WITS How To
The following are suggested goals/ideas for your school food program and Wellness Policy:
1. Request the Alternative Menu
In NYC schools are automatically set up with the standard SchoolFood menu. But did you know that you could have the same Alternative Menu used in WITS schools, even if you don't have our programs? Well you can! The Alternative Menu, a healthy, more scratch-cooked, less processed menu created by WITS and the NYC DOE is now available to all NYC schools. Bring cooking back to your kitchen and eliminate highly processed lunch options by choosing the Aleternative Menu.
2. Start with a Salad Bar
Request a salad bar from your SchoolFood Manager. The federal stimulus package provided some funding for 30-inch salad bars (also referred to as low boys), which are easily accessible by younger children and recommended for elementary schools. Your cafeteria will need an electrical outlet (and sometimes an electrical upgrade) to run the cooling mechanisms on the salad bar. Once you have your salad bar in place, organize parents to help serve and encourage children to try the salad bar.
3. Inquire about the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program
Encourage your SchoolFood Manager to apply for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). FFVP is a state/city-sponsored program that provides funding for fresh fruit and vegetable snacks in low-income elementary schools. The snacks must be whole foods or minimally processed and served as a additional snack, not as part of lunch. The program has a limited budget and not all schools can be accommodated (neither is there a guarantee schools that have the program once year will get funding for it the next), but applying sends the message that you want fresh produce at your school.
4. Eliminate Chocolate Milk
Ask your principal to write a letter to your SchoolFood Manager requesting the elimination of chocolate milk. Keep in mind that although many children will complain at first, they will soon forget especially when given other options like a Water Jet (see #9).
5. Donate Equipment
In order to donate equipment the organization donating must write a letter on official letterhead to:
The Office of SchoolFood
44-36 Vernon Blvd., Room 414E
Long Island City, NY 11101
The letter must state:
- The funding source
- The fact that the equipment is a non-monetary gift
- The amount of the donation (value of the equipment)
- The school that will receive the equipment
- The purpose of the donation (how the equipment will be used)
Wait for acknowledgement: When the donating organization receives acknowledgement that SchoolFood has received their donation letter, the organization can purchase the item and make the donation to the school.
Please Note: Once the equipment is delivered to the school, the equipment is considered SchoolFood property. At this time, the new equipment will be given a place and inventory control tag.
6. Acquire Olive Oil
Olive oil is approved for SchoolFood use and it is a great way to improve the healthfulness and taste of many lunch items. Please Note: Only a specific type of olive oil is approved for donation-Whole Foods Market, 365 Everyday Value olive oil. If you purchase a case (12 bottles), you can receive a 10% discount. Schools should keep monthly records of quantities purchased and used.
7. Order/Request Grass Fed Beef
Work with your school to order grass fed beef through the SchoolFood Manager and integrate it into the scratch cooked recipes (pasta Bolognese, chili with meat, picadillo). This will require additional funds (approximately $5.00/pound with a minimum order of 180 pounds). The minimum grass fed beef order can serve a school of 500 children approximately two meals.
8. Request a Water Jet
Introduced by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Water Jet program gives children access to a healthful, no calorie beverage: clean NYC tap water. The Water Jet chills the water and oxygenates it to keep it tasting fresh. You can request a Water Jet from your SchoolFood Manager. You may have to fundraise to purchase the machine, but once purchased ($720-$950), children can drink cold NYC tap water – the best in the nation. You must have access to an electrical outlet and be prepared to put a plan in place for cup protocol and etiquette.
9. Help Prepare Tastings
One strategy Wellness Committees can use to encourage students to try and enjoy the healthier meal options they introduce is to hold tasting events. Work with your school's administration and SchoolFood staff to set one up.
10. Start A School Garden
Start small and “grow” from there! School gardens can be located in small or large spaces: a container garden in a classroom, raised beds on school grounds, or form in partnership with a community garden. Form a school garden committee as an extension of your PTA or Wellness Committee and assign each member a role and responsibilities. Be sure to include your principal, assistant principal, head custodial engineer, two co-coordinators, and at least two teachers. Check out this guide to school gardens and Grow to Learn NYC for more ideas.
11. Shift the School Culture
Insist that holidays, publishing parties, bake sales, fundraisers, etc. are all healthy events, with fresh fruit kabobs, healthy dips, and/or home-made baked goods. If you are working in the cafeteria, the school community should reflect the change.
12. Start a Farm to School Program
Opportunities to connect schools with farms and farm fresh produce are growing thanks to wonderful Farm to School initiatives from the USDA, First Lady Michelle Obama, and individual school districts or states. Although there can be many challenges to sourcing directly from a local farm, there are a number of ways you can connect your school. We recommend this article from Edible Orlando, and a few of their helpful tips: Get Others Involved; Start Small; Raise Money; Redefine ‘Local’; Rethink ‘Small’; Go Directly to the Director; Befriend a Farmer; Simplify; Ask for Help; Make It a Wellness Priority.