Help kids plant a seed for healthy habits, literally and figuratively! These HKC Healthy6 classroom and afterschool activities provide easy to teach, fun to learn nutrition and active play education, especially for National Garden Month.
Hear-See-Do:  Hear a message—See how to make a healthy choice—Do practice making the choice

Utilize these in combination with our Balance My Day™ curriculum, other Gardening Month education plans, or get creative with your own ideas. One kids gardening curriculum we are especially fond of is Dig In! from the USDA Team Nutrition. Stay tuned next week for more about kids, family, and school gardens!

Enjoy Garden Month with the kids you lead!


Logo for the USDA's Team Nutrition program.

Logo for the USDA’s Team Nutrition program. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve always said there is something special and uniquely different about school food service staff. They care about kids, they love their work and they stay put! I had the opportunity to work with about 100 school food service directors/managers last week in Nebraska and I had them write down their years of service to kids and schools. Take a guess what the total number of years was for all those service years combined. OVER 1000 years of service dedicated to tasty, nutritious meals and healthy kids, AMAZING! Imagine all the changes some of those managers with 30+ years of service have seen! Team Nutrition is there.

My time with them was too short, but here are a few of the success stories I heard:

  • Theme days get kids excited! For example, at Halloween putting dry ice under the salad bar, playing spooky music and renaming salad bar items to fit the theme
  • Pioneer Day where the salad bar looked like a covered wagon and kids named the salad bar items through a writing assignment where they learned about life on the prairie long ago
  • Inviting local everyday heroes to lunch, like the firemen, policemen, and those serving in the military to share how healthy living is what helps them be heroes
  • Encouraging school alumni to come and eat with the kids – How cool to have graduates come back and enjoy conversation and healthy meals with the kids
  • FREE samples
  • Taste test panels – where kids get to choose what they like best and even see it on the menu too
  • Music in the cafeteria to make the whole atmosphere more welcome and inviting
  • Grab and go meals and even delayed breakfast in the classroom for when kids are really getting that midmorning slump – what creativity and dedication to kids

I could write and write stories of how Nebraska schools are already TEAMing Up for Kids through school food service and you know the cool part? These folks STILL came to training, gave up a summer day, drove across the cornfield state to learn how to do MORE for kids.

Let’s commit to supporting that dedication and hard work…Have you thought about what YOU can do?

I challenge each of us to find one way we can connect with our local school food service team and support healthy meals, nutrition education, parent involvement and healthy kids! Let me hear your actions! Share here, so others can get involved too!

It’s almost back to school time, the time is now, TEAM Up for Kids!

Team Nutrition Logo

Team Nutrition Logo

The HKC team often teases “Where in the world is Vickie?” when they can’t find their director for I could be off on a plane, train, or auto trek across the U.S. working with key kid influencers we call, KidLinks. As I write, I’m in the midst of packing for a nice drive to Nebraska where I’ll get to see the reminders of a wheat harvest just wrapped up and a fields of corn tassling out.  My destination?  Kearney and Lincoln, Nebraska, where I have the honor and privilege of working with 100 school food service managers and team members from all across the state.

Thanks to USDA TEAM Nutrition training funds and the leadership of Zainab Rida, PhD, RD, TEAM Nutrition Coordinator, Nebraska Department of Education, I’ll get to spend a full day with these KidLinks working together to create plans for this coming school year that move beyond just meeting new school meal guidelines to making sure we’re feeding kids, not trashcans! With interactive learning sessions we’ll acknowledge the barriers and challenges but also feature the tools and tactics for success!

I even get to share one of our HKC tools, Explore MyPlate with School Nutrition, that schools across the country have embraced to further nutrition education efforts amongst the school cafeteria, classroom and the home. The vision for the day is that each food service director take home a plan of action for engaging kids, staff, and caregivers to support healthy eating and physical activity. Stay tuned, I’m sure I’ll have some great stories about TEAMing up for kids! – Vickie


If you haven’t been to the Let’s Move! website, or even if you have, there is always something new to support healthy kids! One thing we love about Let’s Move! is the way they make it easy to choose healthy, easy to take action, and easy to – yes – MOVE.

Easy Move for Schools: Join the HealthierUS Schools Challenge
Take it further: Download the teacher toolkit

Easy Move for Kids: Try new fruits and veggies.
Take it further: Download the full Kids action plan

Easy Move for Parents: Take a walk with your family after dinner.
Take it further: Download a full Parents action plan

Since May is Active Play month at HKC, I do want to point out the whole section on Let’s Move!’s website devoted to getting active. The Get Active section has specific areas targeted at families, schools, and communities. You’ll love the area that gives kids options of “What To Do” on the Let’s Move Outside pages.

A super-easy way to eat healthy is finding the new MyPlate recipes on Pinterest. The Partnership for a Healthier America, Let’s Move!, USDA’s MyPlate, and the nation’s top recipe creators teamed up to make it easier for you to put nutritious meals on the table. Just search for MyPlate Recipes on Pinterest.

Speaking of Pinterest, remember we’re on there too, spreading the word-I mean, the pins-about everything to help build a healthy world for kids! Go to or simply search for our name.

How do you make healthy the easy choice?

Every challenge is an opportunity to do better. Take school lunch changes for example.
I agree that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to feeding millions of children across thousands of miles. It does present a huge challenge, but working within that challenge is totally possible, and in some cases, hugely successful!

In fact, “public school students, by a 3-to-1 margin, say meals have become better tasting under California’s new nutritional standards.” See: Most Students Give More Healthful State School Menus Thumbs Up

Without going into the specifics here, here are some other positive examples of real schools working within the change to make it work for them:

Fayette BOE told food has improved

What’s for Lunch? Hillsborough County Schools Introduce New Menu

Brighton Superintendent: School Lunch Sales Not Affected by New Health Guidelines

And last but not least, some supportive feedback and reports from bloggers, news media, nutrition professionals, and parents:

When Children Reject a Healthy Lunch

School Lunch Showdown: 850-Calorie Meals Compared

New USDA Nutrition Guidelines Could Help Children Reclaim Their Childhoods

How are you, or your school, finding ways to work within the change? I’m interested in hearing more…

It is true. The only constant in life is change. Here’s another truth: Change isn’t easy. So when you try to change 32 million* children’s school lunches all at once, well, you get the idea…it isn’t easy. What is easy though, is celebrating the hundreds of thousands of small, sustainable, healthy ways that schools, parents and kids have already found to adapt to the school lunch changes…and yes, make them a bit easier to swallow!

For starters, how about actually experiencing the guidelines at lunch with your child? Yes, I’m really suggesting you go to school, purchase a school lunch and sit down and eat it with your child. There’s actually a national day called Take Your Parents to Lunch Day, and it’s Wednesday, October 17th. It’s a day to “celebrate what’s great about school lunch – and learn how we can all work together to make it even better.”

And to entice you even more, it’s also National School Lunch Week from October 15th- 19th, 2012. “School Lunch – What’s Cooking?” is about celebrating the positive changes that have been made in school lunch programs across the country. Schools nationwide have been cooking up all sorts of exciting programs and plans.

Okay, I realize you may not be able to make it to school for lunch, and you may just like to know where to get more ideas. Here are 3 to start with:

1. Creative and Healthy Cafeteria Ideas– Healthy Kids Challenge

2. The School Day Just Got Healthier – USDA

3. Healthier School Lunches – Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

Please come back next week and we’ll delve into more real-school examples of how to make the school lunch changes easier. And certainly, if you have a success story of your own, I’d love to share it with our readers.

*Each school day an average of 32 million children eat a USDA school lunch, and 13 million eat a school breakfast.

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

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