Tag Archives: nutrition

Join us at Farm to School Day at the State House


Join us!

Wednesday, May 6

Farm to School Day at the State House in Boston!

Talk with your elected officials about why farm to school is important to you, your school, and your community!

Farm to school advocates from around the state will spend the day meeting with legislators to raise the visibility of farm to school programs and to encourage support for state level policies to expand food education, local food in school meals, and school gardens in Massachusetts.

Come share your stories!

We will gather to meet one another at noon in the Members’ Lounge, attend a legislative briefing together and then fan out to attend meetings you have pre-scheduled with local elected officials.

Please call your Representatives and Senators’ offices to schedule meetings with the legislators and/or their staff any time before noon or after 1 pm.

Farm to School Day Agenda

12 pm: Meet in the Members’ Lounge on the 2nd floor

12:30 pm: Attend a legislative briefing with legislators and their staff to learn more about Farm to School and current Farm to School legislation

1 pm:  Fan out to meet with your elected officials to discuss farm to school efforts happening in your region and across the Commonwealth

Let us know you’re coming!

For more information and to RSVP, please contact Simca Horwitz or Lisa Damon at info@massfarmtoschool.org or call 413-253-3844.

We hope to see you on May 6!

Massachusetts Farm to School
34 Main St., Suite 10
Amherst, MA 01002

Mass Farm to School news

Farm to Institution Summit Coming to Massachusetts

Are you working to increase the amount of local and regional food used by schools, colleges, and healthcare facilities in the Northeast? You’re invited to the 2015 Farm to Institution Summit at UMass Amherst on April 7-9!

This first-year conference will feature 50+ sessions, inspiring speakers, local tours, good food, live music, and exhibitor fair and more.

Please join us–along with hundred of other farm to institution advocates–for three exciting days of learning, sharing and connecting.

Register by March 2 to save $20 per day: www.farmtoinstitution.org/summit

Do you have a great idea for farm to school success? If so, be sure to submit your Recipe for Success by March 2 for a chance to win $500 in cash prizes, free registrations to the Northeast Farm to Institution Summit, and a chance to present and share your great work.

Harvest New England Agricultural Marketing Conference and Trade Show

Farm to Institution New England is excited to be hosting a farm to institution track with five workshops at the 2015 Harvest New England Agricultural Marketing Conference and Trade Show, one of New England’s largest agricultural marketing conference, on February 25-26 at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in Sturbridge.

Mass. Farm to School staff will be panelists for two workshops, one entitled “Farm to Institution Nuts and Bolts–Shop Talk with Sector Leaders” and the other “Farm Visits and What You Need to Know.” We’ll also have a resource table in the exhibitor hall. Stop by and say hello!

Show Your Support for Establishing a Mass. Farm to School Month

State Representative Steve Madden (Falmouth/Martha’s Vineyard/Nantucket) has introduced HD63, which would officially designate October Massachusetts Farm to School Month and encourage three state agencies (Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education, Public Health, and Agricultural Resources) to work together on a joint task force to further farm to school efforts across the state.

Contact your legislator to encourage them to vote in favor of this bill. Contact us if you’re interested in getting more involved with this advocacy effort.

Resources and Opportunities

Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom Winter Conference – March 7

Attend the 14th Annual Winter “Growing Minds Through Massachusetts Agriculture” Conference on Saturday, March 7 at the Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School in Palmer.

There will be four workshop sessions, with six to seven concurrent workshops in each session related to the many different aspects of agriculture in the classroom. Each will be taught by a teacher or farm educator.

Farm to School Policy Webinar, March 10, 1pm EST

Making change: How you can support farm to school policy this spring
Although the Child Nutrition Act (known as CNR) isn’t set to expire until September 30, the action in D.C. is happening now, and we need your help.

Join the National Farm to School Network to learn how farm to school legislation is progressing as part of CNR and what you can do to help make sure farm to school gets the support it needs from Congress!

The 20-minute presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.

Office Depot Foundation Grants for Children and Communities – Deadline: Rolling

The Office Depot Foundation’s funding focus aligns with its Strategic Priorities. The Office Depot Foundation prefers to fund projects and programs in the areas of Giving Children Tools For Success, Building Capacity to Serve Communities and Disaster Preparedness, Relief, Recovery, and Rebuilding.

Grants of $50 to $3,000 will be awarded to select applicants.

Nonprofit organizations, schools, and libraries are eligible to apply. 

Fruit Tree Orchard Grants – Deadline: Ongoing

The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF) is an award-winning international nonprofit charity dedicated to planting fruitful trees and plants to alleviate world hunger, combat global warming, strengthen communities, and improve the surrounding air, soil, and water.

FTPF programs strategically donate orchards where the harvest will best serve communities for generations, at places such as community gardens, public schools, stat/city parks, low-income neighborhoods, Native American reservations, international hunger relief sites, and animal sanctuaries.

CLICK HERE to learn more! 

The Worcester County Food Bank makes the holidays brighter

By Jean McMurray, executive director, Worcester County Food Bank

The holidays are upon us and, as always, the Worcester County Food Bank (WCFB) and its network of food pantries are grateful for the generous and warm-hearted people who support our efforts to help feed our neighbors in Worcester County during the month of November and throughout the year.  
Neighbors like the two young girls I noticed during a recent visit to one of WCFB’s partner agencies – a church food pantry.  It was a Saturday morning, a beautiful autumn day and the girls were riding their bikes around the neighborhood.  As they rode by, I heard one of the girls ask the other, what food did you get from the church?

The girl exclaimed that she got cupcakes and then added that she also got cereal, rice, and hamburger meat.  As they rode away, I could hear the first girl saying that’s what she got too.  In a matter of moments, I went from feeling glad about the assistance the girls and their families received to feeling sad that a food pantry was a part of their reality at such a young age.

And yet it is a reality for a lot of children and families.  Research by Feeding America, the national network of food banks, suggests that for the majority of households seeking help, pantries are now a part of a household’s long-term strategy to supplement monthly shortfalls in food.

The girls I overheard that day are some of the 35,000 children in 39,000 households in Worcester County – 12% of all households – who do not always know where their next meal is coming from and who turn to WCFB’s network of food pantries and community meal programs for help.  This year, WCFB distributed 5.4 million pounds of food to its network; enough food for approximately 87,000 meals a week.  Individuals and families in need of food can visit WCFB’s website, www.foodbank.org and use the agency locator to find a range of food and nutrition assistance programs.  

The WCFB’s efforts go beyond the distribution of donated food because our mission is to engage, educate, and lead Worcester County in creating a hunger-free community.  We believe that food is a fundamental right of all people and that hunger is an issue of social justice. WCFB is a leading advocate for federal nutrition programs that promote access to healthy food such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps.  For children, we specifically advocate for healthy food and nutritious meals through school breakfast and lunch programs and the summer food service program.   These solutions are systemic and sustainable and they support children and their families in being more food secure and healthy.  

Worcester is a leader in these programs under the guidance of Donna Lombardi, Director of Child Nutrition for the Worcester Public School District.  Worcester families and their children are fortunate to have a strong advocate in Ms. Lombardi and her child nutrition staff who contribute to the educational success of the whole child by addressing their nutritional needs.  They lead a collective effort that includes school administrators, teachers, custodians, and allied organizations such as WCFB and the Worcester Food & Active Living Policy Council in supporting child nutrition programs, such as breakfast in the classroom.

This collaboration has a strong funding partner in the Eos Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation, which has pledged a 10-year commitment to support universal free breakfast in the classroom in income eligible schools across Massachusetts.  In May 2014, the Eos Foundation recognized Ms. Lombardi and Worcester Public Schools with a Healthy Start Leadership Award for reaching 80% or higher student participation in school breakfast programs at 18 schools for the 2013-2014 school year – more than any other school district in the Commonwealth.  The award was accompanied by a $10,000 grant, which has been used to incorporate locally grown fruits and vegetables into the school breakfast program.
And when summer vacation comes around, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) strives to ensure that children who depend on school breakfast and lunch during the school year still have access to free, nutritious meals and snacks during the summer when school is out. 

Children need consistent nourishment during the summer so their minds and bodies continue to grow and thrive in healthy ways and they return to school in the fall ready to learn.  

However, in Massachusetts, only one in five low-income children who ate a school lunch during the regular 2012-2013 school year was reached by SFSP, according to the Food Research and Action Center.  So WCFB and Worcester Public Schools teamed up and took SFSP on the road, delivering meals to kids in places where they gather to enjoy summer activities.  Our goal was simple: deliver good food and fun in the sun.

With support from the Our Family Foundation by Stop & Shop New England, WCFB purchased a refrigerated truck and donated it to the Worcester Public Schools.  In the summer of 2013, Worcester Public Schools delivered 4,100 to kids at the Bennett Field swimming pool and the Dennis F. Shine Memorial swimming pool.  In 2014, with a second truck funded by Our Family Foundation and donated by WCFB, the city’s five library sites were added to the delivery schedule and the number of meals provided for kids swelled to more than 13,000.  Ms. Lombardi attributed the increase in participation to a couple of factors – meals being served Monday through Saturday and meals that tasted good and were fun to eat such as fresh produce and yogurt parfaits.  

Another critical resource for families with children is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.  This program, also known as WIC, provides nutritious foods, nutrition education, and access to health care to low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and children up to age 5.  
Child nutrition programs like school meals, summer meals, WIC, and others touch millions of children each day in the United States, and improve educational achievement, economic security, nutrition and health.  More information on these programs can be found at WCFB’s website, www.foodbank.org.

Every five years, Congress reviews a range of child nutrition programs through a reauthorization process and provides funding for these programs to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods.  The current law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, is set to expire on September 30, 2015.  Between now and then, the reauthorization process is an opportunity for everyone who cares about kids and their well-being to advocate for improvements to child nutrition and school meal programs so they better meet the needs of Worcester’s children and all our nation’s children. 

Priorities include continuing to support the momentum of school breakfast expansion in every state, strengthening the Summer Food Service Program so they can meet the needs of children and communities when school is out, and ensuring more children have a healthy start by improving early childhood nutrition programs.

The food pantry at Burncoat Senior High School

(editor’s note: Why not get friends and family together and make up a special Burncoat package to be given to students for the holidays?)

By Edith Morgan

It seems almost incomprehensible to me that there could be large numbers of Worcester families whose members are going hungry, skipping meals, or unsure where their next meal is coming from – or are filling up on unhealthy but cheap pastas, rice (white, not the whole grain stuff which is more costly) and fast food.

But when I went to Burncoat Senior High School a few weeks ago to write about their food pantry (one of several in the city), I discovered that even here, in the heart of my Worcester neighborhood, the Lincoln-Burncoat area, hunger stalks Worcester homes and families.

And so, about three years ago,  the Burncoat Food Pantry was born. I spoke with Assistant Principal Jean Stone and a  guidance counselor who filled me in about their activities to relieve hunger among some of their students. As a retired teacher, I know very well how hard it is to learn and concentrate on an empty stomach – and how much energy it takes just to get through the morning till lunch time. Like most of the food pantries in Worcester, in churches, neighborhood centers and other schools, Burncoat operates during school hours 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The big sign outside the front entrance tells anybody who drives or walks past the high school on Burncoat Street just that.  Non-perishables, like canned goods (soups, vegetables, beans) and staples (rice, dried beans, pasta, oatmeal), can be donated during those times, and should be left inside the front door of the school.

While Burncoat has a large percentage of students on free and subsidized lunch, about 5% of the student body of around 1,000 students is really suffering from hunger. It is these students who came to the attention of school staff and counselors, and for whom the pantry was established. On Fridays, students can select cans and staples to take home, from the rows of donated goods in the pantry.

In its first year, the pantry distributed 19 turkeys with all the trimmings; the following year 36 bags were distributed; this year there were 50 bags of turkey and other Thanksgiving goodies given out.

Getting donations, doing all the work to keep up this effort, is, according to Mrs. Stone, a coordinated effort, with many generous people pitching in. Each department is assigned items they are to contribute, and I was told of examples of different ideas being implemented for raising money and donations. Both staff members with whom I spoke repeatedly praised the great generosity of everyone in the community. Assumption College, some local businesses, neighbors – everyone gives. The Burncoat Language Honor Society, under Mrs. Friedman, for example, did a food drive; Burncoat Life Skills students help to organize the donated materials.

Cooperation among Worcester schools also was mentioned. Before establishing this pantry, Burncoat staffers visited South High School, on the opposite side of the city. South High also has a successful food pantry for their students. Burncoat staff came away with ideas and inspiration.

I came away from my visit to Burncoat impressed with the caring atmosphere and the attention paid to the “total” student.

Anyone who lives in the area (or anywhere, really!), is welcome to donate food items or help out.  Favorite items for year-round needs: pasta, rice, beans, soups, breakfast cereals and the perennial favorites – PEANUT BUTTER and JELLY.

Just a reminder: Help spread the word, re: free summer meals for kids!

The First Lady wants all US kids eating healthy foods – and exercising!

By Kevin Concannon

Children need access to healthy food all year long, because good nutrition provides the sound foundation they need to learn, grow and thrive. As USDA’s Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, it pleases me to say that during the regular school year, America’s schoolchildren can depend on the science-based nutrition provided by National School Lunch Program meals and the healthy choices now available at school. But when school is out during the summer months, it’s another story. Many kids don’t have access to even one nutritious meal a day.

USDA’s summer meals programs work to reach those children by providing free, nutritious meals at sites throughout the nation. Unfortunately, millions of eligible low-income children are still missing out. That’s pretty clear when you stop to consider that although about 21 million children nationwide receive free and reduced-priced meals through the National School Lunch Program during the regular school year, only about 3.5 million kids are reached through our summer meals programs.

Job one is to make sure that eligible children get information about the program. Summer feeding sites are located in many communities across the country, especially in low-income areas. USDA needs your help to get the word out and connect eligible kids with summer meals. Schools, community groups, and religious organizations can help with this effort. To find a summer meal site serving children in your community, call 1-866-3-Hungry or 1-877-8-Hambre or visit the National Hunger Clearinghouse resource directory.

If you or your organization is interested in helping us get the word out about summer meals, please visit the Food and Nutrition Service Summer Food website, www.summerfood.usda.gov, for more information and resources. The SFSP toolkit, available in both English and Spanish, includes templates, customizable flyers, door hangers, letters to parents, activity sheets for children, and attendance certificates. Promising practices and tips for success are also available on the website.

You can help other ways, too. While providing children with nutritious meals is our top priority, the key to success is keeping kids coming back to the sites throughout the summer.  Offering fun, age-appropriate physical activity at summer meal sites is a proven way to ensure attendance and encourage healthy habits.  And that takes volunteers – LOTS of them – especially in June, July, and August. Volunteers can help with basics, like transporting food, setting up or cleaning up a site. Volunteers can also plan and lead educational or recreational activities with the children. Go to www.serve.gov/endhungerto find an opportunity to volunteer in your community or to post a volunteer opportunity if you operate a summer meal program.

Kevin Concannon is Agriculture Under Secretary, USDA

PAHO calls for renewed commitment to support best-breastfeeding practices

Washington, D. C. – The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is calling for renewed commitment from all sectors of society to improve implementation of the WHO/UNICEF Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. This call for action comes at the start of World Breastfeeding Week 2012 (August 1-7).

 To highlight this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, PAHO/WHO has developed a policy brief summarizing the implementation of the Global Strategy in the Region of the Americas and its relationship to breastfeeding trends. PAHO has also developed a poster entitled “For You It’s Milk. For Your Baby, Life.”  These materials are available through PAHO’s headquarters, offices in each country and at www.paho.org/childnutrition.

 Although breastfeeding has been increasing in many countries in the Americas, much remains to be done to optimize breastfeeding practices. In most countries of the Americas, fewer than half of babies begin breastfeeding within the first hour of life, as recommended by PAHO/WHO. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months–also recommended–is low, ranging from 8 percent to 68 percent of babies in different countries of Latin America.

Also, the vast majority of babies and young children do not benefit from optimal complementary feeding. Nearly 20 percent do not receive solid, semi-solid or soft foods between 6 and 9 months of age, as recommended by PAHO/WHO. Only 28 percent of young children in Haiti and 81 percent in Peru receive a minimum dietary diversity. Only 46 percent of young children in Haiti and 78 percent in Peru receive a minimum meal frequency.  

 “We need to improve both breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices by creating strong and supportive public health policies and programs,” said PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses.

 This year’s World Breastfeeding Week, whose theme is “Understanding the Past, Planning the Future-Celebrating 10 Years of WHO/UNICEF’s Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding,” highlights progress toward the strategy’s implementation in countries around the world.

 Breastfeeding is the single most effective intervention for preventing deaths among children under 5. Research shows that about 20 percent of neonatal (under age 1 month) deaths could be prevented if all newborns began breastfeeding during the first hour of life.

In addition, children who are breastfed for seven to nine months have on average six points higher IQ than children who are breastfed for less than a month. Breastfeeding also helps mothers lose weight and reduces their risk of breast and ovarian cancer as well as type 2 diabetes.

PAHO, which celebrates its 110th anniversary this year, is the oldest public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.


Massachusetts Poverty Law Organization Urges Congress to Protect Federal Nutrition Programs during Deficit Negotiations

Boston – One in 9 households in Massachusetts struggled with hunger on average in the years 2008-2010, according to new data released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its annual report on food insecurity. Nationally, more than 48.8 million people lived in households that were food insecure in 2010.

The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) pointed out that there has been a been a 35 percent increase in hunger in Massachusetts during the three years covering the heart of the recession compared to the three previous years. The increase demonstrates the downturn’s depth and impact on Massachusetts.

Among the 10.8 percent of households in Massachusetts considered to be food insecure during the 2008-2010 period, 4.5 percent were considered to have “very low food security.” People in this USDA category had more severe problems, experiencing deeper hunger and cutting back or skipping meals on a more frequent basis for both adults and children.

“We continue to see evidence of the struggles facing too many people in the Commonwealth. Congress must protect the federal nutrition programs and other parts of our nation’s safety net against deficit cutting measures,” said Patricia Baker, Senior Policy Analyst at MLRI. “Weakening these programs would cause irreparable harm to low-income people in Massachusetts and across the nation.”

The Massachusetts SNAP caseload has doubled since July of 2008, now serving over 450,000 households (representing over 833,000 individuals as of July 2011) – the majority of whom are low-income elders, persons with disabilities disabled and families with children. Food pantries and soup kitchens report significant growth in persons seeking emergency food, unable to make ends meet.

“Millions of Americans, including many in Massachusetts, continue to struggle to put food on the table. It is time to strengthen, not weaken the nation’s safety net,” said Ms. Baker. “There’s a reason that every bipartisan deficit reduction plan proposed over the past year – including those from Simpson-Bowles Commission and the Gang of Six – has made sure to keep nutrition programs intact and protected from cuts–and that’s because these programs are critical to the health and well-being of America’s children and families.”

Fight cancer with your fork!

By Bruce Friedrich

According to a new study, one of the deadliest types of cancer is also one of the most preventable. The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research found that eating too much meat raises the risk of colorectal cancer and that eating fiber-rich vegetarian foods reduces the risk. What’s more, nearly half (45 percent) of colorectal cancer cases “could be prevented if we all ate more fiber-rich plant foods and less meat.”

This serves as yet another reminder that one of the best weapons in the war on cancer is a fork.

Scientists at Imperial College London conducted the new analysis as part of the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research’s groundbreaking Continuous Update Project (CUP). They found that a person who eats just 3.5 ounces of pork, beef or lamb every day has a 17 percent higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than does someone who eats no meat.

Three ounces of meat is approximately the size of a deck of cards. That’s just one serving size as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, yet it’s far less than most Americans ingest in one sitting, let alone in one day.

Just about any meat is loaded with the saturated fat that the American Cancer Society believes is linked to cancer of the colon and rectum, but processed meats such as ham, bacon, hot dogs and deli slices carry an even greater risk. According to the CUP report, if a person eats 3.5 ounces of processed meat every day, his or her risk for colorectal cancer increases by 36 percent. The more meat you eat, the higher your risk will be.

Almost as bad as what’s in meat is what’s not in it: fiber. Meat and dairy products have absolutely no fiber at all, while fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are loaded with it. Fiber helps speed the passage of food through the colon. Meat, on the other hand, tends to hang around and, well, rot.

In my work with PETA, I’ve been researching and writing about vegetarian issues for more than 15 years. And the conclusion of each new nutritional study is nearly always the same. There is overwhelming evidence linking meat to some of our society’s most severe health problems. Conversely, eating vegetarian foods can greatly reduce your risk of developing many of these same diseases—and in some cases, actually reverse them.

For example, according to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians have “lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease, lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer” than meat-eaters do. The American Cancer Society recommends “choosing most of your foods from plant sources and limiting your intake of high-fat foods such as those from animal sources.”

If we take away anything from such nutritional research, it should be that the best prescription for good health is always prevention. And if making the sensible switch to a vegan diet can so greatly benefit our health—not to mention save animals’ lives—why not at least try it? With summer fast approaching, and with it a wealth of locally grown fruits and vegetables available in farmers’ markets and at produce stands, now is a great time to start eating for life.

Bruce Friedrich is a vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

For Worcester Public Schools nutrition matters

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

“The first and most respectable of the arts is agriculture.” -Rousseau

The Worcester Public Schools continue to achieve a balance between academics and wellness as we try to provide nutritious foods for our students. Recently Massachusetts celebrated “Massachusetts Harvest for Students Week.” Throughout the state local famers were delivering boxes and bags of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables destined for school cafeterias.

The kick off for the event was held right in Worcester at City View School. “Massachusetts Harvest for Student Week celebrated the wonderful connections that are being forged between school food services and farms all over the state,” said Kelly Erwin, Manager of the Massachusetts Farm to School Project. Worcester was chosen for the “kickoff” because it is a one of the leading schools in the state promoting health foods and as Ms. Erwin stated there is a School Food revolution taking place in Worcester. She went on to say that Worcester has emerged as a leader in the state. Ms. Erwin referred to Worcester Public School Nutrition Director, Donna Lombardi, as the rock star of nutrition for she has had Worcester well ahead of the curve on nutrition initiatives. Continue reading For Worcester Public Schools nutrition matters