Three Moms And Some Green B.e.a.n.s.Fri 15 Apr 2011
Story by Marnie Deschaine
We are Three Moms from Illinois who learned about the harmful effects of the American diet of processed food and began eliminating processed and junk foods at home.
After seeing the huge benefits healthy food had on our energy, health and overall enjoyment of life, we turned to our school’s cafeteria menu. Obviously it doesn’t make sense to serve our children healthy whole foods at home and processed food at school, how can we expect students who are fed the standard school lunch, to perform in class, study hard, and excel; not to mention live a long healthy life?
We were motivated to make a difference, but didn’t quite know how. We created a mission statement:
“To create an atmosphere where children experience healthy food and to improve the nutritional quality of school lunches.”
We met with our school principal and laid out the benefits of good nutrition in school: improve students’ health and behavior which will contribute to better grades. She jumped on board. We then met with the school’s cook and found him supportive.
Our next challenge – how do to get rid of bad, but popular foods and incorporate whole foods while getting students excited about participating? We contacted our local Farmers’ Market and set up delivery so it was easy for the cook to get fresh produce.
The salad bar was an obvious place to start and so we gave it a makeover; adding fresh vegetables, fruits and beans. As a result the salad bar is now colorful and inviting and the kids love it. The weekly school menu now includes at least two fresh fruits, two fresh vegetables, a serving of beans and a side salad.
In order to raise awareness in the students, we knew we had to enlist the help of the student leaders: 7th and 8th graders. It didn’t take much convincing; the students were excited about promoting good nutrition to others. The 26 member self-named “Green B.E.A.N.S.” (Being Environmentally And Nutritionally Smart) meet twice a month.
Their main project, “Taste It Tuesday” is a monthly event where the club researches a new nutritious food to introduce to the students. Club members visit classrooms to promote the benefits of the food and encourage students to taste the food during lunch. The new food is voted on and winners get added to future menus. Students have tasted hummus, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, bulgur, homemade granola bars and wholegrain bread.
Another favorite of the club is their now famous “Smoothie Sale.” Smoothies contain strawberries, bananas, apples, 100% apple juice and the most important ingredient: a handful of spinach. Students love them and the profits from sales are being considered for a school garden or to fund a cooking class.
The club has also given away samples of pomegranates, veggie straws (packaged snack food similar to chips, but made from spinach, tomato and potato purees and a good way to get the kids started), kiwi, watermelon and citrus flavored water during various school events where in the past, soda, chips and sugary snacks were served.
Our school has shown tremendous support as We Three Moms now work with the cook to plan the school menu and implement new recipes. Eliminating the processed foods from the menu has freed up funds for the kitchen to purchase fresh foods from a local supplier. The school budget has also allowed us to purchase the extra samples students have been able to enjoy. We Three Moms have also been willing to put our money where our mouth is and donate items too.
We’re looking forward to the next year as we explore grant opportunities to upgrade kitchen equipment and provide staff training. As for The Green B.E.A.N.S, our upcoming 7th and 8th graders are already looking forward to exploring new opportunities for the club.
About the author: Marnie Deschaine, Carolyn Beal and Kathy Mattingly make up ‘Three Moms’ and live in Illinois where they continue to work on improving the food at Blessed Sacrament School in Belleville.
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