Novick Reports: Healthy Food Fuels Hungry Minds

Earlier this week, I attended the Healthy Food Fuels Hungry Minds child nutrition conference, which MASC co-sponsored. The day’s schedule is here; you can also find a link to the presentations there. My liveblog of the day is here.

The morning keynote was Daniel Giusti, who you may know as a chef; he’s now working on Brigaid, which will have chefs working with and in schools in New London, CT. One of his points was the real gap that exists between the culinary world (most particularly including its training) and institutional food of all kinds. He’s clearly found the realities of school cafeterias eye-opening. It will be interesting to see where Brigaid goes.

The following presentations were on the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act and updated nutrition standards.

A few statistics I found interesting:

  • Those in school meal programs consume about half of their calories in school.
  • 97% of schools are meeting the new 2010 nutrition standards.
  • Kids are now eating 13% more of their entrees, 16% or more vegetables and 23% more fruit at lunch.

While the HHFKA expired in September, Congress has yet to pass an update. There are concerns with the bills that have come out; see the slides for more details, though we’ve also discussed them on the list-serv in the past. In particular, the proposed House change on Community Eligibility would remove 7000 schools that are currently in the program (and untold others that haven’t yet made it in).

The following panel was on the link between school food and school performance, though it also functioned as a reflection on what is and is not working around feeding kids. Beyond the obvious cost and delivery concerns, there was a repeated call for students to have food that is thoughtfully prepared and presented; to have enough time to sit and eat; and to have time to socialize over food. It wasn’t clear that the presenters knew where to go with that (‘though I think we do!).

I went to a session following on Springfield’s new Commissionary, which I didn’t take extensive notes on, but I’d encourage those interested to ask Springfield about. Boston City Council President Michelle Wu spoke of the importance of school food, and then I had to leave. My understanding, though, is that Boston Superintendent Tommy Chang echoed the importance of students having enough time to eat.

As always, questions welcome!

Tracy O’Connell Novick
MASC Field Director 508-579-5472