Across California and the country, schools, community centers, libraries, parks, churches, even apartment complexes are serving free meals for all children ages 1-18 with no paperwork or documentation required. Here, USDA’s Summer Food Service Program is coordinated by the California Department of Education and promoted by a wide range of organizations like United Way and Dairy Council of California (CA).
Finding a local summer meals site is as simple as texting "Food" or "Comida" for Spanish to 877-877, dialing 2-1-1 in most cities or visiting Summer Food Rocks.
(Above, Tammy Anderson-Wise, CEO of Dairy Council of CA enjoys a summer meal with community members at the Sacramento kickoff event.)
Children shouldn't go hungry just because school is out. According to the Food Research and Action Center report, over 80 percent of the 2.4 million California children who participated in the National School Lunch Program during the 2014-2015 school year missed out on the free healthy food provided by USDA's free Summer Food Service Program.
Nationally, only one out of six children who receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year continue to receive meals during the summer months. Missing out on balanced meals over the summer can put children's health and academic achievement in jeopardy.
All summer meals served through the Summer Food Service Program must meet USDA nutritional guidelines and include all of the following:
Because summer meals are an underutilized resource to help keep children healthy in California, Dairy Council of CA teamed up with United Way, USDA, CDE, school districts and community groups to raise awareness for summer meals statewide. Through involvement with the Sacramento Summer Meals Collaborative, we helped develop the Sacramento Summer Lunchbox, an online resource kit filled with promotional and educational resources for summer meal sites that can be used across the state.
"Students need to eat nutritious food all year round to succeed in school. During the summer, some children may have their access to food curtailed. That’s why I am so pleased that the Sacramento Summer Meals Collaborative is providing summer meals sponsors with help in managing their programs and in getting word out about these free summer meals,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a partnership news release about the Collaborative's work.
Additionally, Dairy Council of CA joined San Diego, Fresno and Twin Rivers Unified School District Food Service Departments to coordinate community kickoff events to raise awareness for these free summer meals. Special thanks go out to these departments and districts, as well as the CDE, USDA, CDFA and United Way staff who helped make them so memorable to all children and parents who participated.
While these kickoffs were great successes, the number of children accessing summer meals tends to drop off after the Fourth of July holiday. Dairy Council of CA is also planning a mid-summer SPIKE event with Natomas Unified School District later this month.
(Above, Sandip Kaur, Director of the Nutrition Services Division of the California Department of Education and Fresno Unified School District Food Service Director Jose Alvarado pose in front of Mobile Dairy Classroom during the Fresno summer meal kickoff event.)
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This July, celebrate your independence from a steamy, oppressive kitchen with seasonal recipes that come together quickly, are served cold or can be prepared ahead of time- like at night when it's not so hot. Spend more time with your family and less time preparing meals this July.
Be sure to visit the Family Meal Planning page for more information, tips and resources.
July Family Meal Recipes
Quinoa Salad With Apples and Kale with Apple and Horseradish Glazed Salmon and Blueberry Blackberry Gratin; plus Cabbage and Cherry Salad with Ginger Lemon Dressing, Black Bean and Rice Salad,
Asian Beef and Noodle Salad and Potato, Bean and Chile Salad.
Italian Vegetable Hoagies with Cucumber and Tomato Salad and Minted Fruit Salad; plus Apple Yogurt Coleslaw, Pulled Pork with Caramelized Onions,
Chicken Crunchers and All-Natural Oatmeal Banana Cookies.
A.B.C.T. Salad with Zesty Ranch Chicken and Mexican Rice; plus Hip Huevos with Avocado, Chicken with Oranges and Avocados, Shredded Turkey and Pinto Bean Burritos and Southwestern Cheese Panini.
Garlic-Basil Tomatoes with Mozzarella with Chicken Wrap with California Dried Plums and Apples and Limeade Milk Chiller; plus Watermelon and California Feta Salad, Apple Tuna Sandwiches, Cucumber and Tomato Tangy Yogurt Salad and Turkey, Veggie + Cheese Pitas.
Last month, the San Jose Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Book Club gathered to discuss First Bite by Bee Wilson, an award winning food writer. The book outlines the many factors that lead to our food choices including family and culture (including the food environment), memory, hunger, love and more. The book explores a broad cross-disciplinary view of eating: nutrition, neuroscience, anthropology and history providing a thesis that both adults and children have potential to learn to eat better.
For nutrition junkies like us, this book is a great read since it looks at the whole business of eating from the very broadest perspective. The history of children’s food is fascinating. Throughout most of history, children’s food was not a separate category, they ate what adults ate but less of it. In the hierarchy of a working family, parents (especially fathers) got most of the protein, since the man did manual labor to provide food for the family.
In the 1870s, the middle and upper classes developed the concept of children’s food which was bland and flavorless since flavorful food was deemed too dangerous for children. The modern notion of “kid food” emerged after WWII. Parents raised on rice pudding and porridge wanted their children to enjoy eating. Post-war kid food became “fun” and flavored with fat, sugar and salt.
Most dietitians in our group (pictured at left) are also mothers and reared children when it was recommended that highly allergenic foods (like eggs and peanuts) be introduced later to avoid the development of allergies. Newer recommendations now encourage feeding foods in small portions that are potentially allergenic since early introduction of these foods reduces the likelihood of future allergies.
Recommendations from the book are similar to Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility and Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch’s Intuitive Eating approach. It adds a new dimension to attempt to broaden the palate of children by introducing foods in small pea-size bites in ways that are fun and do not force or pressure children to eat foods (that is known to backfire). The book is filled with tips on how to do this effectively.
Additional topics in the book include hunger, disordered eating (from conditions such as anorexia and autism) and dietary counseling. These chapters are well written and carefully referenced. Our only complaint about the book is that it is “pretty dense” and a slow read, but worth the time to plow through it.
We wholeheartedly recommend First Bite to highly interested parents (this is not written for the consumer) and health professionals who work with children.
Maureen Bligh, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Kristal Shelden, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
American Academy of Pediatrics, Infant Food and Feeding recommendations.
Fleischer, David M. et al. (2015) Consensus communication on early peanut introduction and the prevention of peanut allergy in high-risk infants. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 136 (2), 258 - 261.
Carol, A. (2016, April 25). Avoiding Peanuts to Avoid an Allergy Is a Bad Strategy for Most. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/26/upshot/avoiding-peanuts-to-avoid-an-allergy-is-a-bad-strategy-for-most.html?_r=0.
After a years-long process, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released their planned changes to the Nutrition Facts label—that black and white rectangle of nutrition information on the back or side of food packages.
Last revamped over 20 years ago, this label revision is designed to align with current nutrition science, better reflect what Americans are actually eating and draw attention to calories and nutrients of public health concern.
The new label should make it easier for consumers to make better informed food choices and adopt healthy eating patterns, in line with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
From top to bottom, here are the big changes we can expect:
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For more information on the upcoming changes to the Nutrition Facts label, read FDA’s news release.
Lori Hoolihan, Ph.D., R.D.N.
It's our favorite time of the year. June is National Dairy Month, which also coincides with World Milk Day on June 1. So we're celebrating with some dairy delicious family meal recipes, of course.
June also means that school is getting out, and having kids at home over the summer can tack an additional $300 per month on to a family's food bill. We've got some tips and tricks in store to minimize the impact on your pocket book while making sure that learning and healthy eating don't take off for a summer vacation!
In fact, hosting your own kids' cooking camp will mean you'll have delicious meals, entertained kids and extra help in the kitchen packing lunches come fall.
Don't forget to plan ahead for a healthy and relaxing Fourth of July Holiday weekend filled with your favorite festive foods.
Be sure to visit the Family Meal Planning page for more information, tips and resources.
June Family Meal Recipes
Overnight Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Breakfast Custard, Yogurt Fruit Salad with Baked Parmesan Tomatoes; Plus Double-Orange Scones with Orange Butter, Baked Mac + Cheese, Chicken in Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce and Chocolate Peanut Butter Milksicles.
Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip, Walking Meal with Warm Chocolate Pudding; Plus Fresh Fruit Burritos, Turkey + Cheese Melt Tortilla Wraps, Potato Skins and Ants on a Log.
Pita Pizzas, Kale + Spinach Chips with Berry Good Banana Smoothies; Plus Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas Verdes, Tabbouleh Salad, Turkey Waldorf Salad and Tuna Noodle Casserole.
Red, White and Blue Cheese Sliders, Aztec Salad with American Flag Pudding; Plus Beet Salad in Yogurt Sauce, Blueberry Corn Muffins, Bella Pasta Salad and Yogurt Cheesecake.
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Healthyeating.org is brought to you by Dairy Council of California. The mission of this website is to educate on issues of nutrition and healthy eating. For instance, our calcium calculator helps people decide how much of the recommended daily allowance of calcium they need (and are getting); our 'healthy eating quiz’ is a nutrition test and assessment tool or online nutrition app useful for parents and teachers interested in nutrition and health. Our free nutrition lesson plans help teachers from kindergarten to high school teach nutrition and healthy eating. And, of course, our milk nutrition and dairy nutrition facts offer information on topics such as milk and bone health and the health benefits of probiotics. While you're here, enjoy tips, online games, and quizzes to help get kids to eat healthy including kid-friendly recipes!