School Nutrition Employee Week (May 5-9) School Principals Day (May 1) School Lunch Hero Day (May 2) National Bike to School Day (May 7) Enter to WIN Dairy Designs Does your school have creative, dairy-loving students? Encourage them to submit their artistic sculptures using repurposed milk cartons to Evergreen Packaging’s Made by Milk™ Carton Construction Contest. Teams of students who enter the competition must use at least 100 intact milk cartons to build a character, symbol or scene from a literary source in connection with the contest’s “Stories” theme. Accompanying photos and essays are other required elements. One grand-prize team will win $5,000, and the People’s Choice Award winner, determined by online voting, will receive $2,500. Three winners each in the elementary, middle and high school categories will receive $1,500. The deadline to submit an entry is April 16, 2014. To enter or for more information, visit www.madebymilkcontest.com. The Rice Is Right The USA Rice Federation has announced the winners of its annual “Healthy Brown Rice on the Menu” contest. Each of the grand-prize winners will receive a registration to SNA’s Annual National Conference in Boston in July, a donation of brown rice to their school meal program and two rice cookers. Honors went to Dimitra Barrios, foodservice director, Chichester High School, Upper Chichester, Pa., for her Power Grain Breakfast Porridge; Jill Patterson, resident dietitian, Weston (Conn.) Public High School, for her Coconut Curry Roasted Chicken With Thai-Style Brown Rice and Steamed Fresh Broccoli; and Kay Briles, head cook, Greenfield Elementary School, Baldwin, Wis., for her Mexican Rice Bowl. Three runners-up each received a $75 American Express gift card and a rice cooker: Renee Swank, school nutrition manager, Chesapeake (Va.) Public Schools; Stephen Riley, food site manager, Chanhassen (Minn.) High School; and Linda Mailhot, foodservice director, Mount Desert Elementary School, Northeast Harbor, Maine. For more about the contest, visit www.menurice.com. Seeking Sustainable Sites The Kendall College School of Culinary Arts and the Center for the Advancement of Foodservice Education (CAFÉ) are accepting applications for the 2014 CAFÉ/Kendall College Green Award. All secondary (and postsecondary) culinary arts and baking/pastry programs in the United States, whether diploma- or degree-granting, are eligible. Criteria are based on the integration of sustainability into educational programs and operations. The winning program will receive $1,000 and complimentary registration to the CAFÉ Leadership Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, in June. The deadline to enter is April 1, 2014. For information on how to submit your entry, visit http://tinyurl.com/cafegreenaward. Spudtacular Reser’s Fine Foods went on a hunt to find the country’s best potato salad and found a $10,000 grand-prize winner in Jan Laub of Broken Arrow, Okla., for her Bacon Artichoke Potato Salad. Visit http://tinyurl.com/potatosaladwinner to see the winning recipe. Spruced up Spaces Congratulations to 7-year-old Claire Noles and her mother Rachel Noles of Boaz, Ala., who were named the grand-prize winners of Uncle Ben’s Ben’s Beginners™ Cooking Contest. Claire’s video of her and her mother preparing their Chicken and Rice Supreme recipe earned Claire $15,000, two appearances on “The Rachael Ray Show” and a $30,000 cafeteria makeover for her school: Corley Elementary School. Additionally, three schools each won a $30,000 cafeteria makeover in the contest’s School Participation category: Saint Vincent Ferrer School, Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus Magnet Elementary School, Norwalk, Conn.; and Indian Rocks Christian School, Largo, Fla. For more about the contest, visit www.bensbeginnerscontest.com.
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