From pears to pumpkins, schools offer more produce

08/29/2011 08:50:00 AM
Chris Koger

Courtesy United Fresh Produce AssociationMore servings of fruits and vegetables are part of the back-to-school menu for U.S. school foodservice directors.

A survey released in August from the School Nutrition Association, called the “State of School Nutrition 2011,” reports that 98% of school districts offer fresh fruits and vegetables to student eating school meals. What’s more, 89% of schools offer salad bars and prepackaged salads, the study found.

“From spinach to strawberries and pears to pumpkin, school nutrition professionals are constantly working to offer students more fruits and vegetables, and often they are partnering with teachers, farmers and chefs to teach kids about the importance of healthy choices at school and at home,” Helen Phillips, president of the National Harbor, Md.-based School Nutrition Association said in a news release.

“Schools face funding and regulatory hurdles as they work to meet proposed new nutrition standards for school meals, but State of School Nutrition 2011 shows that school nutrition professionals are rising to the challenge,” she said in the release.

In fact, the report found that 69% of almost 1,300 school foodservice operators believe that implementing recently proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition standards requiring increased fruits and vegetables offered to students is their top concern.

The survey also found that the rising cost of food and funding issues also worry leaders of school nutrition efforts.

Local food is making inroads in school cafeterias. The survey found that 48% of foodservice directors offer locally grown fruits and vegetables, up from 37% in 2009. Schools are also working to connect students to food producers in their surrounding locale, the survey said. More than 30% already have “farm to school” programs and another 41% are interested in that theme. In addition, 21% of districts said they have a school garden and 37% more are planning to implement one.



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