Friday, March 25, 2011

Fruit and vegetable tasting program at the grade school

Wow, what a day! As part of the school lunch improvement plan, the PTA Wellness Committee decided to offer samples of fruits and veggies to the kids once a month for the rest of the school year. We didn't want to scare off anyone with anything too exotic for the first go-around, so today we served up cucumber and cantaloupe. Next month we are doing jicama and grapes. In May we'll do watermelon and zucchini.

You would not believe how much work it was getting this approved and running! You need sign-off from the principal, food vendor, county health inspector, and who knows who else. And everyone was really great and agreeable, but it's still a lot of coordination.

So, three of us cut up all the cucumber and cantaloupe that was donated by a local grocer. We had the use of the kitchen from 9-10 am, before the Lunch Ladies start getting the delivered lunch trays ready. (Ready = Take pre-made lunches from the middle school out of the heater boxes. Put on table.) Turns out our grade school has a compost bin, which I can't believe I didn't know. We put all the peels in there. Saved some of the seeds to clean up and give to the garden club (grades 3 and 4), which has no money left for seed purchasing. Went for a walk and checked out the new school speed limit sign, which I helped agitate for. Toured the still empty (zone 5!) community garden. Gave a little unsolicited advice on how to organize one of the sizable plots.

Returned to the school to prepare for the onslaught. There are three lunch periods, and they run for almost an hour and a half total. We served the samples on toothpicks. We have 400 students. Which means that we served about 2000 kids, because some of them just kept getting back in line. And back in line. And back in line. Turns out kids really like cucumbers and cantaloupe! Even kids who had never tried them before, hurrah!

The superintendent dropped by. He had some cucumber. Not a melon fan, apparently.

The leftover produce went to the fire station. In the future we hope to drop it off at the food pantry or homeless shelter, but that didn't come up as an idea until today, so we'll have to call them and arrange drop-off.

Every family received an informational flyer about how to enjoy cucumbers and cantaloupe at home, with a coupon from our grocer-sponsor stapled to it. Guess who did the copying and stapling? Yep, two of us Wednesday night.

I'm exhausted. But exhilarated, too.

The questions on the chart, from left to right, are: Have you ever tried cucumbers before? How does it taste? Should we include it in school lunches? And then the same questions for canteloupe.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Granola and granola bars

There's certain items at the grocery store that irk me. Too expensive for what they are. Top of the list? Granola bars. If you want ones without HFCS, you'll be paying a lot. Cereal is also something I stock up on only when it's on sale. To combat these budget-busters I've started making my own. In fact, I have the bars in the oven right now. And I made the granola on Monday.

This chewy walnut granola bar recipe is especially nice as it is peanut-free. A nice break from the usual, and helpful for people allergic to peanuts but not tree nuts.

And this granola recipe is fabulous, but I must remember to double or triple it next time I make it, or my family will burn right through it in a matter of days. As you can see, it's from my favorite bread book. I'm still making bread regularly, since it's so easy and delicious.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Good news on the school lunch program

Here's the update we sent out to the school parents this week:

The district has chosen our school for a pilot program in the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). We are applying at the bronze level. District-wide, we are already meeting several requirements at this level, including nutrition education, PE classes, and our wellness policy. The lunch menus for March, April, and May will be changed to make them align with the HUSSC guidelines.

If the pilot is successful (meaning that the number of lunches sold is equal or higher than in previous months), this program will be rolled out to the other elementary schools in the district.

The menu changes include:

  • White milk choices will change from skim or 2%, to skim or 1%. Chocolate milk will remain at 1%.
  • Whole grains must be served three times a week. Examples include brown rice or whole wheat hamburger buns.
  • Dark green or orange vegetables will be added every week. For example, romaine salad or sweet potatoes.
  • Beans will be served at least once a week.
  • Fresh fruit will be offered at least once a week.


So. Progress is good. I'm happy that we are making these changes without an impact on the budget. However, I have to say, there are a few menu items that perhaps need tweaking. My favorite day is next week. It is "Cheese pizza, romaine garden salad with dressing, mixed fruit, brown rice." Oh, those little kids will just be gobbling up their brown rice that day! Obviously a whole wheat pizza crust would be a better fit, but either it's too expensive or not available from our supplier right now.

There's also a side dish called "Toasted Oatsies." Yeah, essentially Cheerios. A bit odd. My daughter spy tells me that they are fairly popular, though, so that's cool.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Catching up on book club picks

Whoopsie. Apparently I've been negligent in my duties.

February was The Best American Short Stories 2010 (The Best American Series) which was a lot of fun. Quite a bit of discussion.

March is The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

My old buddy Tish wrote up her favorite books of 2010 for your viewing pleasure. Check it out.