Go for the Greens

The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 requires that schools serve vegetable subgroups each week including dark green, red/orange, starchy, legume, and other. All Pittsburgh Public Schools serve vegetables daily, per the nutrition requirements, but are they being consumed?

Plate waste studies in Pittsburgh Public Schools have shown extremely low acceptance of green vegetables. In one study, only 17 of 150 students chose a vegetable at lunch, and only half of those students ate their vegetables.

The Food Service Department, always looking for ways to increase vegetable consumption, has partnered with Monteverde’s Produce Company to showcase raw, fresh, crunchy green vegetables at schools across the district. Encouragingly, students have been overwhelmingly excited about the opportunity to try vegetables outside of the school lunch program. Throughout the fall, many of the green vegetables will be sourced locally.

What can you do to get your children to eat more vegetables?

  • Serve vegetables as snack, separate from meal time. Kids are more likely to eat vegetables when they are hungry and there are no tastier options available.
  • Serve raw vegetables with a low-fat dip.
  • Be a role model. When your kids see you eating vegetables, they are more likely to try them.
  • Remember that it can take an average of 7-15 exposures for a child to become accustomed to new foods, especially vegetables.

Elizabeth Henry, MS, RD, LDN

Central Kitchen to Produce More Variety

The Central Kitchen brought in a new food packaging machine this week. The new machine gives the Central Kitchen the ability to package foods in smaller, single-serve containers, designed for both hot and cold items. With smaller containers comes more flexibility to package items for K-5 and K-8 schools as well as Early Childhood classrooms. Individual servings of hot vegetables, hot breakfast, fresh deli sandwiches, cold salads, healthy snack items, fruit items and vegetarian entrees, among other things, can be packaged at the Central Kitchen for school delivery.

The new machine also allows for more efficient Central Kitchen production operations when preparing staples for lunchrooms like deli sandwiches and salads. Less time spent preparing these items will allow staff and labor more time for innovation, developing new recipes and more from-scratch cooking.

The new packing is expected to reach schools by November.


Chef Bill trains PPS Food Service staff

The PPS Food Service Department brought in a chef to teach the staff some basic culinary skills before heading back to the kitchens for the year. As vegetables become more common place in the school cafeterias, and the salt shaker is left on the sidelines, the cafeteria staff must learn to cook vegetables while maintaining appearance and taste. Students eat first with their eyes. If the food doesn’t look appealing, they probably won’t even try it.

Chef Bill traveled to Pittsburgh all the way from Lancaster, PA to deliver a fun, engaging, and hands on lesson in everything from knife skills to roasting veggies. The staff was surprised at how fun cooking could be when given the right set of skills.

The PPS Food Service Department hopes to continue culinary training each year in order to enhance the menu with more scratch cooking.

Free Summer Meals!

West End Overlook (6.29.16)School may be out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean the supply of nutritious lunches has to end!

In partnership with the Citiparks program, Pittsburgh Public Schools is promoting the GrubUp! campaign to feed lunch to children 18 and under. A food truck follows the roving art cart to various locations, and assembles a table to provide free cold lunch every Tuesday through Friday from 11:00am to 1:00pm. Kids have the option of PB&J or a Deli Sandwich, both accompanied by carrots, ranch dressing, fruit, and chocolate milk. Lunches are served in bags, making it a quick and easy option.

This year’s summer meal prograFood Truck Wrap3m experienced a makeover. The implementation of a promotional wrap around the trucks normally white body, resulted in a complete transformation. The new look makes a splash while driving around town, and stands out at every location. Giant, vibrant signage is hard to overlook, which raises awareness for the free meals and increases the chances that kids will participate.

In addition to the truck revamping, the overall experience and meal presentation has taken a turn for the better. Organizers glammed up the serving table with a fun tablecloth, artsy lunch labels, and colorful coolers. Staff are wearing bright t-shirts, and a large folding sign has been decorated to attract attention. If that isn’t enough to turn heads, at select times every kid who takes a lunch may also select a toy, such as sunglasses or a frisbee, donated by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Yesterday a bubble machine livened up the atmosphere, and decorative balloons are coming soon.

Schenley Oval_DaveAll of these efforts would not be possible without great employees. Dave Sharik, left, has been the food truck driver for two years. He has welcomed every crazy idea with open arms. Prior to the makeover, Dave would do anything he could to get kids involved. Whether that meant shouting in Market Square or creating his own signs to draw attention, Dave was committed to getting hungry children fed. Now, his dedication for community outreach drives his willingness to assemble the new set-up every day. He is a star employee, whose passion has made the process of creating an inviting environment possible!

The food truck runs June 14- August 4. Be sure to check out this great opportunity to get free lunch for anyone 18 and under, engage in arts and crafts, and explore Pittsburgh!

Post by Madison Santella, Nutrition Intern.

A Day in the Life

school_lunch_hero_day_logoThis week is School Nutrition Employee week! On Friday, we celebrate School Nutrition Hero Day. Join us in thanking our cafeteria staff for all that they do. Between preparing healthy meals for America’s students, adhering to strict nutrition standards, navigating student food allergies and offering service with a smile, school nutrition professionals are true heroes!

The images below will walk you through a day in the life of a school nutrition employee.

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Lunch Hero Day_South Hills
School Lunch Hero Day at South Hills Middle!


Brain Power at Breakfast

Breakfast Promotion - AllianceResearch shows that students who eat breakfast at school are more likely to stay focused and succeed in the classroom. Breakfast is an important part of every day, but it is especially important during testing in Pittsburgh Public Schools. Students that enter the classroom hungry are more likely to get distracted, have a hard time finishing their work, and make trips to the nurse’s office.


All schools in the district offer free breakfast all year round which includes a daily fruit offering. Be sure to power your brain with school breakfast! 



A Taste of University Prep

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The University Prep Student Envoys came together yesterday for a taste test in their cafeteria under the leadership of Annie Fiscus, a project specialist for Environments that Support Teaching and Learning.

The Student Envoys are a group of students with the natural ability to lead. Whether a traditional or nontraditional leader, the Student Envoy program is designed to help those students harness their energy to do good in their school. The Envoys at University Prep have shown a strong interest in school food, and their voices were heard by the Food Service Department.

In February, Elizabeth Henry, Registered Dietitian for the Food Service Department, spoke with the Student Envoys about school food and some of the restrictions in the cafeteria. Surveys were administered to students, and school food feedback was collected.

The students are our customers. We wouldn’t have a meal program without them so their thoughts and opinions really count. When we hear about a student body that is frustrated with the school food, our first engagement is usually to educate the students about the meal program, the budget restraints, and the nutrition regulations and requirements from the USDA. Then we collect the feedback – what is going on in that school and what can we do to make it better for the students?

One way to engage students in the school food process and to hear their voices is to hold a taste test. The students at University Prep tasted several items and rated them on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) according to taste. The items tested were items that are being considered for next year’s menu. The samples included lentils and rice, southwest rice, macaroni and cheese, soft tortilla shells, and a chocolate granola bar.

Students voted most favorably for the chocolate granola bar, but the lentils and rice came in a close second! Doing taste test is a good way to get kids to taste some healthier foods (like lentils) that they might not otherwise try.

Vertical Veggies

Vertical VeggiesGetting kids to eat fresh produce
can be a challenge, but we’ve got a plan!


When it comes to serving kids, we know a thing or two. We know that color and variety appeal to children, and we know that kids love (and obsess over) ranch dressing. Using these principals, some cafeterias in Pittsburgh have started serving “Vertical Veggies” during lunch. A small amount of ranch dressing is scooped into a plastic cup, and long slices of fresh produce are stood up vertically (get it?) in the cup on top of the ranch. Serving produce in this manor does several things.

  1. The color of the veggie cups attracts kids and encourages them to give it a try!
  2. The variety of veggies in the cup allows kids to try something they may not usually take.
  3. The addition of ranch in the bottom prevents kids from taking multiple ranch cups and racking up the calories of their meal.

Remember, it’s not nutrition unless it’s eaten!


Fuel Up to Play 60

“Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by National Dairy Council and NFL, in collaboration with the USDA, to help encourage today’s youth to lead healthier lives.

Fuel Up to Play 60 and the NFL are once again coming together to support local schools and communities through the Hometown Grants program. The NFL, through Fuel Up to Play 60, will provide $10,000 per NFL club market ($320,000 total) in grant money to help school districts and/or individual schools facilitate sustainable physical activity and healthy eating improvements.”

Congratulations to Arlington K-8 for receiving this year’s Hometown Grant in Pittsburgh!

Fuel Up to Play 60 - Arlington
Kelvin Beachum, Pittsburgh Steeler, talks with students about the importance of exercise in support of the Fuel Up to Play 60 Program. Arlington K-8 received $10,000 to implement better nutrition and exercise practices among students.

Want to know more about the program? Visit the site here.