World Food Day: FNS raises awareness
Posted on 10/18/2021
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OCPS Food and Nutrition Services celebrated World Food Day on Oct.15, 2021, to highlight for students the importance of local farmers and school meals program providing nutritious food. During a celebratory event at Memorial Middle School, staff from Food and Nutrition Services engaged students in activities surrounding food, fun and games.
The pandemic has had a critical impact on the health of children and school meals are often the most nutritious meals they receive. Many parents’ income was interrupted and there was not enough money for fruits, vegetables and proteins. Childhood hunger increased in Central Florida; one in every five children now experience food insecurity. This means they may not know what or how they will get their next meal. Throughout the pandemic, the school meals have continued both curbside and in schools. All meals have been served at no charge to students and continues this year through a USDA waiver.
Childhood obesity also increased during the pandemic. Lora Gilbert, Sr. Director of the FNS program explains, “while it may not seem logical, being hungry is one of the reasons causing an increase in childhood obesity. When children don’t know when they will eat again, there is a tendency to overeat when food is present. Children in low income homes do crave sweets and foods high in calories.” The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that during the pandemic, children aged 5 – 11, considered overweight rose from 36 percent pre-pandemic to 45.7 percent. The average five-year-old had a 12.5 percent weight gain.
The FNS program taste tests all menu items with students before they are on the menu. USDA nutrition regulations require menus low in fat, sugar and sodium. The FNS Registered Dietitians write the menus after they have conducted taste tests with children. Specific taste profiles are used for elementary and secondary menus. Younger children don’t want as much spice as secondary students. Older students want foods that are familiar to them such as tacos, hamburgers, and pizza. Students are specific about what they want in a salad. OCPS students like fresh greens, sliced cucumbers and diced tomatoes. The chef’s salad now include boiled eggs. Pico de Gallo is made freshly in the school kitchens and the recipe has evolved to include more tomatoes and cucumbers and fewer onions to accommodate student feedback. A fresh hummus, jerk seasoning, and sofrito topping have been developed specifically to OCPS students’ taste preferences.