What IS right with school nutrition? An awful lot, actually. I wish you could have sat in on the Choose MyPlate with School Nutrition session at the School Nutrition Association conference in Denver.

One thing that is right may surprise you. It’s not the obvious – healthier foods being served, and EATEN, in schools across the country even before the new guidelines were established. It’s length of service in school food service compared to any other foodservice job…Others (restaurant, fast food, corner store, hospital, etc.) have high turnover rates; not so with school food service.

It is not uncommon to have staff celebrate 20, 30, or MORE years working in school meal programs and that was the case with those I had the privilege to share time with this week at the annual conference in Denver. What is the sticking point? I asked that in my sessions, over 200 attendees in one and over 100 in another and the resounding answers were KIDS and TEAMWORK.

As I shared thoughts, challenges, ideas, and humor, the nod of heads were many and the visits after the sessions heartwarming.

  • These folks are ready for the changes that MyPlate, new meal pattern guidelines and the HealthierUS School Challenge program have brought to them.
  • They are ready to step up and step out and provide leadership in their schools for healthier school environments.
  • They need the tools and the support to make a healthy difference for the kids they serve so well.

I only hope I gave them a few tools and from my heart, the support to step up and help make healthy living a habit!

Your ideas are so simple, so real, so right for promoting school meals, MyPlate and participating in the HealthierUS School Challenge Program. This was one of the best sessions I’ve attended here!” SFS Director, Florida

I needed to hear this! I know my team can make a difference but no one at our school sees that. You have given me tools to step forward and not wait any more, thank you!” SFS Director, Minnesota

Want more on celebrating what’s right in school nutrition? Try these links:

School Nutrition Association Attendees Hear, See, and Do… Choose MyPlate!

School Meals That Rock

Tray Talk

Innovators in School Nutrition – July 2012

School Nutrition Association

Resources for Choose MyPlate with School Nutrition
Whether you’re attending the Annual National Conference or not, if you’re reading this, you’re ready to TAKE ACTION! Lead the way to creating a healthier school environment and meet criteria for both the new USDA meal guidelines and the HealthierUS School Challenge program using MyPlate.

One of our greatest success stories using this model is Jackson Middle School in Orlando, Florida. They expanded their healthy eating options and offered more choices of vegetables at meals. The outcome was a healthy impact on fruit and vegetable consumption! Middle school students (600 total enrollment) are now eating over 400 more servings combined of fruits and vegetables at lunch each day! Read their success story. Engage students, excite staff, and help School Nutrition lead the way by exploring MyPlate.

Explore MyPlate with School Nutrition
A fun, easy-to-use guide with tips and tools for school nutrition services managers and teams. Action ideas are designed to increase participation through marketing and promotion and help meet the HealthierUS School Challenge.

HealthierUS School Challenge
HKC can help align your school with the HealthierUS School Challenge through comprehensive training for improving school meal programs, nutrition education, and physical education/physical activity. We are currently working with 40 Indiana Team Nutrition Schools who receive training and distance assistance.

Chefs Move to Schools
Healthy Kids Challenge partnered with Orange County Public Schools to make their Chefs Move to Schools program and event a success! The event was recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama and Let’s Move! With White House Assistant Chef and Food Initiative Coordinator Chef Sam Kass and Dr. Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary, Food, Nutrition & Consumer Services of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in attendance, it was a very exciting day! Let us help you with your own Chefs Move to Schools program or event.

Creative Cafeterias
Everyone wins with our Creative Cafeteria tips. Tasty, likable and healthy meals are a key component of a healthy environment and provide a great backdrop for learning by example. Try them out and see which work best for you!

“Much has changed in the past year with the change from MyPyramid to MyPlate in June 2011, plus new school meal program guidelines now July 1st, 2012, and corresponding changes in the HealthierUS School Challenge program application. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share with school nutrition leaders from across the country the Healthy Kids Challenge ideas and activities to make all of this work for them and their program. What a great way to help kids by making the school cafeteria the true nutrition learning lab!” — Vickie L. James, RD, LD, Executive Director, Healthy Kids Challenge

I’m presenting a session on Monday the 16th 3:30 pm and again on Tues 17th 8:45am – “Choose MyPlate with School Nutrition” — Vickie L. James

Now ALL grade levels of Balance My Day™ – from Kindergarten all the way through 8th grade – utilize MyPlate as a teaching tool!

Balance My Day™ Curriculum is THE most comprehensive and realistic nutrition education curriculum I’ve seen in my 25 years of practicing nutrition education. This guide is a thorough, easy-to-use tool that RDs, nutrition educators, foodservice personnel, teachers, administrators and parents will benefit from. I appreciate that there are kid’s activities, fitness activities, bulletin board ideas and lesson plans all wrapped up in one book.” — Jane Pelkki, MPH, RD LD

With Balance My Day™…

Move and Learn!
Every classroom lesson is enhanced with an activity that adds more movement to the day! Move and Learn can be implemented in the classroom or to enhance nutrition education in PE.

Taste and Learn!
As enhancements or for cooking classes, kids prepare a simple great-tasting recipe and learn healthy eating skills.

School Nutrition Services activities put the “polish” on healthier choices as the easy to make and appealing choices!

Healthy Kids Challenge® connects nutrition education and physical activity with every day ideas! Nothing shows how to make the connection better than the nutrition education curriculum, Balance My Day™!

Emma Williams
of Harding Academy, Searcy, AR., won a “Chef for a Day” with her whole grain recipe, Fruity Chicken and Rice Salad. Emma cooks a lot with her family. From that experience, she has learned to incorporate MyPlate guidelines in her every day eating. She showed us that by adding whole grain, brown rice and kid-friendly ingredients to this recipe entry.

“I came up with this recipe so I could make a fast and healthy school lunch instead of ‘just’ a plain sandwich.” – Emma

Fruity Chicken and Rice Salad

Servings: 8-10

1 (13 oz.) can chicken breast meat, packed in water
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, in own juices
½ c. dried cranberries
1 c. cooked brown rice
1 medium red apple, diced
¼ c. low fat mayonnaise
1 pkg. whole wheat sandwich thins


  1. Drain and flake the chicken into a mixing bowl.
  2. Drain the canned pineapple and add to the mixing bowl along with the cranberries, rice and apples. Mix well.
  3. Fold the mayonnaise into the bowl ingredients and coat well.
  4. Serve as a sandwich with lettuce leaves, or on a lettuce bed as a salad, garnished with dried cranberries or sliced apples.
  5. Serve either recipe variation with a glass of skim milk to include all 5 MyPlate food groups in this lunch meal.
  6. Store leftover salad mixture in a refrigerated airtight container for up to 4 days.

For more award-winning recipes from the 2012 Stirring Up Health Recipe Contest, click here.

This specialty PB&T(Peanut Butter and Tuna) recipe won Justin Brownell a “Chef for a Day” at his junior high school in Wappingers Falls, NY, by entering the “Stirring Up Health™” recipe contest.  Justin enjoys getting into the kitchen to try healthy foods and new tastes. “After eating at a Thai restaurant and liking a seafood dish with peanut sauce, I tried to create something similar to fix at home,” he explained. Justin realizes he feels better and is able to perform better at school and during afterschool sports when he’s eating healthy foods.

Serves: 3

2 Tbsp. natural creamy peanut butter
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
½ Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
½ tsp. low sodium soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. ginger
½ tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. sweet red chili sauce
2 Tbsp. low fat mayonnaise
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 (5 oz.) can tuna, packed in water (*Can substitute canned chicken for a PB&C)
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. scallions, sliced
2 Tbsp. walnuts, chopped
¾ c. red cabbage, thinly sliced
6 baby carrots, thinly sliced
1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
3 small whole wheat sandwich wrappers


  1. Microwave the peanut butter for 30 seconds in a medium-size microwavable mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk the heated peanut butter and add the next 9 listed ingredients, mixing well.
  3. Drain the canned tuna and add to the mixing bowl, along with the cilantro, scallions and walnuts. Toss the ingredients.
  4. Spread 1/3 of the tuna mixture in the middle of each sandwich wrapper.
  5. Top each wrapper with 1/3 each of the red cabbage, carrots, and red bell pepper.
  6. Roll the wrappers up by folding in the long sides first, then rolling from bottom to top, as tight as possible.
  7. Cut in half on the diagonal.
  8. Serve with 1% or skim milk and fresh fruit to include all 5 MyPlate food groups in this meal.

For more award-winning recipes from the 2012 Stirring Up Health™ Recipe Contest, click here.

And the winner of the Get Your Plate in Shape Challenge is Liz Samball. Liz won a Healthy Kids Challenge T-shirt and a set of Explore MyPlate wristbands for her pictures and story about how she helps kids get their plates in shape. Congrats, Liz! Check out her pictures and success story!

And speaking of winning…everyone wins with when a garden grows! Don’t you agree? This month just happens to be National Garden Month, too. I have a wonderful case of spring fever right now, so I have to share with you my latest web resources for gardening…gardening with kids of course!

IMGP0854 - vege garden

IMGP0854 - vege garden (Photo credit: RaeAllen)

Kids Gardening

Kids Gardening is a wonderful resource from the National Gardening Association, with a plethora of info., including their sections devoted to school gardening and family gardening. I have so much more to share about gardens in the next couple of weeks, so to close this week I simply challenge you to take one simple action to get your garden started!

We are getting ready to announce the overall winner of the Get Your Plate in Shape Challenge next week, so hang in there. Thanks so much for participating! If you want to peek at all the kids’ plates, they are in a picture album on our Healthy Kids Challenge Facebook page.

Do you need easy to use afterschool or summer programming ideas? I have compiled 6 Easy to Use Afterschool and Summer Programming Ideas to keep you busy planning and prepping. These should build on the information you received in the E-newsletter this week. If you don’t receive our E-newsletter, and you would like to, be sure to sign up for it here.

Each of these activity ideas can be used alone or combine all 6 to make a comprehensive sequence of Healthy6 messaging for your program. Enjoy!

Boy with MyPlate foodsGirl with MyPlate foods

Our fan, Liz Samball, PE/Health teacher at Leckie Elementary School in Washington, DC, wins recognition this week of the Challenge for shaping up her students’ plates! She sent photos and a fun group activity.

She is incorporating healthy eating  messages along with her physical education classes. Methods that Healthy Kids Challenge promotes!

Every March we do a large unit on nutrition that ends with a food project. This year, the students were challenged to create a real life MyPlate snack. These two students not only chose a food for each food group but put them on their plates in the correct wedge. Here are some food choices kids selected for their plates.

  • Fruit- fresh strawberries; also dried cranberries, blueberries and cherries; and apple chips for a crunchy snack that’s healthier than potato chips
  • Vegetable- sugar snap peas, celery, and some students were brave enough to try edamame for the first time and liked it
  • Dairy- low fat Greek yogurt for a fruit dip, and almond milk for those that are lactose intolerant
  • Grains- whole grain crackers
  • Meat and Protein- almonds and low fat turkey pepperoni
  • Oils and Fats- light Ranch dressing for a veggie dip

All students agreed that the snack was healthy and delicious! – Liz Samball

Now, here are some active play ideas for you to use to get more movement in your day!

  • Schedule It In. Make active play a priority by scheduling time for it this month into your personal planners, family calendars and work appointments. Set a date for healthy active play today! 
  • Out and Back. Greet the morning sun! Get up a 1/2 hour earlier 3 days a week to walk 15 minutes out from the house and back. If mornings don’t work, walk as soon as you get home from work before evening actitivities begin. 
  • Enjoy Nature. Gather friends or family to bicycle through flowering neighborhoods, walk through public gardens, or play in the local parks. Plan to visit and actively play at a new location each weekend this month.
  • Learn Something New. Renew your exercise routine with a new outdoor sport or game. Learn to play tennis, Frisbee golf, hacky sack, sand volleyball, outdoor racquetball or handball. Check your local community center for beginner classes.

For more Active Play, Every Day ideas, go to our Active Play web page. Last but not least, be sure to check out this new Active Play resource: Playing Smart –  A nuts-and-bolts guide designed to help school staff and other community leaders craft and implement joint use agreements. This is produced through a partnership between NPLAN and KaBoom.

Get Your Plate in Shape Challenge KayleeOur fan, Karalee, wins recognition this second week of the Challenge for shaping up her snack with fruit – strawberries, strawberries, strawberries! Remember that small changes are the most sustainable. Simply adding a serving of fruit to a snack is an easy way to shape up your plate.

Congrats, Karalee, you now get a chance to win HKC Explore MyPlate wristbands and a fun, healthy-themed T-shirt!

And speaking of recognition, we are so excited to share with you that our very own, Vickie James, RD, LD, has just been inducted into the MDPA Hall of Fame!  The Marketing Disease Prevention + Awareness (MDPA) Hall of Fame is designed to honor those who have made substantial strides in helping to improve health through better efforts in marketing, communication, and improving awareness of important health issues. The focus of those inducted in this year’s class will be based on their contributions to fighting the epidemic of childhood obesity.

A hallmark of the Healthy Kids Challenge® is making healthy easier through our “Healthy6 messages”. When kids like Karalee find it easy to eat juicy, fresh strawberries for a snack every day, it is real world proof that “Fruits and Veggies Every Day the Tasty Way” is not only achievable, but sustainable. Find more simple, every day ways to add fruits and veggies to your day on our Healthy6 web pages.

Remember to show us how YOU shape up kids’ plates during this National Nutrition Month by sending your photos to healthy.me@healthykidschallenge.com!

Challenge winner with whole grain oats, fruit and milk
This young lady wins recognition for shaping up her breakfast with fruit. Small, simple, healthy changes are the most sustainable. This first weekly winner now gets a chance to win Healthy Kids Challenge Explore MyPlate wristbands and a fun, healthy-themed T-shirt

Show us how you shape up kids’ plates during this National Nutrition Month by sending your pics to healthy.me@healthykidschallenge.com.

Want to see all the great shaped-up plates we’ve recieved so far? LIKE us on Facebook and view the photo album. Remember to share your own pics with us!


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