by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: School-food

Feb 22 2009

Washington lobbying in action!

Thanks to CSPI’s Margo Wootan for sending the link to this nifty video about school lunch lobbying (she is featured in it, eloquently).  The video, made by the American News Project, takes place at a January 28 hearing on school lunch nutrition regulations run by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).  The IOM is working on developing science-based criteria for the nutritional quality of school meals.  Take a look at who is in the audience.  Question: What are they doing there?  Answer: The USDA buys enormous quantities of food commodities to supply schools enrolled in federal school meal programs.  The video gets a 5-star YouTube rating, and for good reason.

Jan 7 2009

School interventions work! (Sometimes)

It’s always nice to have some evidence for what you think makes sense.  David Katz and his Yale colleagues analyzed a bunch of studies attempting to improve both school nutrition and physical fitness.  Taken one by one, these studies generally showed negligible improvements in body weight, if any.  But these investigators analyzed a selected group of 19 (of 64) studies that met their inclusion criteria.  Taken collectively, these studies showed that the interventions improved body weight.  The overall effects on weight were small, but in the hoped-for direction.  Katz et al’s conclusion: combined nutrition and physical activity interventions are worth doing, especially when they include parental involvement along with cutting down on TV.

If the link to the paper doesn’t work for you, try the abstract on PubMed.

Jan 4 2009

The cost of better school lunch meat: yikes!

Food and Drink Examiner Eric Burkett sends this astonishing report from the school lunch front.  The school system in Portland, Oregon asked Oregon State University to conduct a taste test to find out whether kids preferred local grass-fed beef to grain-fed beef of unknown origin.  Results?  The kids could tell the difference but were evenly split on preference.

BUT–the cost difference!   Grain-fed beef =  $17.11 per case (140 patties per case).  Grass-fed beef = $44.85 a case (75 patties per case).  If the weights were the same, this means the grain-fed = 12.2 cents per patty vs. 59.8 cents each for the grass fed.  Is this really true?

If so, I can’t think of a better reason for some new farm policies.

Dec 28 2008

IOM Report on School Food Standards: Phase I

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has a committee doing a big study that will lead to recommendations for improved nutrient standards for school breakfast and lunch programs sponsored by USDA.  The committee has just released its “Phase I” report, which explains how it plans to go about setting those standards and asks for public input.   This report is available online as a pdf (go to “Read” and click on “full text”) so you can read it and let the committee know what you think of its approach.  For anyone interested in the school meal situation, the report is a great place to start.  It gives the history of the programs and explains why so many people think changes are needed.  It will be interesting to see where the committee goes with this project.  Stay tuned!

Sep 13 2008

USDA commodities in school meals

Oh dear.  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has just released a summary of a new report on the use of USDA surplus commodity foods in school meals, mainly in California.  The major findings?  More than half the commodity foods are processed before they get to the schools and that means added fat, sugar, or salt (example: chicken to nuggets).  More than 80% of funds for commodities are used for meat and cheese; only 13% is spent on fruits and vegetables.  There is so little correlation between foods recommended by the USDA pyramid and those purchased by schools that the report displays a nifty side-by-side illustration of a commodities pyramid next to a USDA pyramid (the useful old one).  It is an almost perfect inverse.  The complete report has lots more good stuff in it.   High marks to the groups that collaborated on this one, the California Food Policy Advocates and Samuels & Associates.

Sep 2 2008

Junk foods in schools–still there

Every now and then the CDC surveys the use of “competitive” (translation: junk) foods in public schools.  The latest survey reports little change from 2004.  About 80% of public schools let kids buy snacks or sodas during school hours, although what those items are varies widely.  About 70% of schools sell sports drinks but only about 30% sell fruits and vegetables.   Kids can buy bottled water in about 80% of public schools, which makes me wonder whatever happened to free water from drinking fountains.  I’ve been in schools that do not sell competitive foods at all.  Something to consider?

Aug 25 2008

USDA releases report on school lunch program

The USDA has just published an analysis of its school lunch program. Among other useful information–the history, funding, etc–this report asks an interesting and pointed question: Does the school lunch program promote obesity in order to support industrial agriculture? The answer: it just might. This is a must-read for anyone interested in doing anything to make school lunches better for health and the environment.

And here’s a commentary in the San Francsico Chronicle from some folks on the front line of school lunches in the San Francisco Bay area.  Even a little more money would go a long way.

Jul 14 2008

School food environments: from bad to worse

A new study in Pediatrics finds most U.S. schools to sell junk food from food carts or vending machines. The situation isn’t too terrible in grammar schools but 97% of high schools sell junk food. I’m curious about that other 3%.