Episode 65 - Nutrition updates to school lunch - February 1st, 2012

Nutrition updates to school lunch, foods you didn’t know you could freeze, and is there hope for the honey bees? 

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Nutrition updates to school lunch, foods you didn’t know you could freeze, and is there hope for the honey bees?  For February 1st, 2012, this is Food News Today. 

Good morning, Food News Today is sponsored by ConAgra Foods, who shares with me the desire to provide the most current, interesting, and unbiased food news. 

Today is National Baked Alaska Day!  National Baked Alaska Day?  Do we bake Alaska? And today is the Feast of St. Brigid of Ireland, patron of cattle, chicken farmers, and dairymaids… have I mentioned my Grandfather was a dairy farmer?!  But he's not from Ireland, sooo, totally useless.

>It was just over a year ago that President Obama signed into law the The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This act added $3.2 billion to the pot  and reauthorized child nutrition programs for five years.

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak announced what Vilsak called “an historic opportunity to improve the quality and quantity of the school meal programs.” And change there is. Highlights of the 280 page report include: lowering calories and sodium in all foods served, more fruits and vegetables, all grains be rich in whole grains within two years, removing all trans fats, and that chocolate milk be fat-free. Compliance must begin by July 1, 2012.

According to Diane Pratt-Heavner of the School Nutrition Association, which represents over 55,000 school nutrition professionals, a lot schools have already implemented many of these improvements.  After Wednesday’s announcement Pratt said “these new nutrition standards are great news for our kids.  They will help school nutrition professionals build on their efforts r

 Some of the additional changes to school lunch:

•Fruits will now be offered as a separate food component at lunch daily.

•The variety of vegetables will be increased to include dark green, orange, and legumes. The proposed limit on starchy vegetables was removed

•Meat and/or meat alternatives must zzbe offered daily at both lunch and breakfast

•Saturated fat is now limited to less than 10 percent of total calories for the week, and Trans Fats are banned.

•Reducing sodium content is a “key objective” of the rule. Currently USDA reports that the average sodium content for a school lunch is high: in excess of 1400 mg, and sets out a gradual reduction, by age of student, over the next ten years with the result being a reduction of between 25 and 50 percent.

 >Have you ever walked by an amazing sale in the supermarket and wonder if you could buy in bulk and freeze what you didn’t need immediately? Well there are a lot of surprising foods you can freeze. And if saving money isn't your motivation, freezing can also help effectively store and portion meals so you don't overindulge. 

•First up are, nuts, seeds and even grains. If you like to keep a variety on hand for snacking, and cooking, the freezer is the place to be! Nuts, especially unshelled, can quickly go rancid thanks to their healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. Heat, moisture, and light can cause nuts to spoil. Store them in a plastic, airtight container. Shelled nuts last for up to eight months in the freezer. Hey, you're nuts if you don't freeze nuts!

•Need to get some hors d’oeuvres ready for a last minute dinner party? Well thankfully you froze your block cheese- yes that’s right when you see blocks of cheese on sale, stock up. They can be frozen in the original packaging, but wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or heavy-duty aluminum foil, as well. Soft cheese and cheesy spreads will only last one month frozen, so it’s worth it to freeze the harder cheeses, which will last up to six months. Just remember to thaw the cheese in the refrigerator overnight.

•Hosting an afternoon tea, or in need of a quick fresh baked dessert? Well go ahead and prepare the cookie dough, freeze in a log shape- and when in need, remove from freezer, cut into ½ inch slices, place on baking sheet and you're ready to go!

•Freezing herbs at their freshest is a great way to store moist herbs to retain flavor. Wash and dry the herbs and divide into portions- then place in freezer on baking sheet to set. Once frozen solid, remove the herbs, place them in an airtight plastic bag and pop back into freezer until you are ready to use.

With some heavy-duty aluminum foil, plastic bags, and plastic wrap, you can store some of your essential everyday food for months. Remember to label everything with the date and what’s inside, and clean out your fridge several times a year!

>There has been trouble in honey bee paradise for years now, a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, categorized by massive bee die-offs and the queen bee abandoning the hive.  A new study by Purdue University seems to confirm what environmentalists have long suspected, that the massive bee die-offs are linked to pesticides.

Research indicates that the pesticide neo-nic-o-tin-oid uses a synthetic derivative of nicotine. These chemicals are applied as a coating to corn and soybean seeds prior to planting. The scientists also identified unsuspected methods by which bees are exposed to the pesticide. Mechanical seed planters blow off a powdery waste as they move through fields. The talc can contain up to 700,000 times the bee's lethal dosage so that foraging bees coming into contact with it are killed.

The United States is losing about one-third of its honeybee hives each year, according to Greg Hunt, a Purdue professor, who went on to say that, “no one factor is to blame, though scientists believe that others such as mites and insecticides are all working against the bees, which are important for pollinating food crops and wild plants.”

 Let’s hope scientists figure out something soon as protecting bees is a huge benefit to our food system, since most fruit, nut and vegetable crop plants depend upon honeybees for pollination.  

 So what are your thoughts on today's stories? Any comments on the new Nutrition guidelines? What do you want to see in kid’s school lunch? Do you freeze your foods, or do you have other ways to store?

Let me know what's on your food mind.Thanks for watching!