Thursday, February 11, 2010

Allez Cuisine!

We’ve talked a little bit about school nutrition here – and certainly will continue to do so over the weeks and months ahead – but for now, here’s a chance to put your lunch where your mouth is.

In a hands-on showdown that tips its hat to Iron Chef America, high school and college students across the country are invited to enter the Cooking up Change 2010 National Healthy Cooking Contest, hosted by the Healthy Schools Campaign and the National Farm to School Network.

The challenge? To create a healthy school lunch that meets stringent nutritional guidelines, using only ingredients that are available to the workers in school food service.  In addition, contestants must use at least one locally grown food and the meal must, obviously, taste good.  Not an easy task, by any means!

Interested students should form three-person teams and submit recipes by 5 p.m. EST on March 26. Based on those entries, three teams from the high school division and three teams from the college division will then be selected to receive an all-expenses paid trip to Taking Root, the National Farm to Cafeteria conference, to compete in the Cooking up Change finals.

The final round will include an in-kitchen battle, where the teams compete to prepare their meals and serve them to a panel of judges.

Interested in sautéing your way to change?  Enter the competition now!

image © Healthy Schools Campaign

Friday, February 5, 2010

Clean Your Plate: Around the Web This Week

Wishing everyone good luck out there this weekend as snowpocalypse 2.0 heads our way. Be safe, stay warm and break out the snowshoes.

Some things we liked this week:
  • Michael Pollan on Oprah (with video!).  Something to note: the less we spend on food, the more we spend on healthcare.  Who would you rather pay? 

  • Bye-bye NAIS: USDA drops plan to trace livestock.  Small farms rejoice... then ask "What will replace it?"

image credit: Camera Slayer/Creative Commons

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


For anyone who lives in a climate that experiences seasons — hello, Virginia, sorry southern California — then it's not hard to imagine the value of having an insulated hoop house as part of your farm operation.

These greenhouse-like structures allow farmers to extend the growing season on both ends — earlier into spring and later into fall and winter.  This can help farmers get a steady stream of income throughout the year which is a significant advantage to owners of small farms, limited-resource farmers and organic producers.

That's why it's exciting to hear that Virginia is part of a new pilot program being run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service that will provide funding for farmers to establish high tunnels to increase the availability of locally grown produce in a conservation-friendly way.

This pilot will test the potential conservation benefits of growing crops under these structures, and participating farms can receive funding for one high tunnel.

Local farmers who would like to sign-up for the high tunnel pilot should call or visit the NRCS office at a local USDA service center. USDA service center locations are listed on-line at

image credit: Chewonki Semester School/Creative Commons

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Raise Your Hand for Better School Lunches

School lunch has been all over the news lately, and the reports aren't pretty.  Not only are we feeding our kids beef that many fast food joints won't even touch, we're also counting the french fry as a vegetable, plastic-wrapping grilled cheeses, and serving pizza with more than 25 ingredients.

The thing is, it's not easy to make a healthy, nutritious school lunch on just one or two dollars.  Which is just how much money is currently available per meal.  Even Obama's newest budget proposal will only add an additional $.20 per kid.

And yet, the problem is more complicated than this.  School lunches won't get better just because they cost more.  It's going to take a thoughtful, refined effort to provide our children with the nutritious, healthy food they deserve.

That's why you should know about two important pieces of Virginia legislation that have been introduced this year.  Both have the potential to get more healthy, locally-grown fruits and vegetables into our schools. 

First up, one that could use your support:

  • HB398 would facilitate the purchase of Virginia-grown food products by state agencies, institutions and local public school divisions to the maximum extent possible. Virginia schools currently spend more than $6 million annually on fresh produce — shouldn't some (or all!) of that money stay right here in VA?

Next up, a joint resolution that just passed last week.  Hoorah!

So, your homework for tonight?  Get the scoop on this latest legislation, and do what you can to help.

HB398: Summary | Actual Bill

image credit:  Showalter for NY Daily News