Fairfax schools' food program named nation’s best
Fairfax County students at a "tasting party" to help plan school meals. (FCPS photo)
Good news for Fairfax County Public Schools: Its nutrition program was named best in the country by the nonprofit School Nutrition Association.
Fairfax’s Food and Nutrition Services Department, the largest child nutrition feeding program in Virginia, was recognized this week for its commitment to creating nutritious and appealing meals to kids, and for the way it has implemented nutrition education initiatives. Its professional development programs and “superior financial management" were also cited.
Peggy McConnell, the district’s Food and Nutrition Services director, accepted the award of $25,000 at the association’s annual conference, money that will be used to improve the program.
What makes Fairfax’s program so excellent?
You can go to the Fairfax food program’s Web page to see what the department does and how it operates. There's a lot of great information there for families.
During the school year, Fairfax schools serve meals to more than 140,000 customers every day. The meals are planned with help from students, who answer surveys about their favorite fruits and vegetables and attend monthly “taste parties” to identify what they like.
There’s a complete ingredient analysis, too, for almost 200 different items that are served to kids, including corn dog bites and tortilla chips with cheese sauce.
The department operates a program called “Give Me 5! Colors That Jive” that introduces students to new and unfamiliar fruits and vegetables each month (such as jicama, butternut squash and sweet potato wedges). Items are featured on the menu and in flyers on the serving line, and students enjoy the colorful trivia and activity pages provided to teachers to incorporate into classroom instruction.
Meanwhile, “Fairfax Kids Cooking” teaches students about healthy food choices and gives them the opportunity to bring home some basic cooking skills.
These nutrition education lessons culminate in the cafeteria, where nutrition information for entrees is posted right on the serving lines. With some of the strictest competitive food regulations in the country and cafeterias that offer more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, Fairfax County has earned numerous awards for nutrition integrity.
Parents can also access critical tools for talking with their children about nutritious choices through the department’s online videos and Nutrition Calculator for Healthy Snacks.
The department holds about 500 nutrition education sessions a year for teachers and reaches the broader community by conducting monthly nutrition education sessions in Head Start classes and at senior citizens centers, as well as participating in approximately 30 district health fairs a year.
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| July 15, 2010; 2:03 PM ET
Categories: Health | Tags: fairfax nutrition program, fairfax wins award, meals in fairfax schools, school meal planning, school meals, school nutrition association
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