Spotlight on Great School Practices: Eat Your Way Through the Alphabet!

From Executive Director, Barbara Storper:

“I just returned from a great conference, “Healthy Food Fuels Hungry Minds: Advancing Children’s Health In and Out of School,” presented by the Massachusetts Health Council. There were some great speakers, but I wanted to spotlight a real mover and shaker – Jeanne Reilly, School Food Service Director of Windham and Raymond School Department in Maine, who also is currently the Maine School Nutrition Association President.
Jeanne has created an amazing array of innovative practices that get kids excited and engaged in eating healthy delicious food throughout the year. Her exciting programs connect kids to healthy foods through fun tastings, gardens, and cooking classes that turn her entire school into a dynamic learning laboratory!

Sitting there, listening to Jeanne, I couldn’t help but wonder how the heck she was able to do all these incredible things, given what I’ve seen at schools – completely overwhelmed teachers, school food service staff with way too much on their plate, principals pulling the plug on anything that doesn’t involve preparing for standardized tests, and of course, lack of funds.

Her answer – a super forward-thinking and supportive superintendent who cares deeply about children and their health. They were able to hire a chef/educator who is working her magic throughout the district, and an extremely dedicated staff. And, it certainly doesn’t hurt that her programs have brought the district much fame and probably lots of fortune! To cap it off – her efforts have resulted in dramatic increases in school breakfast participation from 4% to 30%, and lunch participation from 30% to 52% since 2003!

Throughout the upcoming months, we’ll periodically highlight one of Jeanne’s programs and hope that if you’re a teacher, food service worker, student, or interested parent, they’ll spark some interest to bring ideas like these to your schools. If you have an innovative program or idea you’d like to share, please send it our way!”

Here’s my favorite – and you can even try it at home with your kids!

Eat Your Way through the Alphabet: For every day during National Nutrition Month, Jeanne’s cafeterias serve fruits and vegetables starting with the letter A and going all the way to Z by the end of the month. For “B” day, you’ll see broccoli, bananas, blueberries, and baked beans, along with recipes, digital signage, posters, and promotions on her schools’ social media channels. The idea – to market healthy foods and expose kids to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in a fun way!

Not only that – but she combines special holidays and events, such as celebrating “Read Across America Day” and Dr. Seuss’s Birthday when she got to the “B’s”. Her foods, aptly named:
Truffula Trees Broccoli, Bar-ba-loots Baked Beans, Birthday Blueberry Parfaits and Bananas!

“We know we’ve got a winner of an idea when parents stand up at school board meetings, thanking us for introducing their kids to a new food,” said Jeanne.

Read more at Jeanne’s very enlightening blog:
Make Lunch Not War

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