Wellness Expo – October 6th – Palisades High School

The district is presenting a Wellness Expo at the high school on October 6 from 6-8:30.

There will be various vendors promoting their Healthy Foods and Services from the community and then a film about the Palisades Fresh Foods Initiative will be aired and then a panel will discuss the film and help raise awareness on this issue.

Wonderful Kristin Perry from The Kitchen Potager worked with the district to help secure some of the great vendors, like my good friends at JULES THIN CRUST  in Doylestown, Brad’s Raw Chips, Kimberton Whole Foods, and Applegate Farms.

I will have a table to sign up parents and members of the community to volunteer their time to help children and families learn more about healthy cooking, gardening, eating. Or to volunteer to run an after school program, club – running, tennis, school yard games,  etc.

I hope to see you there!!


Involve the kids in planning, shopping, preparing. There s not always time to get the kids to participate in every aspect of packing a lunch, but they will be more interested in eating the lunch you pack if they had some input.

Make it fun. A lunch that is visually engaging and easy to eat has a better chance of being consumed. Use cute cookie cutters for shaping sandwiches, hard cheese or melon chunks. Ingredients that are naturally colorful are also naturally healthy. Try out a bento style lunch box with little boxes separating the different components of the meal, or a tiffen-style stacking system.  Add an easy-to-grab snack for a mid-morning break or bus ride home.

Keep it safe.  Keep hot foods warm in a wide-mouth thermos.  Keep cold food cool with an ice pack in a well-insulated bag or lunchbox. Popular dinners make great leftovers (roast chicken,  fried  brown rice with veggies); just make sure they are not in the danger zone when eaten (between 41 and 140 degrees F).

Vary the menu seasonally.  Shop at a farm stand or farmer s market for the freshest ingredients, which will have the highest vitamin content.  Seasonal variety also means you won t get in a rut of repetitious meals.

Use organic ingredients when possible. As with local ingredients, organic foods often taste better because they have higher concentrations of minerals and beneficial micronutrients.  And they have lower GMO content, herbicide and pesticide residues

From “Two Angry Moms” Website.

Middle School Cafeteria – Sept 30, 2011

On Friday September 30th I visited the three school cafeterias with Gerry Giarratana.

Our First Stop was the Middle School. I’ll add the rest in new posts.

The salad bars here looked great, really complete and fresh! and there is a new deli-bar. ( we should be concerned about nitrites and aim to switch to weekly prepared meats for the lunch line – but in time). Sadly I didn’t see students at the salad bar – but I hear it goes in waves. I hope! I would eat there!

However, there were loads of snack foods, which Gerry said was a mistake, but this is definitely what the kids see most prominently and take. The action plan stated there would be only five healthy snacks this year to choose from each day in each cafeteria, so this will have to be addressed.

Five of the seven drink options in the lunch line are very high in added sugar, and there is Gatorade or maybe it’s Powerade in the lunch line, which I find surprising. The majority of kids were buying  two sugary drinks, (do they have to take a milk? I wonder if they get a Gatorade, they have to take a milk – so chocolate milk plus gatorade- that is quite a sugar rush).

Most lunches I saw taken were chips, cookies, maybe pizza, soft pretzels, and snacks. I didn’t see any vegetables taken. I didn’t see any vegetables in the line. The apples I saw were thrown out.

This is another vending machine of snacks in the cafeteria.

School Food Director’s Pledge for 2011/12

As the new Food Service Director, and a parent, in the Palisades School District, my first priority is to find ways to make the school environment supportive of nutrition. We are taking actions that will have a positive impact on future generations. I call these “Habits of Health”. Recognizing, healthy eating is an important life skill, we  will provide simple nutritional education, with the goal of starting lifelong eating habits,  guide students, apply knowledge, and offer only healthy eating options for our children at school.
As one example of building knowledge, this year at the Middle school and High School, we will provide a description and a “how to read &understand” a nutritional food label. We will post in the cafeterias the caloric content and nutritional value of the meal, and additional items served in the cafeteria. The RDA for student age groups will also be on display in the Middle school & High school cafeterias. With this fact based data, a student will learn “choice”. As we make these changes to the culture of food in schools, our cafeterias will be used as an extension of the classroom. We will also make it simple, and uncomplicate the decision, half a plate fruits and vegetables, and half lean proteins, and whole grains and low-fat dairy… that’s how easy it is.
A second initiative will be communication, letting students and parents know what is changed and what is available. For  community members, we will provide a newsletter with wellness updates. The school lunch  menus will be posted on the district web site, 1 week prior to the start of a new month, with the nutritional details as well.
Our school lunch menus have recently undergone a makeover, we will continue to add new meal choices, we will offer meals like beef and broccoli, baked chicken, vegetable beef stew, whole grain pastas, and whole grain breads. We prepare a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, foods with low added sugar, and zero trans fats, with strict caloric guidelines. Fresh fruits and vegetables, will be available every day. We plan to cook more scratch meals, homemade soups, and bake breads, rolls and muffins. Show students how to Balance Calories, portion control, when choosing alternative items. Increase fruits and vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk, and reduce sodium amounts.
Another area of focus is to balance Healthy with easy, as an example, at the Middle school, we will be adding  a Deli Line, where a student can have their fresh sandwich or hoagie prepared for them. At the High school, we will be offering a  Pasta Bar one day every week, features like, zucchini pasta, with tomato & garlic, and vegetable lasagna.  In addition, at all schools, we will be serving a different soup every day. We will offer a salad bar at all of the schools, including the elementary schools.  A healthy meal choice, can now consist of the salad bar, soup, a whole grain roll and a milk. This is another step towards  a reduction of processed foods.   We have eliminated the daily alternative choice of Pizza everyday, you will see the new pizza on the menu, listed as “Palisades Pizza” a delicious whole grain crusted pizza, that the kids love.
We have involved students in food choices, food taste tests, and listened to their recommendations. We are actively enlisting the teachers and parents to join in a District Wellness Committee. We recently sent out a survey to the parents, The District and School based  committees will meet and recommend actions, to make important improvements, that can help the students, schools  and community with our overall mission of wellness. With this continued support and teamwork through the wellness committees,  overcome challenges, and revisit our policies and exceed the nutritional  standards, the Palisades School District will  continue to excel.
We encourage parents, teachers, and members of the community, to stop by the cafeterias to have lunch with the children. This will also display healthy eating habits, and set the example. By adjusting student food behavior today, students are more likely to choose or request healthy food items when they are out of school.
Some new product choices coming to Palisades; we are adding a dairy vending machine at the High school and Middle school, which will have yogurt, low fat cheese, cheese sandwiches, veggies & cheese, and milk. We are growing our breakfast program, specifically at the High school and the Middle school, a breakfast cart serving 5 choice hot meals, juice, fresh fruit and milk, will show up at the classroom door, and we will serve breakfasts, before the day begins. At the elementary schools, we will offer pancakes, waffles, French toast, oatmeal, 100% fruit juice, and milk, and provide the cafeteria for your child to have breakfast before the start of the school day.
Although it is a bit of a balancing act, while increasing participation, with the National School Lunch Program requirements, dietary guidelines, economic frugality, cost controls, Government subsidized commodities, and keeping global initiatives in check, we will never take our mind off of the well-being of the students. Our children’s nutritional meals are my accountability and at the same time the student is the customer. We will make the food choice and presentation more appealing. A recent reduction in snack items and a shift to healthy choice variety, will be in effect at the start of the school year.
In years past, school lunch in general has had a bad rap, mystery meat, instant mashed potatoes,  canned meat, government food, and bland assembly line cooking?  At Palisades, we are excited that image has recently been changed. Cafeteria regulars, such as Tacos, Pizza, and Hot dogs, are still around, but there more likely to be seen once every 6 weeks on the newly designed “cycle menu” program. Students who now eat school meals provided through the program are more apt to be at a healthy weight. These students are more likely to consume more fresh vegetables, milk and dairy products, meats and protein rich foods. 10 to 15 vegetable choices on the salad bars, with egg salad, chicken, and cheese. We have reduced the amount of processed foods on the serving lines and encourage our staff to create scratched cooked meals as an alternative.  Research has shown that students who eat school meals perform their best academically. Students who eat school breakfast have greater gains in testing and show improvements in math, reading and vocabulary scores.

Snack choices- we are adding, fresh fruit cups, veggie sticks, yogurt and fresh fruit, smoothies, 100% fruit juice pops, soft pretzels and baked chips. These extra items and snacks are called “competitive foods” Nutritional guidelines for competitive foods must meet the following criteria:
Calories        < 200
Total Fat    < 35% of calories per serving
Trans Fat    Trans fat free
Saturated Fat    < 10% of calories per serving
Sugar        < 35% by weight of total sugars, (excludes fruits, vegetables, milk)
Sodium        < 200 mg per portion serving
As a breakdown of the required quantities served each day at lunch: a student can choose 3 of the 5 lunch components, and be a participant in the National School Lunch Program:  1. Milk, 2. Protein, 3.Vegetable, 4. Fruit, 5. Grain. Under the NSLP federal subsidy reimbursement, our schools are reimbursed .26 for each lunch sold, $2.72 for each free lunch, and $2.32 for each reduced lunch.
Lean meat, poultry or fish or an alternative protein product, such as cheese, eggs, cooked dry beans or peas, or yogurt. Two or more servings of different vegetables or fruits or both is required each day.
Vegetables- A different vegetable will be served every day of the week. Adding more, steamed fresh vegetables. Increase in cooked beans and peas, with the salad bars available 5 days a week, at all schools we will exceed the minimum requirement. Fruits- Fresh, frozen, or 100% fruit juice. We are also offering fresh fruit everyday, Apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, peaches, and berries.  Grains/Breads- We will be providing fresh baked rolls, breads and  pastas with whole grain, the pizza crust will be whole grain. Must be enriched or whole grain or made from enriched or whole grain flour or meal, may include bran. Cooked rice, macaroni noodles. Or other pasta products, or cereal grains.
Targeted Nutrient Standards for lunch:    (weekly average by Grade)
Grade        K-3        4-12        7-12(optional)
Calories        633        785        825
Protein        9g        15g        16g
Calcium        267mg        370mg        400mg
Iron        3.3mg        4.2mg        4.5mg
Vitamin A    200re        285re        300re
Vitamin C    15mg        17mg        18mg

Gerry Giarratana

Food and Transportation Director

Palisades School District.

UN High Level Meeting puts NCDs on the map

“Governments must use Summit momentum to agree ambitious targets to curb the epidemic; and are urged to start drafting costed national NCD plans immediately”
New York – World leaders unanimously adopted today the Political Declaration on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), agreeing that “the global burden and threat of NCDs constitutes one of the major challenges for development in the twenty-first century, which undermines social and economic development throughout the world”.
Governments must now deliver on their commitments in addressing the rising threat of cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes. Until now, NCDs have not gained the attention of global policy-makers. The NCD Alliance, a network of more than 2,000 non-governmental organizations in 170 countries, said NCDs must now be integrated into the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and into any successor framework after 2015 when the MDGs expire.
Addressing the meeting as a representative of civil society, a supporter of the NCD Alliance, HRH Princess Dina Mired of Jordan called for ambitious but achievable targets. She said, “To do justice by our duty as the voice of all those who have suffered from NCDs, and to protect the lives of all those who will be affected by them in the coming years”.
“This meeting has made the world sit up and take notice of the huge global burden that NCDs are placing on all countries,” said NCD Alliance Chair Ann Keeling. “Countries now need to be urgently factoring NCDs into their longer term health planning alongside other pressing health challenges”.
“The good news is we now have more political momentum – and we have cost-effective solutions for addressing both the risk factors, such as tobacco use and salt intake, and the diseases themselves. It’s vital that we continue to build on this momentum, to forge a new partnership between governments, the UN, NGOs and the private sector, to tackle the very preventable causes of this global epidemic”.
The NCD Alliance applauded language in the Declaration barring involvement of the tobacco industry and called for an ethical framework for this new partnership to address potential conflicts of interest of food, beverage and healthcare enterprises.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan told the meeting that NCDs are “the diseases that break the bank”. A new WHO study of the costs of scaling up a core intervention package to prevent and treat NCDs in low- and middle-income countries has shown that it will cost $11.4 billion a year for all of these countries. This is compared with the World Economic Forum’s estimated bill of nearly $500 billion a year between now and 2025 if a ‘business as usual’ approach is taken and disease rates continue to soar.
The NCD Alliance urged countries to use the WHO’s new data to cost out their own national NCD plans, pulling together existing plans they might have on the individual diseases and risk factors, and to establish a national coordinating agency, and a monitoring and evaluation framework for tracking progress on tackling NCDs.
Contact: For interviews, please contact Nisha Chhabra on +1 512-965-2827 (cell) or on +1 212-445-8115 (office), or at nchhabra@webershandwick.com
Notes to Editors:
•    New reports on NCDs released http://www.ncdalliance.org/reports
•    The NCD Alliance is a network of over 2,000 non-government organizations from over 170 countries focusing on NCDs

Is junk food really cheaper?

Mark Bittman article.


Palisades Youth Group and the “Keeping it Real Cafe”

This summer the Palisades Youth Group held its annual wilderness camp at a beautiful location in the Pennsylvania mountains in Susquehanna County. (sadly in the heart of Fracking – but that’s another story!) Camp Choconut was established in 1886 and had a a fabulous kitchen that Liz Cruickshank (leader, co-founder PYC) and I took over for our experiment. Could we make the delicious, nutritious foods we want to see in the school for 80 people for five days on a tight budget? Yes, we could. Abundant, delicious whole food at 1.57/meal, including fresh lemonade and organic cut fruit and vegetables for snacks everyday, a dessert each day (and occasionally some chips!)

Thank you to Frey’s Better Foods, Milford Oyster House and Bechdolt’s Orchard for getting us food at cost and thank you fun families who cooked, cleaned and listened. Thank you all for your support of this great initiative! And thank you Stephanie Lisle for the great photos. Please send me more if you have any – anyone!

I’m going to post our menus in a later post. Maybe the school could use some of our suggestions!

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Palisades Food Initiative Article in Philly Burbs…


Wellness Committee Members 2011

We had our first wellness committee meeting tonight and it was a fantastic start. We have a great team! I really enjoyed the meeting some of the members I didn’t know and looking at all those faces of committed smart people. I am very hopeful now that there will be meaningful change in the food program at Palisades.

I look forward to keeping you all informed of this exciting initiative.


Janet Link, Durham Nockamixon School Principal

Gerry Giarratana, Director of Food Services, Transportation and Warehouse

Members are:

Dr. Victoria Boardman, Family Physician

Crystal Connor, Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach

Melissa Froehlich, Recent Palisades Graduate, Nutritionist

Dawn Fulton, School Nurse

Amy Gerhart, Parent, Kick-boxing instructor

Jim Hallowell, School Board, Local farmer

Dr. Kristann Heinz, Family Physician and Dietician

Amy Hitcho, PSD High School Teacher, Member of Fresh Foods Committee

Donna Holmes,  PSD Public Relations

Jen Hooper,  Athletic Instructor, President of Palisades Community Foundation

Kate Kieres, PSD Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

Josh Kline, PSD  Coach

Jen Kukowski, PSD Health and PE Department Chairperson

Steve Kunkel, School Board Member, Co-Chair Fresh Foods Committee

Michael Lynch,  School Board member, chairperson of Fresh Foods Committee

Ann Marshall, Parent, member of Fresh Foods Committee, founder of Keeping it Real

Mary Mettin, PSD food services

PALMS Student Reps (TBA)

PHS Student Reps (TBA)

Lauren Rood, PSD health and PE teacher

Shari VanderGast,  parent, chairperson of an employee wellness committee in private sector

National PTA Childhood Obesity

Childhood Obesity Overview

Childhood obesity is one of the most serious health problems facing our country today. Obesity has potentially devastating consequences for our youth and for our society as a whole.

In this resource, we use the terms “overweight” and “obese” interchangeably to refer to children with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 95% of other children of their same age and gender. These children are at risk for health problems related to their weight. See the Institute of Medicine’s publication, Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, for more information on the definitions of these terms.

Reality Check: Facts on Childhood Obesity in the United States

The Numbers

Almost one-third of all children ages 6–19 are considered overweight or at risk for being overweight.(1)

According to the Institute of Medicine, there are 9 million children over the age of 6 who are obese. There is a 70 percent chance that an overweight adolescent will be overweight or obese as an adult.(2)

The Consequences

Studies show that as a result of diseases that are related to being overweight, children today may not live as long as their parents.(3)

Obesity is associated with diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, depression, breast cancer and arthritis.(4,5,6)

In the past 20 years, annual obesity-associated hospital costs for children have tripled.(7)

Being overweight negatively affects children’s relationships with their peers: they may have fewer friends or be subject to teasing. Teasing has been linked with an increase in suicidal tendencies in overweight adolescents.(8)

The Reasons

There are two main reasons that overweight has become such a problem for our children today: poor diet and lack of physical activity. Consider the following:

In 1994–1996, less than 21 percent of children ages 6–19 ate the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables.(9)

In 1999–2000, the number-one most consumed item by children ages 6–19 was carbonated beverages.(10)

Children 8 years old and older now spend an average of 6.5 hours a day on media including watching TV, using the computer and playing video games.11 Studies have shown that the more TV kids watch, the more likely they are to be overweight.(12)

The percentage of children’s diets consumed in restaurants (including fastfood) went from 6.5 percent in 1977 to 19.3 percent in 1996. Children consume almost twice the number of calories during a typical restaurant meal as compared to a meal from home.(13)

Food and drink companies spend on average 15 billion dollars a year on advertisements that target children.14 The average child sees 40,000 commercials a year, and more than half of these ads are for unhealthy foods like candy, soda pop and fast foods.(15)

Ninety-two percent of elementary schools do not provide daily physical education classes for all students for the whole school year.(16) The majority of our schools have vending machines available to students—75 percent of the drinks and 85 percent of the snacks in these machines are junk foods like sweetened soda, candy and chips.(17)


1. Hedley AA, et al. Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among U.S. Children, Adolescents, and Adults, 1999-2002. J Am Med Assoc 2004;291:2847-50.

2. Department of Health and Human Services Fact Sheet. The Problem of Overweight in Children and Adolescents. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/obesity/calltoaction/fact_adolescents.htm

3. Olshansky SJ, et al. A Potential Decline in Life Expectancy in the United States in the 21st Century. N Engl J Med 2005;352 (11):1138-1145.

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-94. Analysis by the Lewin Group [Falls Church, VA], 1999.

5. Action for Healthy Kids. The Learning Connection: The Value of Improving Nutrition and Physical Activity in Our Schools.

6,7,9,10,13,16. American Heart Association. A Nation at Risk: Obesity in the United States, A Statistical Sourcebook

8. Daniels SR, et al. Overweight in Children and Adolescents: Pathophysiology, Consequences, Prevention, and Treatment. American Heart Association Scientific Statement.

11. Kaiser Family Foundation 2005. Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year Olds. Menlo Park, CA.

12. Center for Health Improvement. 2005. Preschoolers Increasingly Overweight: Preventing Childhood Obesity: A Prop 10 Opportunity. Updated Policy Brief.

This information was brought to you from the Healthy Lifestyles at Home and School notebook, created in partnership with Parents’ Action for Children.

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