Wednesday, August 29, 2012

#SchoolFoodsRule questions (or not) by the USDA

During my lunch hour I followed along with the #AskUSDA discussion about changes to the school lunch program. Below are the questions that were asked and the responses. The USDA did a lot of skirting the issue, but I do feel that it allowed there to be more open dialogue between community members and parents, while the USDA stuck to their script. Be sure to check our #AskUSDA or #SchoolFoodsRules to see all the tweets, and don't forget that Sensible School Lunches is a great place to continue on the conversation.

Q1  RT : Students want appealing food. How can USDA help SFAs design a student driven menu?

A1 Thornton: They should involve students when planning menues! It can be healthy and student friendly at the same time. 

A1 Thornton: Students can be involved in taste tests, both in the cafeteria and in the classroom. 

A1 Thornton: Parents may offer some of the healthier choices at home after viewing school menus on the district websites.

  What if parents can't afford healthier choices at home or don't know? What's the outreach? 

 aren't school lunches to help the poor? What abt those kids whose moms aren't able to provide that healthy food after school?

Q2 RT : What has been the general response from schools about the new regulations? 

 is horrible. I'm an athlete and there is definitely not enough choices 4 me to make up for the calories I burn in practice

A2 Thornton: At 1st there was concern & anxiety, now that school is underway, we're hearing lots of excitement & positive feedback!

 It seems that the push for more fruits/veggies has been at the expense of protein. Why not always be encouraging balanced diet?

What do you think about all the food that is getting thrown away because kids refuse to eat it? Did you consider this? 

 my 11 y/o is starved when I pick him up from school. I meet him with a banana. I don't mind feeding him right after school but...
Q3 RT   What are ideas you have to reduce childhood obesity with non-food solutions? 

A3 Thornton: We need to recognize importance of phys activity in addition to recognizing proper portion sizes of foods we consume.

 I love this blog post that addresses non-food solutions to   

 What about active kids who aren't obese and who say the new portions aren't enough? Those out for sports have concerns

Q4 RT : What do you think about all the food that is getting thrown away because kids refuse to eat it? 

A4 Thornton: In the responses we've had from schools thus far, they really have not seen an increase in foods being thrown away.

A4: It's going to b harder and harder where we live to get good fresh fruits & Veg. My kids said the grapes yesterday were bad 

Kids go home and splurge on junk food because they don't like anything the school is serving. This is making us less healthy.

 @KaylaPauW no, they splurge on crap because parents keep crap available. DON"T BRING IT INTO YOUR HOME.

Q5  Does "healthier" mean only more fruits, vegs & whole grains? What about protein & dairy? 

A5 Thornton: Healthier means eating a well balanced meal w/ proper portion sizes of all types of foods including protein & dairy.

Protein is shown to curb hunger and keep people full longer. Skimpy protein portions will contribute to hunger and poor focus. 

Q6 RT   13 y/o has football after school. He's 5'9", 114 lbs. he NEEDS more than 2-3 oz of protein to keep him fueled

A6 Thornton: School meals designed to meet a portion of kids' needs. Parents may send add'l healthy snax to meet athlete needs.

 So you're saying that athletes have to provide their own snacks, but the School can't provide it? 

 Seriously? Isn' t the school lunch supposed to meet the needs of ALL students?

 What about the kids whose parents can't or don't? Wasn't that the point of the gov't being involved in lunches to begin with?

I think schools should call it "food and nutrition" not lunch, this way its like a class and they can be graded for eating right. 

 The answer was that parents shud send snacks to make up the difference in what's served and needed. Unimpressed.

Q7 RT   Do you see a future in school healthy gardens for all schools in the country? Is it possible to achieve?

A7 Thornton: I definitely see a future in school gardens. They help kids know where food comes from & to develop healthy habits.

 School gardens don't work very well when our first frost date is just weeks after school starts in the fall.

Q8 RT  What about free & reduced lunch students who can't afford to buy additional food at school? 

A8 Thornton: There are a number of programs available in schools to help meet dietary needs of kids during the school day. 

Got a 8 y/o picky-eater, I send his lunch b/c the food does not look tasty.   How will u ensure the food is better prepared.

 So your are pretty much saying that students who are athletes are punished for being ACTIVE. 

RT  It seems the new punishes the kids that R most active. Shud encourage more kids 2 B active &...

 I was at our school board mtg. Our school does NOT know what these programs are. Please share. 

A8 Thornton: For information on these programs, check out the website:  

Q9 RT   what are school systems doing to get kids to try the new & improved meals? 

 That is such a great point. If it doesn't taste good - kids will not eat it. 

A9 Thornton: Schools can use posters, flyers, taste tests, & school news channels to encourage students to try new healthy meals.

A9 I know a flier of a vegetable wasn't going to get me to eat more vegetables.  

Q10 RT : Kids can't function properly without enough food. We're not getting enough.  

 I've read the NAP guidelines you've provided. Where are afternoon concerns? Just breakfast and lunch.  

A10 Thornton: Kids need breakfast, lunch, healthy snax & dinner. School lunches provide approximately 1/3 of a child's daily needs.

Q11 RT   Why is emphasis on reducing proteins instead of increasing physical activity? Remember the Pres. Fitness Chall?

 Pretty unimpressed w/ this chat. Ppl asking legitimate Qs, USDA giving rubber-stamp As. Meet the ppl where they are!

I hope the  really hears the parents who want whats best for kids. Scary to me that we all forget what the U in USA means.

A11 Thornton: School lunch proportions are based on scientific needs of kids. Physical fitness important too. 

  If schools don't also emphasize physical activity, they've lost half the battle before starting 

   Should we 'regulate' portion size, or teach kids 2 recognize satiety signals so they won't over-eat?

Q12 RT  Would you to come to my rural school and help us create real solutions? Please. Set the example. 

A12 Thornton: We do have a best practices sharing center! You can get ideas from schools around the country:  

 how about you come down and try school food. 

 We would love to have you visit us to demonstrate the in a new setting! 

Q13 RT   just to clarify, your scientific data says portion sizes of all ages of school children is the same?

  All kids created equal and no consideration for size & weight included in portions? 

A13 Thornton: New requirements have 3 age groups with different portion sizes for each based on avg needs. Not a one-size-fits-all.

. IOM's study School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children   

Thanks so much for your participation on . We're about to answer our last question for this chat. Keep talking at

": We're about to answer our last question for this chat." Translation: we have no intention of giving you any real answers.

 has yet again shown how we fail to grasp that IDEAS create change, not PROGRAMS. 

I sure would like to continue to talk and learn more about can another talk b scheduled? 

Q14 RT  Is this a "diet" to try to improve numbers? What if it fails? When will it be adjusted? 

A14 Thornton: We know healthy food plays vital role in the education of kids. We con't to monitor implementation of school meals.

 I just got more protein from a glass of milk at lunch then kids get from your  on meat. Problem? Yes!

RT  Whatever your stand on meat or milk, let us all agree that soda does not belong in schools

Also interested in knowing if USDA intends to make one day a week meatless on lunch menus. 

 educate about food but don't limit choices and force schools to conform to rules or lose funding for lunch 

 Yes! Put a Garden and a Chef in each school Stand back and watch the kids thrive;)

RT  Where would you like kids to garden in the north during the school year? 

 agree but gardens are growing during summer - when kids are out of school. Who tends it? 

   Good point

 yes. That's why our culinary school has opted out, much to my disappointment going the container garden route less maint

 Goes to show again that a one-size fit all plan won't work for our schools   


  1. Thanks for posting! I started watching this yesterday, and was quickly interrupted! What an interesting chat!

    Thanks again,

  2. I'm having a hard time deciding where to stand on this topic. I look back to our school lunches and by no means were they protein flourishing. I'm fairly certain we had fries 2-3 times a week. With what many university studies are showing what a growing child needs as far a protein a week the 12 oz max covers it. I feel that we as parents sometimes need to take responsibility as well. If all u feed is junk food at home then no fruits and veggies will not be appealing to a child at school. And as for the athlete thing. I was a very involved student athlete and we didn't get supplemented just bc we were athletes. We brought snacks for before practice. Idk. This is a hard one.

  3. I think I laughed at most of yesterday's conversation as I watched it unfold before my eyes. Mostly because I don't think that the USDA can justify the changes that they are trying to make to school menus through a Twitter chat. It was a good try, but when you are limited to 140 characters to answer very serious questions, I don't think that that is enough to redeem themselves.

    I agree with Dirt Road Charm, but at the same time, I know that a great majority of American students rely on the schools for food. I agree that healthy eating begins with parents, but I also know that many parents are just as obese as their children....what are we to do?


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