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...WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? Monthly Newsletter (Vol 8, Issue 1)
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Inside this issue: Schools Will Be Real Winners Under the Stimulus Package pgs 1-2
Does Eating a Good School Lunch Make You Smarter? pgs 2-3
Slowing Economy Leads to Major Influx in Free and Reduced Applications pg 3
Schools Will Be Real Winners Under the Stimulus Package While the vast majority of the U.S. public voiced serious concerns when the recent economic stimulus bill passed without so much as giving the senators time to read, let alone debate, the various components of the bill, those that will be reaping the benefits of the package are beginning to sing a different tune. Of the numerous entities that will be on the receiving end of the stimulus package, it appears that universities, school employees and low-income students will be among the biggest winners of the bunch. For an example of the stimulus in action, take a look at what’s is happening in Pennsylvania. On March 3, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell announced that the stimulus would pump an additional $118 million into the state's basic education subsidy. That raises his intended increase for education from $300 million to $418 million, and will help avoid school property tax increases, Rendell said. In Pennsylvania alone, stimulus money will plug a $42 million hole in state’s higher education funding. According to Rendell, state-related universities that will benefit from this influx in cash include the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln universities. "That doesn't represent an increase in our budget," said Penn State President Graham B. Spanier. "It just gets us back to zero." For most schools, being able to break even when it’s all said and done is more than they could ask for given today’s economy. Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said the stimulus money is "a very important form of support as we work to control tuition increases." One would hope that this increase in federal aid would eliminate or at least temporarily postpone tuition hikes, but that isn’t the case, at least at Penn State. Spanier said the university plans a 4 percent to 5 percent tuition increase. If the university is able to receive additional state money, it will go toward reducing the tuition increase, he said.
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For all intents and purposes, the stimulus is having an overall positive effect on the stability of the nations educational system. However, many fear that the changes are only temporary and will not provide any permanent fix. "This looks to me like a stopgap measure," House Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, said of the money for universities. "It doesn't solve [our] long-term problems.”
The stimulus package earmarks $2.9 billion over
Pennsylvania. Of that, $1.9 billion could be used to avert layoffs, renovate
schools. The Pennsylvania state legislature must approve a budget by June 30, and increased funding for basic education will make that job easier. The boost for public school districts will "help us at a time when we're having severe budget problems," said Walter Calinger, superintendent of the Woodland Hills School District. In addition to an undetermined increase in its basic subsidy, Woodland Hills will receive nearly $1.6 million extra for Title 1, a federal program to help low-income students, and an additional $1.7 million for students with disabilities during the next two years. 1
"We need more time on reading, math and science instruction for poor kids," Calinger said. "This will enable us to do more in that area." About 70 percent of Woodland Hills' students qualify for Title 1 services. The stimulus package earmarks $2.9 billion over two years to Pennsylvania. Of that, $1.9 billion could be used to avert layoffs, renovate or build schools. The remaining $1 billion would go to programs for disadvantaged students, special education, school lunches, vocational rehabilitation and educational technology. Pennsylvania faces a two-year, $6.3 billion budget deficit that Rendell proposes to
balance with stimulus money, tax hikes, spending cuts and money from the state's rainy day fund. "It'll help school districts from having to lay off employees, teachers and other personnel," Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Swissvale, said of the stimulus money. "Just about every school district in Pennsylvania is experiencing budget shortfalls." Pittsburgh Public Schools will get an extra $27.9 million over two years for needy and disabled students. "It comes at an incredibly good time for us because we've been in a reform process long enough we've been able to identify some things we need to do more aggres-
sively," said city schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt. He said the district needs to improve special education and reading in middle and high school. The Armstrong School District will get an extra $2.6 million over two years in Title 1 and special education funds. In a prepared statement, district spokesman Jonathan Szish said Armstrong might study state and district tests to consider expanding programs in grades 1 through 6. Doyle said the stimulus money for special education and Title 1 should be available before July.
Does Eating a Good School Lunch Make You Smarter? Arthur Agatston, of South Beach diet fame, thinks good school nutrition programs raise math scores
Does eating right make schoolchildren perform better? A team led by Arthur Agatston, a cardiologist and creator of the popular South Beach diet, presented findings at an Obesity Society meeting over the weekend showing that improving the nutritional quality of school meals bolstered the academic performance of students over a two-year period, in addition to lowering their weight and blood pressure. The researchers saw significant increases in math scores among the 1,197 elementary students who participated in the Healthier Options for Public Schoolchildren obesity prevention program, an intervention currently used in 79 schools in seven states. The program targets low-income students who qualify for the free or reduced-cost lunch programs run by the federal government. In addition to putting more healthful food choices in the cafeteria, it features a focus on good nutrition through school assemblies, class activities, and by having adults model good eating habits. U.S. News caught up with Agatston to learn more about the connection between nutrition and academic performance. Were you surprised to see that academic skills improved with a better diet? Not really. Ask any teacher about the sugar high kids have after lunch. They're bouncing off the walls, and then they fall asleep. It makes sense that students are going to pay attention more and learn more if they're eating well. How exactly did you change the kids' diets? Many kids—while overfed—are literally
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malnourished. Our idea was to go into elementary schools and really change what kids ate and try to have them exercise more. This wasn't a diet. We weren't having them count calories or anything like that. We just offered kids wholesome food—meaning there was less saturated fat, no trans fats, and more whole grains and fruits and vegetables. We used, for example, better oils, such as olive oil. Were the kids willing to eat the new, more healthful foods? Absolutely. Kids will get excited about good food. We ran one assembly, in fact, that had kids standing up and cheering and giving each other high-fives for broccoli and fiber. Each month there are posters with cartoon characters about the food of the month. We had taste tests with older kids. Some of the schools even had kids help grow vegetable gardens. It's really true: What kids grow, they'll eat.
People should absolutely complain to their congress person if they feel the school food is bad. This isn’t a local cosmetic issue. Ultimately, it’s our health and the future of our economy at stake. It wasn't always easy. There were challenges. Some parents and people
within some of the schools weren't always interested in what we were trying to do. In the beginning, when we first substituted in all-bran cereal for Froot Loops, the kids threw it out. So we went to Raisin Bran as a compromise What are some substitutions that parents at home can make to replicate your success? The No. 1 thing is to get rid of hydrogenated oils, the trans fats. Those are probably the worst—even worse than saturated fats. So: less fried foods and fast foods. You want to maximize fruits and vegetables. You can use sweet potatoes for regular potatoes, brown rice for white rice, rye or whole-grain bread for white bread. You want to go toward whole foods. If your grandmother couldn't recognize something as food, you probably shouldn't eat it. How did you convince the school cafeterias to change? At first, it was hard to get things like whole grains into the schools. Vendors weren't really oriented toward healthy options. By the second year, with the encouragement of USDA and the realization that new guidelines are coming down the pike similar to what we advise, it's become much easier. The environment is really changing. Were there concerns that the healthful food would cost more? Yes, that was an obstacle at first. For the study, we said we'd just pay the difference between the good food and the regular food, but we're quite convinced that as 2
more schools ask for good food, that food shouldn't cost significantly more. We've met with USDA about this, and we're sure that healthy food will be affordable as long as there's enough demand. How can parents get involved if they'd like to see their kids' cafeterias improved? People should absolutely complain to their congress person if they feel the school food is bad. This isn't a local cosmetic issue.
Ultimately, it's our health and the future of our economy at stake. It doesn't really matter if we have a one-payer healthcare system or a market system or whatever. If we don't deal with kids today, we're going to overwhelm whatever future medical system we have. The problem is much bigger than people realize. Young adults are having more heart disease and heart attacks. It's a huge problem that goes way beyond cosmetics or a kid being teased because he's overweight. It's going to
have a huge economic impact unless we act now. *This article was authored by Adam Voiland and first appeared on U.S. News (usnews.com) on October 7, 2008.
Slowing Economy Leads to Major Influx in Free and Reduced Applications Our economic future is grim. The financial collapse that originated last October continues to gain momentum, and is not showing sign of slowing down in the near future. In such dire economic times, it is no wonder that we are suffering from the worst job loss numbers since the 1970’s. Congress recently passed a resolution recognizing the link between healthy meals and learning, but as the recession worsens, millions of parents can no longer afford to give their kids $2 or $3 a day to eat meals at school. Lost jobs mean more families will become eligible for the free and reduced meal program, and many schools will likely be caught unprepared. Schools in Montgomery County, Maryland are seeing 400 new applications for the program every month. "That's unheard of,"
Marla Kaplon with Montgomery County Public School said. "It's the highest percentage we've ever had here in Montgomery County." The schools in Maryland are not alone. According to the School Nutrition Association, almost 8 in 10 school districts received more applications for free lunch so far this year. E.V.S.C. officials said they've seen a one percent increase of students on free and reduced lunches from last year. This number is expected only to grow. Many schools are unprepared to deal with the increasing flood of applications, and face incurring substantial losses as they self-finance student meal costs in the wake of an overwhelming pile of unprocessed forms.
What can schools do to prepare? The burdensome task of processing free or reduced school lunch applications is simultaneously time consuming, tedious, error prone and frustrating. Software developed specifically to streamline free and reduced meal application process, such as FSS F.O.R.M.S., can drastically cut the manhour investment needed to process applications by hand. F.O.R.M.S. is an acronym for Free Or Reduced Meal Software, and is currently being used by hundreds of schools across the US. If you would like to learn more about the software and its capabilities, we recommend that you contact FSS and set up a free web demonstration. Call 1-800-4251425 or email email@example.com.
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