As we wrap up National School Lunch Week it is important to acknowledge the changing structure in nutrition within our school cafeterias. This week we are sharing three important perspectives on the school lunch program and the recent changes seen in schools nationwide.
Your Turn: School lunch rules are working
In 2010 the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act kick started the mission to have healthier, more nutritious meals available to our students. This effort was part of a larger picture to reduce the obesity epidemic affecting school children. As we prepare for the 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization it’s important to show the importance of nutritious lunch and breakfast programs available to our school children, especially those receiving free or reduced meals.
The Foodbank’s School Breakfast program targets area schools with a high rate of students receiving free or reduced lunch and helps them establish a well-rounded, breakfast program to encourage more students to participate.
Empowering Students to Make the Healthy Choice the Right Choice
We are hearing very positive feedback as a result of the new nutrition guidelines implemented throughout schools nationwide. Victoria Wittrock, Food Service Supervisor of the West Central School District in South Dakota, sheds some light on the positive attributes associated with the recent changes to the School Lunch and Breakfast program. This story is just one real-life story as part of the series, Cafeteria Stories by the USDA.
School cafeterias provide the fuel needed by our children to maintain a strong energy throughout the day and contribute to their educational success. Some of the new nutrition guidelines on the menu may be a challenge for some students to accept; that’s why it is important that parents, grandparents and guardians become involved in making the transition to a more nutritious menu a little easier. The following article provides five great tips on how to encourage your kids to try the new items on the menu.
It has been amazing to see the work being done in the Ferguson community to make sure that kids and families that are in need of food assistance are getting the help they need.
We were thrilled to see that the Ferguson-Florissant school district made the decision to provide lunch for students this week. Learn more on KSDK
Community Resource Drop-In Center
At the Foodbank, we have been concentrating our efforts on providing food assistance to the United Way of Greater St. Louis’ Community Resource Drop-In Center at the Dellwood Recreation Center (10266 W. Florissant Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63136). To date, we have delivered more than 14,000 pounds of food to be distributed to kids and families affected by the unrest in Ferguson.
On Saturday, August 23 and into the early part of the next week, we are using our Foodbank trucks to pick up donations of food, personal care items, school supplies and cleaning supplies from area businesses that will be delivered directly to the Community Resource Drop-In Center.
Feed the Students of Ferguson
On Monday, August 25 we are scheduled to receive the first shipment of cereal that will be distributed among our partner agencies that serve Ferguson and the surrounding communities.
More food should be arriving later in the week. Using the funds raised by the Feed the Students of Ferguson Fundly campaign, we will be providing more food to help ensure that students in the Ferguson/Florissant school district and their families will not have to choose between paying for food and other basic necessities as the town rebuilds and recovers.
The St. Louis Area Foodbank has served the St. Louis community for nearly 40 years and will continue to do so as long as there is a need for food assistance.
Immediate Response to Ferguson
On Saturday, the St. Louis Area Foodbank partnered with the United Way of the Greater St. Louis to deliver 5,000 pounds of food to the Dellwood Community Center to help feed people in need in the Ferguson community.
This food was product the Foodbank had previously collected in food drives and is not associated with the “Feed the Students of Ferguson” campaign.
The campaign, created by North Carolina school teacher Julianna Mendelsohn, has raised more than $80,000 so far. The campaign will end Thursday.
The outpouring of support from across the country has been overwhelming. The funds donated through the “Feed the Students of Ferguson” campaign have been earmarked for the Ferguson community, where children in need will continue to struggle with hunger long after the news cameras leave.
Have you received the funds from the Feed the Students of Ferguson campaign?
We had not yet received the funds as of noon today, August 20, 2014. After a discussion with the management of Fundly, we agreed that the funds raised would be transferred to the St. Louis Area Foodbank starting Thursday, August 21, 2014.
What will you do with the money?
Our goal is to provide a sustainable, long-term hunger relief program for the children of the Ferguson community. We have five partner food pantries in and around Ferguson who have been providing food to families in the community during this difficult time. These pantries serve the Ferguson community year-round, a hunger relief mission that the Foodbank will continue to support in any way we can.
As we look to the future, the Foodbank will implement a specific long-term plan for feeding children in need in Ferguson and provide a full financial accounting on the use of the campaign funds donated.
How long does the campaign run?
At this time, we plan to stop taking donations via the Fundly campaign, Feed the Students of Ferguson, on Thursday, August 21, 2014.
Future Recovery Efforts
The recovery effort in Ferguson will take time and the combined efforts of organizations and individuals in the St. Louis region. Our goal is to provide a steady supply of food to those in need in the Ferguson community for months to come.
After visiting a local food bank on a school trip, I was surprised to see the limited fresh produce options for families utilizing area food banks.
I know shelf-stable items are easier for the average person to donate during a food drive, and more practical for food pantries to store. But I also know how important fresh fruit and vegetables are to a healthy diet!
I decided I wanted to make a difference in my community in the fight for food justice.
My interest in gardening was peaked when I read about Katie’s Krops, a non-profit organization that encourages youth to grow vegetables and fruit to feed the hungry in their communities. Read more
On February 7, 2014, the St. Louis Business Journal released their list of the largest nonprofits in the area. The St. Louis Area Foodbank was proud to crack the top 10 based on fiscal year 2013 operating budget, coming in at number 8 overall.
Independent auditors assign a value of $1.69 per pound on the food that comes in and goes out of our warehouse in Bridgeton, along with our cash operating budget. As our distribution totals increase (nearly 35 million pounds distributed in FY2013), so does our operating budget.
In addition to our ranking on the list, reporter Nicholas Ledden from the Business Journal also went back and took a look at this list from five years ago. He calculated which organizations showed the greatest percentage increase in operating budget over that time (fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2013). The St. Louis Area Foodbank tops that list with a 138.02% increase ($27,907,780 in 2008 to $66,427,014 for 2013).
An abbreviated interview with St. Louis Area Foodbank President and CEO, Frank Finnegan, accompanied the list in the printed version of the paper. The full interview is below:
So your operating budget has seen some significant growth over the last five years. To what do you attribute the increase?
We asked the community to support our capital campaign when we moved into our current facility in Bridgeton in 2006. We stated then that the additional space would allow us to significantly increase food distribution to hungry families in our community. The year before we launched the capital campaign, we distributed 12 million pounds of food and personal care items. Over the last five years we’ve made good on our original promise, going from 20 million pounds in fiscal year 2009 to nearly 35 million pounds in fiscal year 2013. Auditors assign a value to the food and personal care items we distribute, so as the amount of pounds we distribute increases, so does our operating budget. We have also invested heavily in infrastructure updates that have significantly improved the efficiency of our operation. Our distribution models have evolved as well, so much so that now more than 50 percent of the product we distribute is delivered directly to our partner agencies. As a result, we have tripled the number of trucks we have on the road.
Do you have expansion plans for 2014?
Although we’re on pace to increase distribution by six percent this year, our primary focus has shifted to the nutritional value of the product. We plan to improve the nutritional component of our distribution by increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables.
How would you rate the organization’s fiscal 2013? Highlights?
We had the single largest year-over-year distribution increase in our history – 26 percent. However, as proud as we are of that accomplishment, we are just as pleased that we also achieved our goal of establishing an operating reserve that will help sustain the Foodbank’s long-term viability. Volunteers are vital to our operation. In 2013, we saw a record number of volunteers come through our doors to help us repackage the food we distribute. To accommodate that growth, we added an additional parking lot at our facility.
What have you identified as the organization’s single greatest opportunity for continued growth?
Since the food industry donates excess product, donations to the Foodbank follow food industry trends. Manufacturers and producers have made significant progress in eliminating mistakes, so donations are trending more in the area of fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s a happy coincidence for the Foodbank as fresh produce is exactly what is needed to improve the diets of the people we’re serving.
What is the organization’s impact on the community? Has that impact grown over the last five years as well?
We are the primary food source for the majority of our 512 partner agencies, which include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other nonprofits who feed those in need throughout our 26-county service territory in Missouri and Illinois. Demand for food assistance has grown due to the economic downturn and the evolution of the workforce from good-paying blue-collar jobs to lower-paying and part-time jobs in the service sector. For the first time, working age people now make up the majority of U.S. households that rely on food stamps, primarily as a result of a slow economic recovery, high unemployment and stagnant wages. Unfortunately, as the number of families in need continues to rise, our impact becomes even greater.
Biggest challenge going into 2014?
Our biggest challenge is to improve on the already impressive growth and progress achieved last year. Hunger is an ongoing problem, and it doesn’t discriminate. It affects young and old, all races and religions; it’s prevalent in our cities as well as rural counties. Our biggest challenge is to convince people hunger only exists because we allow it. We don’t lack for food in this country; we lack the political will to simply end it.
Access to the online version of the list and the interview with Frank Finnegan require a subscription to the St. Louis Business Journal.
Here at the St. Louis Area Foodbank we have been talking a lot about a new Feeding America initiative called “Foods to Encourage.” The program will launch later this year, and will help organizations like ours focus even more on the quality of the food we distribute, in addition to the quantity of food we distribute to people in need. The new program will follow the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: My Plate structure.
This got me thinking about what I was putting on my own plate. I have always been a pretty healthy eater, but I was still eating more processed foods than I should. In the past, I have used fitness apps to track what I’m eating. But even the best of those apps seemed to fall short when it came rating the nutritional quality of the food I was eating. Most only reported some nutritional values and a calorie count. While they encourage me to eat less, they didn’t actually encourage me to eat more of the whole fresh foods recommended by the USDA.
Then I discover the Fooducate app in a tweet by A Place at the Table Movie. The Fooducate app was exactly what I had been looking for and best of all it was free. This app grades each food based on its nutritional content. With just a few clicks on my phone, Fooducate reports not just how many calories a food item has, but also if it is actually providing your body with the nutrients and fuel it needs to thrive.
You can customize the app to grade food based on a variety of options, such as allergies you may have to nuts or gluten, or whether you’re hoping to stick to a vegan or vegetarian diet. Like the other nutrition apps I have used in the past, you can log your excercise and weight to keep track of your progress. This handy feature helps keep you motivated. Watch Fooducate’s video.
The only cons with the app is that it lacks two main features of most nutrition apps; social integration and a desktop version.