Food For Thought

November Newsletter from your Food Services Dept

Harvest of the Month

The Food Services Department is excited to be trying something new this year: Harvest of the Month (HOTM). HOTM is a farm-to-school campaign that highlights seasonal produce every month. Our goals include providing students with fresh fruits and vegetables, obtaining produce from local farms when possible, and giving students the opportunity to try produce that may be new to them.

We obtain our produce through three venues: the Minnesota Valley Action Council's Food Hub, the Department of Defense Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and our food supplier, Sysco.

In September we offered cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers and corn on the cob - all locally grown. We were able to provide watermelon and butternut squash in October - both locally grown. In addition, we had a fun, healthy treat called a JonnyPop. JonnyPop is a frozen fruit smoothie bar that is made in Minneapolis. It is made with real fruit and no artificial ingredients. This month we are excited to highlight some root vegetables -parsnips, turnips, carrots as well as some other fall favorites - butternut squash, red potatoes, apples and pears. We hope to provide some winter squash varieties in December.

If you have a child eating with us, please encourage them to try these delicious and nutritious foods!

ACES Gardens

After a successful pilot garden for Roosevelt ACES in 2015 at the Heart and Soil Community Garden, Andrea Greenwald, ACES Program Coordinator, and I (Kelsey Rounds, Nutrition & Wellness Specialist) wanted to expand the garden program for summer ACES this year. With the help of the buildings and grounds crew, custodial staff, facilities director, principals and generous donations, we were able to install 6 on-site school gardens.

School gardens provide multiple benefits to students.

  • Increased nutrition awareness - Children who grow their own food are more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Increased environmental awareness - Students gain pro-environmental attitudes and feel responsibility to care for the environment.
  • Increased life skills - Students gain the ability to work well in groups.
  • Fosters science literacy and social skills - Studies have shown that students who participate in school gardening score significantly higher on science achievement tests.

Students were able to participate in every aspect of the garden: from planting and weeding to harvesting and finally putting the garden to bed for the winter. We planted broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, green beans, onions, and potatoes. Students enjoyed picking produce and eating it raw (sometimes straight from the garden!), steamed or in a recipe such as salsa.

We have had overwhelming support from donors. We were awarded grants and donations from the Jeffers Foundation, ISG, and the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). The University of Minnesota Master Gardeners were very helpful with weekly visits to each of the gardens to assure proper care.

A HUGE thank you to everyone who helped!

Mankato Free Press Article

Free breakfast for all kindergarten students!

Our schools participate in federal and state nutrition programs which allows us to offer our kindergarten students free breakfast!

Breakfast is also available to all students at each of the district school buildings. There is no charge if your household qualifies for either free or reduced-price meal benefits.

Please join us before school in the school cafeteria for a nutritious breakfast.

Walk and Bike to School Day

Safe Routes to School's Walk to School Day is celebrating 20 years of being a national event. The success of Walk to School Day led to October being International Walk to School Month. In 2012, biking was encouraged with the first-ever National Bike to School Day. Communities have seen long-term changes such as walking and bicycling programs and new sidewalks.

Walking or biking to school is a great idea to do (almost) year-round. Walking or biking to school has numerous benefits: it encourages healthy habits, reduces air pollution, promotes safety, and boosts a sense of community. In addition, our staff has seen positive impacts in the classrooms since exercise stimulates the brain and helps students be prepared to learn.

In 2013, MAPS was granted funding from Safe Routes to School to complete three initiatives:

  1. Assemble a team of elementary physical educators and coordinators to develop and implement the Active Learner Program in School (ALPS). The goal of ALPS is to provide students 60 minutes of activity each day.
  2. Create safe sidewalks and pathways for students to walk or bike to and from school.
  3. The development of safe pedestrian and biking lesson plans within the curriculum.

We are excited to say that the ALPS program is extremely successful in almost all schools, we have made great strides in making safe routes for students to get to school and we have incorporated pedestrian and biking safety into our curriculum.

THANK YOU to our elementary Physical Education teachers, ALPS coordinators, and anyone else that has helped reach our goals.

Our first Bike and Walk to School Day for this school year was October 5th. All elementary schools participated and had a great turnout. Our next event will be May 10th!

Exercise boosts brain power! The video below focuses on increasing employee productivity and creativity but the same concepts can be applied to students with Jammin Minutes, Go Noodle, and other classroom energizers. Check it out!