logo

SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

School Family Announces "Recipe Share"!

At SchoolFamily.com, we’ve got some exciting news…

We’re very pleased to announce the launch of Recipe Share, SchoolFamily.com’s new recipe section!

Looking for a great afterschool snack to made for—or with—your kids? Or how about one that older kids can make themselves? We’ve got ‘em.

Need some new ideas for your child’s school lunch box? We’ve got ‘em.

What about recipes for quick and easy weeknight meals for those evenings that seem completely taken up with kids’ afterschool activities? Or recipes for dinners that can be made ahead? We’ve got ‘em.

Crockpot recipes, recipes for those with food allergies, recipes for desserts, salads, pasta dinners and salads, dips, and side dishes? We’ve got ‘em all, plus some. In fact, we have more than 50 recipe categories from which you can choose to find just what you’re looking for!

And all of our recipes are printer-friendly!

Some of our recipes are from food bloggers you may already know, including weelicious.com and freshbaby.com. Others are from fairly new food bloggers—Organic Glory and Mummy’s Busy World.

And in an exclusive partnership, we have recipes from the Meal Makeover Moms. These two moms, who are both registered dietitians, take traditional recipes and make them over for better nutrition, without sacrificing taste! How about Healthier Hamburger Helper? Or Smiley Face Casserole? (See their lasagna makeover—Chock-Full-O-Veggies Lasagna—pictured above.) The Meal Makeover Moms section features dinner, afterschool and lunch box snacks, desserts, stews, and more.

But perhaps best of all, we welcome recipe submissions from you, our readers! Send us your family’s favorite recipes of all types—dinners to dips to desserts and more—and we’ll include them in our Recipe Share. Simply complete this easy online form, attach a photo of your completed dish (if you have one), and send it along to us! We’ll send you a link to your recipe once it’s posted!

Happy eating!

Carol Brooks Ball, editor

 SchoolFamily.com

 

Continue reading
2710 Hits
0 Comments

Does Your Child's School Lunch Offer Beef Mixed With "Pink Slime"?

When ABC News ran a program earlier this month on the use of so-called “pink slime” in USDA-approved ground beef, it created an overnight panic, especially among parents who wondered if the beef by-product is used in their children’s school lunches.

 Turns out they were right to worry.

According to one report, the USDA’s National School Lunch Program, which includes ground beef mixed with “Lean Finely Textured Beef” (LFTB)—aka pink slime, provides approximately 20 percent of the meals served to American schoolchildren in both public and non-profit schools. States and school districts purchase the additional food needed for school lunches.

After the ABC report went viral on social media, a Houston mother who writes The Lunch Tray Blog launched a petition on Change.org, asking the USDA to stop the use of LFTB in its National School Lunch Program.

The petition has collected close to 250,000 signatures. More importantly, the public outcry by parents and others concerned about the beef consumed by American schoolchildren led the USDA to announce March 15 that it will offer school districts the ability to order beef products with—and without—LFTB this fall.

The statement from the federal agency read, “USDA only purchases products for the school lunch program that are safe, nutritious and affordable—including all products containing Lean Finely Textured Beef. However, due to customer demand, the department will be adjusting procurement specifications for the next school year so schools can have additional options in procuring ground beef products. USDA will provide schools with a choice to order product either with or without Lean Finely Textured Beef.”

As news about LFTB spread, many national grocery chains have come forward admitting that they sell ground beef mixed with LFTB, and many of the major chains have  announced that they'll no longer do so.

What exactly is so-called “pink slime” or LFTB? It’s the trimmings—also known as renderings—from large cuts of beef which are sliced off, “finely” processed in machines that separate the fat that’s attached, then heated to remove any remaining fat, and then treated with ammonia hydroxide.

 Sounds yummy, no?

 Incidentally, the man responsible for the term “pink slime” is Gerald Zirnstein, a former microbiologist at the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service. He reportedly came up with the term after touring one of four plants owned by Beef Products Inc., based in South Dakota—the producer of LFTB—and later told colleagues that he didn't consider the product to be beef. 

 Do you know if your school district or state uses ground beef mixed with LFTB? Will you try to find out? What’s your take on this whole "where's the beef?" controversy?

Editor's note: For healthy, nutritious school lunch and lunchbox ideas, visit our new SchoolFamily.com Recipe Share. Do you have a good recipe you'd be willing to share? Send it to us and we'll include it on our site!

 

Continue reading
2758 Hits
5 Comments

Does Your Child's School Lunch Offer Beef Mixed With "Pink Slime"?

When ABC News ran a program earlier this month on the use of so-called “pink slime” in USDA-approved ground beef, it created an overnight panic, especially among parents who wondered if the beef by-product is used in their children’s school lunches.

 Turns out they were right to worry.

According to one report, the USDA’s National School Lunch Program, which includes ground beef mixed with “Lean Finely Textured Beef” (LFTB)—aka pink slime, provides approximately 20 percent of the meals served to American schoolchildren in both public and non-profit schools. States and school districts purchase the additional food needed for school lunches.

After the ABC report went viral on social media, a Houston mother who writes The Lunch Tray Blog launched a petition on Change.org, asking the USDA to stop the use of LFTB in its National School Lunch Program.

The petition has collected close to 250,000 signatures. More importantly, the public outcry by parents and others concerned about the beef consumed by American schoolchildren led the USDA to announce March 15 that it will offer school districts the ability to order beef products with—and without—LFTB this fall.

The statement from the federal agency read, “USDA only purchases products for the school lunch program that are safe, nutritious and affordable—including all products containing Lean Finely Textured Beef. However, due to customer demand, the department will be adjusting procurement specifications for the next school year so schools can have additional options in procuring ground beef products. USDA will provide schools with a choice to order product either with or without Lean Finely Textured Beef.”

As news about LFTB spread, many national grocery chains have come forward admitting that they sell ground beef mixed with LFTB, and many of the major chains have  announced that they'll no longer do so.

What exactly is so-called “pink slime” or LFTB? It’s the trimmings—also known as renderings—from large cuts of beef which are sliced off, “finely” processed in machines that separate the fat that’s attached, then heated to remove any remaining fat, and then treated with ammonia hydroxide.

 Sounds yummy, no?

 Incidentally, the man responsible for the term “pink slime” is Gerald Zirnstein, a former microbiologist at the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service. He reportedly came up with the term after touring one of four plants owned by Beef Products Inc., based in South Dakota—the producer of LFTB—and later told colleagues that he didn't consider the product to be beef. 

 Do you know if your school district or state uses ground beef mixed with LFTB? Will you try to find out? What’s your take on this whole "where's the beef?" controversy?

Editor's note: For healthy, nutritious school lunch and lunchbox ideas, visit our new SchoolFamily.com Recipe Share. Do you have a good recipe you'd be willing to share? Send it to us and we'll include it on our site!

 

Continue reading
2758 Hits
5 Comments

So, Junk Food in Schools Isn't to Blame for Kids' Obesity?

Wait a minute. Can this be true? Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have released the results of a study in which they found no relationship between children’s obesity levels and the availability of soft drinks, candy bars, and chips at school.

 

Are you as stunned—and perhaps annoyed—as I am? All the angst and hand wringing that’s gone into banning birthday cupcakes from 1st grade classroom celebrations and eradicating junk-food-dispensing vending machines from high schools has now all been for naught?

 

Well, not really. Junk food, after all, is junk: high fat, high-calorie, high salt, low-nutrition and, other than tasty, not good. But it turns out that a child’s propensity toward obesity has much more to do with what he eats at home— and after school, and on the weekends, and at friends’ houses—than the French fries he orders for his school lunch. That and the type of food he’s been eating all along. And let’s not forget portion size. 

 

Perhaps we all should have realized the folly of attacking schools as a source of the childhood obesity scourge. Or, perhaps it’s the only place where we felt we had some control?

 

What foods have been banned at your children’s schools? And after reading the results of this study, how do you feel about such bans?

 

 

 

 

Continue reading
3054 Hits
2 Comments

Food Allergy Tragedy: Parents, Check Your Child's School Action Plan

In a tragic case of a severe allergic reaction, a 1st grade-student at an elementary school in Virginia, died Monday, Jan. 2, after reportedly being exposed to a peanut product. 

This heartbreaking incident is a reminder to all parents about just how deadly exposure to a food allergen can be for children with food allergies. It’s also a reminder to parents of children with food allergies, to check and double-check that precautions and an emergency action are in place at their children’s’ schools. 

Read SchoolFamily.com's article on Food Allergies and School-Age Kids, which provides thorough tips on how parents should communicate with their child’s school about food allergies. As the article points out, while it’s important to speak with the school principal and the child’s teacher, it’s also critically important for parents to speak directly to the cafeteria staff where food products are prepared, as well as to school volunteers who might come in contact with their children.

 

 

 

 

Continue reading
3298 Hits
0 Comments

When School Lunch Is A Cold Cheese Sandwich

It’s happened to all of us. Your child tells you the night before that he’s out of lunch money in his account at school and needs it for the next day—or else.

That “or else” used to mean a stern dressing-down by the even sterner “lunch lady.” It was embarrassing for your child, but she got over it.

This week, a school in Rhode Island opted for a more punitive method that’s becoming the norm for more and more cash-strapped school districts—giving children who are out of school lunch money a cold cheese sandwich for their lunch.

The Rhode Island school’s policy allows for a child to receive three free hot lunches when their lunch money account is at zero before getting the “cold” shoulder, er, sandwich, for their fourth lunch.

Rhode Island isn’t alone in this policy: in 2009, large school systems such as the Albuquerque Public School district instituted the “cold cheese sandwich” policy—often referred to as a “courtesy lunch”—along with hundreds of other districts across the country.

Problem is, kids feel singled out and humiliated when handed their cold cheese sandwich, which comes with a piece of fruit and a carton of milk; that apparently makes the lunch nutritious according to Department of Education guidelines. But most kids and their parents say such a meal is not filling or appealing.

And for kids already stigmatized by receiving free or reduced-cost lunches, getting slapped with a cold cheese sandwich feels like insult added to injury.

But it gets worse. Students in the Edmonds School District in Washington actually have their hot lunch trays taken away from them in the lunch line if they owe money on their lunch account, and are presented with the cold cheese sandwich instead. Talk about humiliating.

The decision to give a cold cheese sandwich for lunch is a local one, according to information in a 2009 study done by the School Nutrition Association. In “The Bottom Line on Charge Policies,” a statement from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service read: “All full price policies for school meals are matters of local discretion. This includes decisions about whether or not to extend credit to children who forget their meal money or whether or not to provide an alternate meal to such children. Therefore, a school could decide not to provide meals to children who must pay the full price for their meals but do not have the money to do so. In some cases, the PTA or other school organization may establish a fund to pay for children who forget or lose their money. Schools should ensure that parents are fully aware of the policy adopted for children who do not have their meal money.”

What’s the policy in your children’s school? Have they ever received a cold cheese sandwich for lunch?

Editor's note: For healthy, nutritious school lunch and lunchbox ideas, visit our new SchoolFamily.com Recipe Share. Do you have a good recipe you'd be willing to share? Send it to us and we'll include it on our site!

Continue reading
4864 Hits
1 Comment

How to Help Overweight Students Navigate Back to School With Confidence

For many students, back to school means shopping for new clothes, purchasing new school supplies, and being reunited with their friends after the summer vacation.

For students who are overweight, however, the back-to-school period can be a dreaded time, fraught with anxiety and self-doubt.

There are ways to help students, and their parents, face down their anxiety. At fitsmiformoms.com, there are thoughtful tips for parents with ways they can help their overweight children return to school with confidence. Tips include everything from cutting out the tags of a child's new back to school clothes ("Don't let a number define your child") to having a student bring lunch from home to avoid eating the typically high-calorie school lunch offerings, and shopping for flattering and fashionable back to school clothes. 

Overweight students especially need a confidence boost at this time of year, a time that finds most students anxious about the return to school. For some overweight kids, their sense of confidence may be particularly low if they tried to lose weight over the summer and weren't successful.

All kids deserve to look and feel their best upon returning to school and facing the challenges of a new academic year.

-- By Carol Brooks Ball

 

 

Continue reading
2094 Hits
0 Comments

In Search of the Ultimate Back-to-School Tips and Checklist -- Kind of

Well, the countdown to back to school has begun in my house. 15 more days. I say that with serious lament. I want to hang on to every minute of summer, every shred of the lack of routine. Well kind of. I want to, but my checklist genes won't let me. Much to my kids' chagrin. Ah, I wish I could just live in the moment but sadly I can't. Not unless I have a plan. So here is my compromise. When I feel the fear of no back-to-school plan bubbling up inside me, I set aside an hour or so to get myself organized.  Here's  how I get organized for back to school:

 

  • I go to the school website and transfer all the important dates to my Google calendar: like sports try-out dates, back-to-school night, activity fee deadlines, etc. The nice thing about Google is it's free you can color-code by child or activity. 
  • I print out a back-to-school checklist and post it on our bulletin board. I'm  a huge fan of having lists on my laptop and phone but when it comes to these types of lists, you can't beat the old-fashioned list in the kitchen. And yes, physically checking things off the list makes me happy. 
  • I make copies of my kids' medical records to have them handy for sports, school and activities. 

 

Just by getting those few things done I find I lose that "school's hanging over my head" feeling.  Back to cookouts and bike rides and spontaneous weeknight plans with friends. Ah yes, I will miss summer. 

And okay, I have to admit that I also have some organizational tools waiting in the wings for the week before school starts. 

 

I refuse to print these out until I need them. But they are there so I can happily push the thoughts of back-to-school chaos out of my head.  As for back-to-school shopping, I am one of those moms who waits for the start of school. You get more bargains after school starts, right? For now, I enjoying summer while it lasts!

So what's your summer to back-to-school transition style? Do you have any "get organized" tips you can share? Or would you rather not talk about it until your kids are actually in school?

 

 

Continue reading
4380 Hits
1 Comment

Healthy School Lunches: an Oxymoron?

Just came across this blog called "Fed-up: School Lunch Project" and was very intrigued. I've read with great interest countless articles about what parents are doing to reform school lunches, and how to have healthy school kids, but thought that this blog was unique. For starters, it's written by a teacher.  This teacher decided to eat school lunches (the same ones that students eat)  every day in 2010 and chronicle her gastronomic adventures. Yes, she is writing about what she eats (well sometimes eats) in her school lunch every day. The simplicity of it is almost Seinfeld-esque.  

What I like about her blog is that she is making a point about what our kids are fed in school cafeterias without shouting about it:

 Let's think about what we give students to ingest. For instance, I personally enjoy eating hot dogs maybe every 4-6 months, mostly in the summer cooked on a grill. Also I eat them when I go to the ballpark as a special treat. But I wonder if we should give a child a hot dog lunch and then ask them to take the ISAT (state test)... 

As parents of school-age children, I thought you might be interested in following her blog as well.

Also interested in hearing how the lunch menus at your child's school to hers? Have you tried to champion a healthy eating campaign at your school? Tell us about it. 

 

Continue reading
4037 Hits
1 Comment

School Lunch Revisited _ Simple and Healthy?

Before school started, how many of us had resolutions to make school lunches work better for our kids this year? We certainly had/have great intentions this year, but -- wouldn't you know it? -- school's only a week old, and already reality has snuck in. Five days. Three kids. Fifteen peanut-butter-and-jellies. (Full disclosure -- I think there may even have been a peanut-butter-fluff thrown in there. Ouch.)

For those still fighting the good fight, this article from the San Francisco Chronicle is one of the best we've seen this year. Solid content. Variety. And multiple good recipes and options for healthy school lunches.

Several of the commenters on that article cite the same concern I have -- how do you balance no time and morning/night craziness with these kind of healthy options? Fact is that the biggest reason for our P, B & J binge is the convenience of it. Bus is coming, trying to get the kids dressed and fed in the morning -- just no time for mixing up a salad and mixed berries and a wrap sandwich. Never mind the time to shop for all those ingredients well ahead of time.

So my big question: how do you balance the time crunch with healthy lunches? I, for one, still need to know.
Continue reading
2585 Hits
1 Comment

School Lunches -- healthy, safe and fun

So our 3 boys trekked back-to-school today, and—among other things—I forgot about the joys of packing lunches for 3 growing boys with different tastes at 6:45 AM. Lovely. The only saving graces were that: 1) they were too concerned about larger issues to grumble about their P, B & Js today; and 2) I remembered that we have a ton of good stuff here on the site to make school lunches easier.

A bit of schoolfamily.com searching, and I'm already better prepared for tomorrow morning:

1. I do need to do a better job of keeping the kids food safe. This article on food safety for school lunches made me think.

2. I ran across this MomCooks site (even though DadCooks, too) and thought these were some excellent ideas for brown bag lunches your kids will eat. We have a similar article on lunch ideas for kids here.

3. Also think I'll download a couple of these fun lunchbag labels to use, maybe on Fridays.

Three lunches per day for 180 days.... hmmmmm... only 537 lunchboxes left to fill this year. Egads!

Do you have any favorite school lunch tips of your own? I'm all ears.

Editor's note: Please take a look at our new School Family Recipe Share for more ideas about school lunches, as well as quick and easy dinners, recipes that kids can make by themselves, and much more! Send us your favorite recipes, and we'll include them in our Recipe Share. 

Tags:
Continue reading
3057 Hits
3 Comments

The Campaign for Healthy School Lunches

When I heard that former President Bill Clinton was on the Rachael Ray show last week, for a brief moment I wondered whether it was a creative campaign appearance for his wife's White House run. It turns out he's in the middle of a different kind of campaign, urging schools to serve healthier meals to kids.

Clinton helped form the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which is tackling the issue of childhood obesity. According to the alliance, 17 percent of American schoolkids are overweight, and school lunches that resemble fast-food fare are a big part of the problem. The alliance is working with schools and major food companies to get more nutritious meals onto kids' plates.

Of course, serving healthy foods doesn't do much good if kids won't eat them. That's why we're sharing great ideas for a week's worth of nutritious sack lunches your kids will actually like.

What's going on in your child's lunchroom? Is the school offering healthier meal options, and are kids actually choosing them?
Continue reading
2602 Hits
0 Comments

School Lunch Angst

The start of school is five weeks away, and already I'm waking up with night sweats over what to pack for lunch. I barely made it to the end of the school year last month without cracking from the pressure of having to fill my kids lunchboxes day after day. Those last few weeks I'd haul myself into the kitchen at night, flip open the lunch boxes and stare into the void.

My kids are like human roulette wheels when it comes to food. Whether my son will want what I pack for him—a tuna sandwich, for example—is more a matter of chance than preference. Sometimes I'll hit a lucky streak. My daughter told me last year that she liked cold rotini pasta, so I packed it every day for weeks. But I guess I overplayed the pasta because she got sick of it. I could kick myself for ruining a good thing by not quitting while I was ahead.

If I were wealthy, I'd give the kids money to buy lunch every day. But at $2.25 per meal, I have to limit them to two hot lunches each per week. I should have plenty of time between now and when school starts to think of some good, healthy lunches that my kids will eat. But I won't. The night before the first day of school, I'll be staring into two brand-new lunchboxes, wondering what the heck to put in them.
Tags:
Continue reading
2585 Hits
0 Comments
Advertisement

Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

No - 37.4%
Sometimes - 25.4%
Yes - 31.6%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016