fruit

FoodDay2014_poster_11x17_new2small-page-001You’re already doing a lot to make healthy eating happen at home. But you might feel helpless when it comes to your kids’ school. Children spend 35-plus-hours at school every week, eating up to two meals (and maybe even a snack) there. That makes it a natural setting for learning about and experiencing food. Good food. The kind that doesn’t come in a plastic wrapper. Here are 12 ways you can take action in your child’s school to make that happen:

1. Volunteer to bring a fruit tray or fruit salad to the next class party or school event. The simple “fruit rainbow” I brought to my son’s preschool class was a huge hit and was quickly gobbled up.

RainbowFruit

2. Join a PTA committee that plans events and fundraisers and lobby for healthier options. For example, could a cookie dough fundraiser be swapped for a Florida citrus sale? Could the PTA adopt a “water only” drink policy for all school events? Could students get slices of watermelon instead of snow cones on the last day of school?

3. Ask your child’s teacher about taking a field trip to tour a local farm, farmer’s market, or natural foods market. Some farms and markets have special programming just for schools–and your children’s teachers may have health-related topics they need to cover as part of their curriculum (that’s a win-win!). Last year, my son’s kindergarten teachers arranged a class visit to a farm to learn about maple sugaring, then they all returned in the spring to see how bees make honey.

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4. Celebrate your child’s birthday by donating a book to the classroom that teaches a lesson about food (two of my favorites are Yoko and Bread & Jam for Frances). Babble.com has a list of 10 books for a Healthy Food Attitude.

5. See if your child’s teacher would be open to having a farmer or chef visit the classroom and talk about how food is grown or prepared.

6. Get to know your school’s foodservice team. Thank them for their work. Ask questions. Find out how decisions are made. Be polite and gracious.

7. Volunteer to talk to your child’s class about food and nutrition. Super Healthy Kids has simple lesson plans for all grade levels.

8. Join your school’s wellness committee (or start one) and work on programming that gets students excited about healthy habits (read: “School Wellness Programs That Rock“).

9. Find out if your child’s school takes part in Farm to School, a national movement to source more foods locally and to provide educational activities to students that emphasize food, farming, and nutrition. The USDA provides a toolkit to “grow your own” program.

DSC_112810. If the school allows outside food, organize parents to do tastings. Have kids sample different kinds of apples and make a bar graph of the class favorites. Bring your blender and whip up green smoothies with spinach and fruit. Let kids mash avocadoes into guacamole they scoop up with chips. Get advice from School Bites in this post, Tips for Starting a Preschool Cooking Class.

11. Does your child get a snack every day in class or at a school after-care program? If you’re not happy with the quality of the snack, talk to the teacher or staff about possibilities. Here’s a huge list of snack ideas from CSPI.

12. If your school has a garden, pitch in to help. If they don’t, could they start with a raised bed or containers? Whole Foods’ Whole Kids Foundation has lots of resources for making a case for a school garden, designing a garden, recruiting volunteers, and developing activities around it.

I wrote this post as part of a coordinated blogging event for Food Day. Held every October 24th, Food Day is designed to inspire Americans to change their diets for the better and to improve food policies. Created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), it’s a day to resolve to make changes to your own diet and to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level.

Visit the following blogs written by other authors participating in Food Day’s first-ever Coordinated Blogging Event:

Food Day

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I Wish Red Delicious Apples Would Just Go Away

by Sally on September 12, 2014

I Am Sick of Red Delicious Apples by Real Mom Nutrition

I am sick of Red Delicious apples. Specifically, I am sick of Red Delicious apples being passed off as actual apples when really, they’re just very attractive props.

Red Delicious apples, with their chewy skin and mealy flesh, are the most common apple in America, grown and sold more than any other variety. Thanks to years of breeding, the skin is redder and thicker than ever. They’re able to be picked before they’re ripe and resist bruising while they travel across the country…to people who don’t want to eat them.

In a new piece in the Atlantic, “The Awful Reign of the Red Delicious“, Sarah Yager describes the “paradox of the Red Delicious” as this:

“Alluring yet undesirable, the most produced and arguably the least popular apple in the United States. It lurks in desolation. Bumped around the bottom of lunch bags as schoolchildren rummage for chips or shrink-wrapped Rice Krispies treats. Waiting by the last bruised banana in a roadside gas station, the only produce for miles. Left untouched on hospital trays, forlorn in the fruit bowl at hotel breakfast buffets, bereft in nests of gift-basket raffia.”

Don’t get me wrong: Red Delicious apples look terrific in a bowl at a health fair. They’re the perfect vehicle for evil queens to poison unsuspecting storybook characters. But there is nothing “delicious” about them.

I Wish Red Delicious Apples Would Just Go Away

Yet those beautiful, bland things are served almost every day at my children’s school, where many of them get tossed in the garbage by the kids. Even when we cut them into easy-to-eat slices as part of the Fruit Ninjas program, most students take a few nibbles and push them aside. Who could blame them? “They’re green inside,” my six year old told me one day with horror. He’d never met a piece of fruit he didn’t like until he tried a Red Delicious at school.

I’m sure Red Delicious are the most economical choice for our school district to buy. I get it. But what a shame that there are apple orchards mere miles away where varieties like Melrose, Gala, and Honeycrisp are grown to perfection. Apples that would make kids swoon! And to think that some children may only know “apples” as “those tasteless round things I get in the cafeteria”.

Thankfully, there are signs that the vile Red Delicious may be on its way out. Production has dropped 40 percent, as more consumers demand Galas, Granny Smiths, and Fujis. I can only hope that trickles down to the lunch tray. Because how can we expect children to develop a taste for healthy foods if we don’t give them healthy food that actually tastes good?

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{Recipe} Real Simple Blueberry Jam

July 28, 2014

Blueberries are, hands-down, my favorite fruit. To me, it’s not really summer until I’ve picked many, many pounds at a local farm–then eaten so many that I get a stomachache. Still, I usually end up with leftovers. So I make muffins, pancakes, and fruit leathers and tuck a few bags away for the winter. I also love […]

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{Recipe} Peaches & Vanilla Green Smoothie

February 5, 2014

The Polar Vortex got me dreaming of warmer temperatures in faraway places–where thermometers have never seen minus 10 degrees at high noon and where you don’t need to wear a ski mask to take out the recycling. That was the inspiration for this smoothie, a new favorite of mine. Close your eyes and it’s part […]

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Make-Ahead Green Smoothie Packets

December 6, 2013

I’ve seen these make-ahead smoothie kits all over Pinterest. But I wasn’t convinced until my friend Kelly recently texted me to report that yes, freezing fresh spinach totally works. Kelly and I, who share a love of green smoothies, often bemoaned the fact that the small box of spinach was never enough–but the jumbo one […]

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The End of Soccer Snacks?

September 17, 2013

More than two years ago, I finally gave voice to my feelings about soccer snacks–specifically, irritation that my kid was getting cookies and donuts and fruit punch and cupcakes after trotting around on a field for 20 minutes (read: “Soccer Mom Soapbox“). I vowed to speak up and change things. And since then, I’ve helped […]

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One Of The Best Things You Can Do On A Sunday

September 3, 2013

If you read my last post, you may be thinking that by “one of the best thing you can do” I mean “go to yoga class” or “ignore the mountains of laundry and snuggle with your kids” (read “A Back-To-School Pledge To Myself“). And yes, do those. And go to religious services. Or watch football. […]

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My Summer Bucket List: The Food

June 5, 2013

This summer, I want to… 1. Make many, many batches of homemade ice cream in my turquoise Cuisinart ICE-21. 2. Learn how to dry or freeze the extra herbs from my garden instead of letting them go to waste. 3. Go blueberry picking with my kids. Eat so many berries I feel sick. Repeat. 4. Drink a […]

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3 Days of Giveaways: Bare Fruit Apple Chips

May 28, 2012

This is one bag of chips you’ll actually want your kids digging into. And believe me, they will. These Bare Fruit organic apple chips are dried apples. With nothing added–no sugar, no preservatives. They’re “baked-dried” in wood-burning ovens at low temperatures for hours. So unlike other dried apples, they’re not soft. They’re crispy and crunchy. […]

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A Green Smoothie for Freezer Pop Season

March 30, 2012

I will put practically anything into popsicle molds: applesauce, yogurt and berries, the leftover juice at the bottom of a fruit cup. And for the most part, my kids will eat it. I’m a little late to the green smoothie game. I don’t have a juicer and didn’t think my blender would be powerful enough […]

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