School Nutrition Employee Week – Stories of School Lunch Heroes

We recently held a School Nutrition Employee Week Giveaway asking individuals to share stories of someone or a group of nutrition professionals making a difference in schools.  We received so many incredible stories, we want to share them with you throughout this month. These individuals go above and beyond each day to supply nutrition foods to our youth and encourage healthy habits. They are proud of their work and so are we! Thank you to all of you for playing such an important role in children’s lives.

“The cafeteria manager for Freedom Middle School enthusiastically prepares breakfast and lunch meals for the children, staff and a guest. Teachers from other buildings often request a salad from her site due to the eye appeal and taste of the daily lunch offerings. Franklin Special School District began Breakfast in the Classroom at Freedom Middle four years ago. The participation has doubled since the program began.  Hats off to a manager willing to step up to the plate and knock it out of the park.”

-Marilyn Ryan, Franklin Special School District, Franklin, TN

“We have the most wonderful School Nutrition Team at Caledonia Public Schools. This year we have added so many new offerings to help students make the best healthy choices each day. Our Staff has been so accommodating and willing to work with these changes. We added breakfast at the door at our Middle/High School, 2nd Chance Breakfast at the Elementary and Middle Schools. We have rearranged our ala carte and now offer time after school for purchases before sports or other activities at the end of the day. Lynette, the ala carte cook now makes “Lighter Side Lunches” for our elementary staff.
I could not do what I do without our wonderful team, Lunch Ladies Rock!!  Middle/High team-Bonnie, Lynette, Eileen, Nancy, Wilma. Elementary team-Laura, Marion, Ruth Ann, Erna and myself.
Thank you for this opportunity to share our story…we would look really good in those aprons.”

-Rita McCormick, Caledonia Public Schools, Caledonia, MN

“Susie, Debbie and Heather are 3 cooks who work in our PK-2 building. These ladies make every single day a fun day in the cafeteria for the 450 students who are in that building. Depending on the season, they totally transform the cafe by decorating for each season, wearing costumes, playing music and singing songs to all the kids as they come through the lunch line. (I need to add that they use their own money to do most of this.) When we are serving Mexican food, these ladies may be dressed up in colorful outfits, playing wonderful songs that are sung in Spanish, and entertaining (and educating) the kids at the same time. Same goes for Asian cuisine day. It’s always interesting to see what they are going to do and the kids really appreciate and enjoy all of the Lunch Ladies’ antics! Parents are continually calling to thank us for making lunch fun for their kids and for getting them to try different kinds of foods. The students at this particular building cannot wait for lunch!”

-Mary Jennie, Lakewood Local Schools, Hebron, OH

“I would like to tell you about our great staff member  Linda Ammons. Linda goes above and beyond to help everyone in the kitchen. She is very nice and friendly to everyone and the children just love her. She is always smiling. She has perfect attendance. That says a lot when a person shows up everyday. She loves her job and it shows.”

-Wendy Bonner, Jones Co, Gray, GA

Stay tuned for more school nutrition employee stories. We will be sharing them all month long!

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Older Americans Month 2015: “Get into the Act”

Each May, the Administration for Community Living celebrates Older Americans Month to recognize older Americans for their contributions to the nation. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Get into the Act,” to focus on how older adults are taking charge of their health, getting engaged in their communities, and making a positive impact in the lives of others.

As generations grow older, their nutrition needs also change. Learning ZoneXpress has developed a variety of easy-to-read resources with older adults in mind. Topics covered include sodium, hydration, food safety, and MyPlate. Our MyPlate for Older Adults items feature a unique icon that provides food, fluid, and physical activity guidance that correspond with USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for aging populations.

Older Americans Month provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of healthy aging by promoting and engaging in activity, wellness and healthy nutrition. Now is the time to “Get into the Act!”

Visit Learning ZoneXpress to see all of our Older Adults nutrition resources.


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USDA Announces Grants to Enable More Farmers Markets to Serve Low-Income Families

A great way to spread healthy habits…

SNAP Recipients Can Now Purchase Fresh Fruit, Vegetables at More Than 6,200 Farmers Markets and Direct Marketing Farms

WASHINGTON, May 5, 2015 – Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon today announced the availability of up to $3.3 million in competitive funding to support the ability of farmers markets to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a form of payment. These awards will help expand SNAP participants’ access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods found at farmers markets, while supporting our nation’s farmers and producers.

“We have seen an unprecedented growth in the number of farmers markets accepting SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards in the past six years,” said Concannon. “These awards support the markets that may need administrative help in implementing and managing EBT service and informing customers that they can use their SNAP benefits at farmers markets.”

The Under Secretary also announced that there are now more than 6,200 farmers markets and direct marketing farmers authorized to accept SNAP nationwide – an eightfold increase since the beginning of this administration. In fiscal year 2014, approximately $18.7 million in SNAP benefits were used at farmers markets, an increase of 7.5 percent over 2013. Increasing the number of SNAP authorized farmers markets is part of USDA’s ongoing mission to support recipients in making healthy food choices.

The Farmers Market SNAP Support Grants will range from $15,000 to $250,000 and must be designed to increase SNAP client accessibility and participation at farmers markets, and support the establishment, expansion, and promotion of SNAP EBT services at farmers markets. Eligible applicants include farmers market organizations and associations, non–profit entities, state, local and tribal nations and other organizations engaged in farmers market management.

The Request for Applications will be published today. Applications are due June 18, 2015. Grant funds will be awarded in September. For further information about the grant application, visit

Supporting farmers markets and expanding access to healthy, local food is a key element of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative which coordinates the Department’s effort on local and regional food systems. Secretary Vilsack has identified local and regional food systems as one of the four pillars of rural economic development.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs. In addition to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, these programs include the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, the National School Lunch Program, and the Summer Food Service Program which together comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information, visit

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May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month!

Learning ZoneXpress is supporting the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition in honor of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. During the month of May, we challenge everyone to get the recommended physical activity guidelines for children and adults.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults:

• Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Moderate activity includes things like walking fast, dancing, swimming, and raking leaves.
• Do muscle-strengthening activities – like lifting weights or using exercise bands – at least 2 days a week.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that children and adolescents aged 6-17 years:

• Should have 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of physical activity each day.
• Do 60 minutes of aerobic activity each day and include muscle and bone strengthening physical activity at least 3 days each week.

For  ideas on incorporating physical activity into a student’s school day take a look at our NEW “5 Minute Brain Booster Physical Activities for Elementary”. This 5 minute activity book emphasizes a healthy lifestyle by engaging students with 50 quick and effective physical and mental activities to break up class time.

1200225 Minute Brain Booster Physical Activities for Elementary Activities include:

• Chair Exercises
• Use Your Voice
• Brief Stretches for Desk Work
• Classroom Challenges
• Partner Work

Physical activity is for everyone. No matter what shape you are in, you can find activities that work for you. Together, we can rise to the challenge and get more active during the month of May and all year long!

For more products to help you incorporate physical activity into your students’ day, visit Learning ZoneXpress.

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Stories of School Lunch Heroes Continued

We recently held a School Nutrition Employee Week Giveaway asking individuals to share stories of someone or a group of nutrition professionals making a difference in schools.  We received so many incredible stories, we want to share them with you throughout this month. These individuals go above and beyond each day to supply nutrition foods to our youth and encourage healthy habits. They are proud of their work and so are we! Thank you to all of you for playing such an important role in children’s lives.

“I would like to submit a short story about Deb Pacholke, our head cook.
Deb works very hard to provide our K-12 school with healthy, nutritional meals. She is constantly looking up new ideas and recipes to make and everyone raves about her cooking. She has a bubbly personality and loves being with kids of all ages. She even decorates the kitchen for the different holidays: Halloween is her favorite, the kids look forward to her “haunted house” every year! She is a tremendous asset to our school and our kids.”

- Carrie Petersen, Northern Cass School, Hunter, ND

“I cant pick just one of my ladies doing great work. I have nine ladies that are the most loving, dedicated, hardworking women I know, They give 110% of themselves on a daily basis to the students that they serve and to each other. They make every effort to smile and encourage the kids to try new things to listen to their stories as they go through the line and be a positive point in the small lives they serve. They are the reason I am proud to call myself a lunch lady.”

-Kim Hollar, Henrietta ISD, Henrietta, TX

“Our high school participation has been down over the past few years due to the new guidelines. The kitchen manager spent her own time this summer making changes in the Cafe’ to make a more adult atmosphere for the students. She bought and painted big wooded letters that say Traip Cafe and attached to the wall. We went to used restaurant warehouses and bought several high top tables. A local restaurant donated china dishes. The students are enjoying the new atmosphere and participation is slowly increasing. Sue, Kitchen manager, is also making tasty breakfast treats every day to entice the students to venture in early. Breakfast participation is also slowly increasing.”

-Wendy Collins, Kittery School Dept., Kittery, ME

“Our High School Kitchen Manager, Val Daniel, volunteered to coach the culinary class in a cooking competition. He taught the students how to prepare authentic Hawaiian foods. He is always giving and willing to share.”

- Cheri Meeker, Newberg Public Schools, Newberg, OR

Coming soon: More great stories from school food service!

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