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USDA and Wholesome Tummies working to improve school lunches

CafeteriaLineConsider this statistic: according to the USDA, one in three kids in the U.S. is either obese or overweight.

Because children consume 40% of their daily calories during school hours, school meals have become a primary target for improvement.

A private company called Wholesome Tummies entered the school lunch market in 2007 and can now be found in Atlanta. Two moms in Orlando, who were dissatisfied with traditional lunch programs, were inspired to tackle the challenge of preparing healthier meals for school children.

Wholesome Tummies provides lunches made with locally-sourced organic fruits and vegetables. The food contains no high-fructose corn syrup, additives, preservatives or trans fats. Wholesome Tummies offers healthier versions of kid favorites such as baked hormone-free chicken nuggets. And, don’t tell the kids, but even the chocolate chip cookies have beans in them for added fiber.

Now, Atlanta resident, Judy Gordon, has brought Wholesome Tummies to our area. As the mother of a child with Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that can cause an insatiable appetite, Gordon constantly evaluates the nutrient density of the meals she prepares. Wholesome Tummies was a natural fit for Gordon, who purchased the franchise in February and is currently serving private schools in the metro area. She says, “Independent schools have more flexibility, but it is our intention to move into the county schools so that they have alternatives.”

The public schools, however, will soon be required to implement new standards designed by the USDA to make school meals healthier. The revised school nutrition guidelines were developed in accordance with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act passed last December. The new standards, which take effect next fall, include:

  • Increasing the fruit and vegetables offered each day. Both will have to be offered instead of one.
  • Serving both a grain and protein at breakfast. (Previously one or the other was required. )
  • Increasing use of whole grains.
  • Offering only low fat and nonfat milk (although flavored milk is deemed okay as long as it is low fat).
  • Instituting calorie maximums (tailored to age) for the first time. Previously only calorie minimums were outlined.
  • Gradually reducing of sodium over a period of years. There are currently no limits on sodium use.
  • Assessing all the food sold in schools, both inside and outside of the cafeteria
  • Evaluating the healthfulness of the total school environment, including the physical fitness program

“Parents have a right to expect that their efforts at home won’t be undone each day in the school cafeteria or in the vending machine in the hallway. …Parents have a right to expect that their kids will be served fresh, healthy food that meets high nutritional standards.” –Michelle Obama at the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signing

–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog

– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team.

20 comments Add your comment

Mark

August 26th, 2011
7:37 pm

Wholesome Tummies is certainly no pioneer in the concept of healthy school lunches. Lovable Foods has been serving my son’s lunches for three years and they get better every year. They walk the fine line between healthy and edible to a high schooler well.

James

August 26th, 2011
8:31 pm

That’s great, Mark. Looks like they’re both pioneers (according to the article, Wholesome Tummies started out in 2007)! The more the merrier

PTC DAWG

August 27th, 2011
12:46 pm

Mystery meat was good enough in the 70’s..it’s good enough for today’s kids.

Baltisraul

August 28th, 2011
9:01 am

If your kids are fat it is the parents fault not the school lunch program. Get them out of the chair and onto the playground. Always looking to blame someone else. disgusting what we have become in this country

cr

August 28th, 2011
11:27 am

It’s unfortunate that people don’t know how to argue anymore. There are no everyday examples of ‘looking at the big picture.’ Meat of yesterday is no way comparable to the meat of today. Also, many parents ‘appropriately’ structure their standards as to ‘proper eating’ by modeling those of academic institutions like schools. They’re the ones that should be role models for the community, why else would we pay (taxes) to send our kids there?

That said, unnaturally processed low fat milk (or worse fat free milk) with sugar and colors, is your invitation to obesity, cancer, and diabetes. The fact that it’s being pushed in a supposedly ‘informed’ program is what’s truly ‘disgusting.’

PJ

August 28th, 2011
1:27 pm

From what I’ve witnessed in the cafeteria, it is not the kids who get lunches at school, but those who bring from home that are eating the most unhealthy foods. I’m not saying my son is the norm, but he takes from the line his protein, 1 veggie, 1 fruit (often a whole fruit, like an apple or banana) & a low-fat chocolate milk (his Fulton County public school offers new TruMoo brand with no high fructose corn syrup). He eats a well-balanced meal. I’m not saying the school is responsible for his healthy choices – we emphasize those at home, so even as a 1st grader, he makes pretty good choices. But at least those are the choices offered there. Even the other kids who pick & choose what they eat on their school lunch plates are eating better than many of the lunch box kids, who arrive with bags of chips, snack cakes, cookies and more – sandwiches get skipped altogether or at least skipped over by the kids. I have been surprisingly impressed by what is offered in our school lunch program.

As far as Wholesome Tummies, I think they offer a very valuable service to schools without kitchens or on-campus lunch programs. There are other services that provide lunches to schools around Atlanta and those seem to be little more than fast food delivery. Our younger son’s school currently uses one of the fast food services and will be switching to Wholesome Tummies in a few months. I am eager to see what they offer.

frustrated

August 28th, 2011
4:05 pm

Unfortunately, the “no high fructose corn syrup” is just a marketing ploy. Milk like trumoo that’s advertised as such just has sugar (and a ton of it at that) instead. HFCS is 55% fructose, 45% glucose; sugar is 50% fructose, 50% glucose. In other words, it’s the same stuff to the body, and just as metabolically damaging. Ironically, HFCS was created a couple of decades ago as a “healthy” alternative to sugar, and they successfully marketed as such, even though it’s the same stuff. Now sugar is the “healthy” alternative to HFCS. And around and around we go….

Baltisraul

August 28th, 2011
7:55 pm

PJ….pls explain. Are there schools out there with no Kitchens? How do schools get built without a kitchen to feed their students? How can you have a school without a lunch program? In the dark here. Does not seem possible a parent would allow their children to go to a school without a kitchen and staff to support same!

tim

August 28th, 2011
8:35 pm

@Baltisraul – plenty of private schools don’t have cafeterias or kitchens. Kids bring their lunches. And it wasn’t that long ago that it was the norm for kids to walk home to eat lunch.

Come out from under that rock and get some sun every now and then ;)

JimmyZ

August 29th, 2011
9:30 am

I have a question about the whole “one in three kids in the U.S. is either obese or overweight” statistic. My job takes me in and out of many metro area schools, almost on a daily basis. When I started hearing about this childhood obesity “epidemic” as it’s being called, I started looking to see how many overweight kids I saw.

You know what? It’s far, far less than one in three. I’d say more like one in ten, or even one in fifteen.

Since they’d never lie to us, I can only assume that they’re using the same chart that supermodels use to define who’s overweight.

Seriously, can someone back up this statistic by giving us the height/weight chart that’s used to determine what overweight is?

All this obsession on weight is doing for the majority of our kids is reinforcing the stereotype that the only good figure is a stick figure. I guess the next thing we’ll see is Michelle Obama wearing an ANOREXIA RULES! t-shirt.

Really, I want to know, what weight/height ratios are these statistics based on?

tim

August 29th, 2011
11:52 am

@JimmyZ – the statistics come from the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/data.html)

From CDC stats, almost 20% of kids are obese, which means a BMI over 30. Overweight is BMI between 25 and 30. So if you combine obese and overweight, it’s 32% of kids (this from Agriculture secretary Vilsack).

This is 3 times the rate it was even in the 1980s. It’s very apparent to me out in public that kids look very different today than they did when I grew up. Perhaps you’ve just become so used to it you don’t notice it anymore?

Brains!!!

August 29th, 2011
11:53 am

Regarding the flavored milks being allowed if they are low-fat, this may make the overall calorie balance match, but that fat can be very beneficial to the children. Brains are about 60% fat and dietary fat can be useful in the development of the human brain. There are other useful nutrients, but substituting fat for sugar with these flavored milks can be detrimental.

Further, I’m tired of seeing hormone-free used as a selling point with chicken. Growth hormones are, for the most part, not allowed to be used in chickens. They have just been bred to grow that large. The larger problem with chickens can be the antibiotics used, so “hormone-free” is a bit of sleight of hand from a marketing stand point.

PJ

August 29th, 2011
12:29 pm

@frustrated – research shows that high fructose corn syrup is not processed in the body the same way as sugar and, sparing you the exact details on what happens when the liver doesn’t process it as sugar, more likely to lead to insulin resistance & diabetes.

@Baltisraul – @tim is correct that there are many private schools that do not have on site kitchens and rely on parents to pack lunches or sometimes offer delivery alternatives. Keep in mind that these are private schools – not public. Companies like Campus Cuisine & Wholesome Tummies offer alternatives for parents who may choose not to pack lunches.

Baltisraul

August 29th, 2011
12:30 pm

tim….if the private school of your choice does not have a cafeteria then it should not be the school of your choice. You seem a little mean spirted today. Sorry littla fella if I upset you. lol

frustrated

August 29th, 2011
1:53 pm

@PJ – it’s the fructose in HFCS and sugar that affects the liver and leads to all the attendant problems. They’re functionally the exact same thing.

PJ

August 29th, 2011
2:13 pm

@frustrated – except they are not the same. They may do the same job to sweeten foods, but they do not do the exact same thing inside the body. HFCS has slightly more fructose than table sugar & as you pointed out, fructose is processed by the liver. The problem is that those extra bits add up with HFCS as an additive in so very many foods. It is kind of like people who end up having hormonal problems because they have replaced so much of their diets with soy. In moderation, soy is a healthy alternative, just like in moderation, HFCS is OK.

frustrated

August 29th, 2011
2:52 pm

PJ

August 29th, 2011
6:07 pm

frustrated

August 30th, 2011
1:23 pm

There is no data of differential effects in humans, but I’ll keep my rats out of the HFCS ;) (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20086073). Those who market sucrose as a “healthy alternative” to HFCS know this as well (as did the tobacco companies when they denied links to lung cancer for decades).

PJ

August 30th, 2011
3:13 pm