Posts Tagged ‘ school lunches ’

USDA: Schools Can Soon Opt Out of ‘Pink Slime’ Beef

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are telling news sources that schools that participate in the national school lunch program will soon have the choice to opt out of ground beef that’s been mixed with ammonia-treated filler and dubbed “pink slime” by food safety and nutrition critics.  The Associated Press reports:

Under the change, schools will be able to choose between 95 percent lean beef patties made with the product or less lean bulk ground beef without it. The change won’t kick in immediately because of existing contracts, according to a USDA official with knowledge of the decision.

Though the term “pink slime” has been used pejoratively for at least several years, it wasn’t until last week that social media suddenly exploded with worry and an online petition seeking its ouster from schools. The petition quickly garnered hundreds of thousands of supporters.

The low-cost ingredient is made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. The bits are heated to about 100 F and spun to remove most of the fat. The lean mix then is compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product, made by South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc., also is exposed to “a puff of ammonium hydroxide gas” to kill bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella.

The department said it continues to affirm the safety of the ammonia-treated lean finely textured beef as a filler, but that it wanted to be transparent and that school districts wanted choices.

Some politicians, including Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, are urging the Agriculture department to ban the product altogether.  “The beef industry sent my office an email the other day describing pink slime as `wholesome and nutritious’ and said the process for manufacturing it is `similar to separating milk from cream.’ I don’t think a highly processed slurry of meat scraps mixed with ammonia is what most families would think of as `wholesome and nutritious,’” Pingree told the AP in a written statement.

Image: Teens having school lunch, via Shutterstock.

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Study: Banning Junk Food Sales in Schools Won’t Prevent Obesity

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

A study published this month in the journal Sociology of Education has found that banning the sale of salty and sweet junk foods in schools has no correlation to decreased rates of childhood obesity.  The New York Times reports:

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University tracked the body mass indexes of 19,450 students from fifth through eighth grade. In fifth grade, 59 percent of the children attended a school where candy, snacks or sugar-sweetened beverages were sold. By eighth grade, 86 percent did so.

The researchers compared children’s weight in schools where junk food was sold and in schools where it was banned. The scientists also evaluated eighth graders who moved into schools that sold junk food with those who did not, and children who never attended a school that sold snacks with those who did. And they compared children who always attended schools with snacks with those who moved out of such schools.

No matter how the researchers looked at the data, they could find no correlation at all between obesity and attending a school where sweets and salty snacks were available.

“Food preferences are established early in life,” said Jennifer Van Hook, the lead author and a professor of sociology and demography at Penn State. “This problem of childhood obesity cannot be placed solely in the hands of schools.”

Image: Candy, via Shutterstock.

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Cafeteria Trend: Schools Outlaw Brown Paper Bags

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

baglunchThe brown paper bag and plastic sandwich bag are becoming endangered species in some school cafeterias.

In an effort to protect the planet and cut spending on garbage-hauling, certain schools are asking parents to send lunches that include only reusable materials, such as Tupperware, cloth lunch bags, and aluminum water bottles, The New York Times reports.

Opinions about the new rules are mixed, the story said:

The trend makes the schools happy (much less garbage). It makes the stores happy (higher back-to-school spending). It even makes the students happy (green feels good).

Who’s not happy? The parents (what to do when the Tupperware runs out?).

The story quotes Julie Corbett of Oakland, Calif., a mom whose daughters attend a school with an eco-friendly lunch policy. Faced with peer pressure to be green, her girls want to adhere to the rules. But Corbett isn’t as enthusiastic:

[She says] plasticware can be a pain to clean, and is not cheap. When she thinks it is likely that her daughters will lose the containers — if, for instance, they’re going on a field trip — she uses waxed-paper sleeves, like the kind bakeries use for cookies, to hold sandwiches instead.

“It’s still a no-no because you’re still having to throw that away, but it is biodegradable, it does compost, so you’re not as guilty,” she said.

What do you think? Is it fair for schools to ask parents to send environmentally friendly lunches?

(image via: http://www.atlantaintownpaper.com)

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Colorado Schools Serving Healthy, Fresh Cafeteria Food

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Colorado, the least obese state in the nation according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is leading the way in the back-to-scratch movement, in which school cafeterias serve real, fresh food instead of processed, fat-and-salt laden meals.  The New York Times reports on Greeley, Co., a mid-sized city that is breaking the stereotype of only wealthy school districts offering fresh food; sixty percent of Greeley’s students qualify for free or reduced-price meals:

Greeley’s schools will be cooking from scratch about 75 percent of the time on the opening day, with a goal of reaching 100 percent by this time next year, when ovens and dough mixers for whole wheat pizza crust will be up and running. But already, the number of ingredients in an average meal — not to mention the ones that sound like they came from chemistry class — is plummeting.

Consider the bean burrito: last year, in arriving from the factory wrapped in cellophane, each one had more than 35 ingredients, including things like potassium citrate and zinc oxide. This year: 12, including real cheddar cheese. Italian salad dressing went from 19 ingredients to 9, with sodium reduced by almost three-fourths and sugar — the fourth ingredient in the factory blend — eliminated entirely.

Greeley’s cafeteria staff is preparing for the changes with a week-long “boot camp” in which forgotten kitchen skills, nutritional guidelines, and food safety procedures will be taught.  But the model may not be replicable in many school districts, a fact that concerns experts who observe the American obesity epidemic.  From the Times:

Nutrition experts say that many school systems around the nation, however much they might want to improve the food they serve, have been profoundly distracted by years of budget cuts and constriction. Many face structural problems, too. Some newer schools have tiny kitchens designed for only reheating premade meals, while some older schools have outdated electrical wiring that cannot handle modern equipment. Many districts, and their lawyers, have also grown fearful of handling and cooking raw meat, as food-borne illnesses like E. coli have made headlines.

(image via: http://blog.centralrestaurant.com)

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New School Nutrition Rules Approved in Massachusetts

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

school cafeteria fruit saladIn an effort to combat obesity in Massachusetts, where 1 in 4 fourth graders is overweight, the state’s Public Health Council has approved a proposal to require public schools to improve the quality of foods it serves to children in vending machines, snack bars, and a la carte cafeteria areas.

The new rules do not apply to the standard cafeteria fare because that food is regulated by the federal government and is not subject to state modifications.

The new standards will take effect for the 2012-2013 school year.  Flavored milk, which was also banned as part of the new regulations, will still be offered until August of 2013 so that schools can prepare non-sugary ways to get children to drink milk.

The Boston Globe reported that the rules “are believed to be the strictest in the country, prohibit fried foods, sugary and artificially sweetened beverages, and foods high in sodium.”  Further:

At the core of the new standards is the elimination of sugary beverages, which have been identified as a prime culprit in the obesity epidemic.

Studies have linked even moderate consumption of soft drinks to substantially elevated risk of heart disease and diabetes. Harvard researchers have shown, for instance, that a 20-ounce soft drink contains the equivalent of 17 teaspoons of sugar.

(image via: http://www.nytimes.com/)

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