‘Kids eat local’ bills may be part of child nutrition overhaul

Companion bills introduced in the House and Senate would make it easier for schools to buy locally produced foods to serve to their students, said sponsors on Thursday.

How Oakland became a leader in cutting school food waste

Among the 40 percent of all food thrown out is this statistic: America’s school lunch programs waste $5 million in food every day. FERN’s latest story, published with Grist, focuses on Nancy Deming of the Oakland Unified School District, a leader in the movement to cut school food waste and redirect the food to students and people in need. Here’s the main take-aways:

Dinner at school is a growing option for U.S. students

Compared to the long-established school lunch program, after-school programs that provide snacks or supper to pupils are tiny. In fact, just 1.2 million suppers, versus 30 million lunches, are served in school each day.

Food company coaches schools on ‘whole-grain waiver strategy’

A food service management company that operates in 600 U.S. school districts is offering them, in the words of its vice president for nutrition, “instructions” on how to get a waiver from the USDA requirement to serve whole-grain-rich bread, pasta, and baked goods to their students, said The Lunch Tray.

USDA to extend ‘flexibilities’ for school food, maybe for years

In a Federal Register notice today, the USDA announced it will extend its “three flexibilities” for school menus — salt, whole grains, and flavored milk — into the 2018/19 school year. It will also invite comment on the “long-term availability of the flexibilities,” which Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue introduced at an elementary school on his sixth day in office.

Alliance declares 323 schools as America’s healthiest, based on meals and exercise

The anti-obesity Alliance for a Healthier Generation named 323 schools across the country as "America's healthiest schools," based on offering healthy school meals and ensuring physical activity each day. Nearly half of the schools were from Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona. "Schools earned the distinction by successfully meeting a rigorous set of criteria for serving healthier meals and snacks, getting students moving more, offering high-quality physical and health education, and empowering school leaders to become healthy role models," said the alliance.

Chocolate flavor not a deal-breaker for milk consumption at school

On his sixth day on the job, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, in the name of regulatory flexibility and making school meals more attractive to students, gave schools the green light to serve chocolate milk again. A new study suggests, however, that over time, schoolchildren do not miss flavored milk all that much.

USDA slowdown of school lunch rules ‘says that we listened’ — Perdue

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue mixed humor, keen political rhetoric and "a fiercely unapologetic tone" as he explained why he ordered a slow down in USDA school food rules in one of his first decisions in office, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Perdue defended the decision during a speech to the School Nutrition Association, which represents school food directors.

Now antibiotic-free, chicken is back on the menu in Los Angeles schools

For more than a year, chicken has been a rare item in Los Angeles public school cafeterias, reflecting the school board's policy to hold vendors responsible for animal and worker welfare among other things and the challenge of finding enough food for the nation's second-largest school system. The Los Angeles Times says chicken tenders, patties and frankfurters will be back as soon as May now that three new vendors are under contract.