“Cafeteria Man” Oct 19th – Broughal Middle School – Bethlehem

Another great story about changing the school food! This looks fantastic and is showing next week in Bethlehem.

“Cafeteria Man” is a story of positive movement.  It’s about the aspiration of social activists and citizens coming together to change the way kids eat at school.  It’s about overhauling a dysfunctional nutritional system.  And, it’s the story of what it takes and who it takes, to make solutions happen.

The feature documentary film chronicles an ambitious effort to “green” the public schools diet serving 83,000 students in Baltimore, by replacing pre-plated, processed foods with locally grown, freshly prepared foods. Parents, teachers, administrators, school board members, farmers, chefs and dozens of creative and motivated students form a “village” to transform school food.

“Cafeteria Man” will be viewed at 7:00 PM on October 19th at the new Broughal Middle School auditorium, 114 West Morton Steet, Bethlehem.

Prior to the showing, there will be a reception highlighting local farmers starting at 6 PM.  At 8:20 PM, a discussion panel moderated by Meagan Grega, MD and Eric J. Ruth, co-founders of the Kellyn Foundation with panelists Richard Chisholm, Co-Director of “Cafeteria Man”, Edward Docalovich, Principal of Broughal Middle School, Robert Irving from Sodexo and Jeffrey Frank, a local organic farmer will take place.

Check out his website and watch the trailer.



“Food for Thought” Film

Last night the Wellness Expo was a great event. Congratulations to all those who put it together in the administration! I met a lot of wonderful people and vendors and will be adding posts about some of them soon. I think we have something great rolling here!The panel was really great too and really representative of diverse views.

Michael Lynch, who’s initiative Fresh Foods at Palisades Board Initiative really put this on the agenda, was featured in this great film about food and children in Bucks County. He found this link on vimeo this morning that I wanted to share.

Food for Thought


Hope you enjoy.


The “Keeping It Real” blog was created  to communicate and support efforts to improve the health of our children by increasing access to nutritious foods in our schools and community and to advocate for better policy in our schools.

We are living in a time where healthy food has become an anomaly and unhealthy food surrounds our children wherever they go. The results of which have been devastating. Our children are now expected to be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents due to the food they eat and ONE IN THREE children born after the year 2000 is expected to develop Type 2 Diabetes (originally called adult-onset diabetes). It is time to change the course of our children’s future and stop surrounding them with unhealthy food wherever they go, and to educate them to eat REAL, fresh, healthy food, and the consequences of an unhealthy diet. We need to do it in our schools and in our community.

The good news is that our our school district is now taking this seriously and has pledged to make this their number two goal for the year (thank you Dr. O’Connell and Dr. Barnes). We also have support on the board. Our area has all the potential, with incredible farmers and rich soils, more and more farmers markets with young farmers,  and smart, thoughtful people. Now we need to take that next step and connect these farms and concerned people to the schools  the ball fields, the dance recitals, and the restaurants. We need to make good choices easy for our children. It’s time to stand up to big-food and ignore packaging that health washes over-processed foods and confuses us, and stick to the basics – real food – food your grandparents ate – fruit, vegetables, whole grains and healthy meat and dairy (if you choose). We have made some good first steps, but as my most recent tour of the cafeterias demonstrated, we are just at the beginning. Better nutrition will lead to better academic performance, healthier and longer lives.

This website will communicate the progress of the Wellness Committee, which was recently formed, and take input from the community that can be shared with the committee. This is a blog that we intend to update often with healthy tips and information on grass-roots community efforts that support healthier lifestyles, local farms, markets, health food stores, CSAs, nutrition based doctors, health coaches and more.  I hope this can grow and be run by the youth and community. I would love any suggestions and ideas to make this a success! I hope to have special features like lunch box ideas, favorite “health wash” labels, what I grew this summer and more.

If you want to comment more generally, share your thoughts on our Facebook Page, or by submitting a comment below.  I’ll ask that these comments are reviewed monthly at the Wellness Committee Meetings, so your voice is heard.

Volunteer!  We have had cooking classes and other events that  have been very popular and well-received by the kids. If you have a talent to share, we want to find a way to help you share it. You will be happy you did. Nothing matches the hugs I get at the elementary school – and being called the vegetable lady! Come help reverse this terrible epidemic of bad food and disease!

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.