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Webinar Discusses Healthy Food Access Through Community-Based Food Systems

Posted: February 8, 2013
The World Health Organization and the United Nations consider access to safe and nutritious food a basic individual right. However, many Iowans in low-income neighborhoods—both rural and urban—have limited access to fresh, affordable produce and other healthful foods. People of color, women, and children are especially vulnerable.

While food deserts, swamps, and hinterlands are prominent aspects of a failure in food access, they do not tell the complete story. Food access is a food systems problem, not a food sector problem. Understanding the interrelated factors that contribute to food access is an important first step towards finding systems-wide solutions that can offer fundamental change in the availability of food and the way people acquire and consume food.

This webinar, brought to you by the Iowa Food Access and Health Work Group and the Regional Food Systems Working Group of Iowa, will address the intersection between healthy food access and community-based food systems while highlighting innovative initiatives across Iowa and the U.S.


Champions of Change: Establishing Healthy Food Access Through Community-Based Food Systems
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
10:00 AM - 11:30 AM CDT

Speakers:
Planning for Food Access and Community-Based Food Systems: A National Scan and Evaluation of Local Comprehensive and Sustainability Plans
Kimberley Hodgson, MURP, MS, AICP, RD
Founder / Principal Consultant, Cultivating Healthy Places
Visiting Sustainability and Public Health Fellow, Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech

Food Urbanism to Food Policy: Planning & Designing Healthy Food Access
Jason Grimm
Food System Planner
Iowa Valley RC&D

Inspiring Underprivileged Populations to Have Fun with Local Foods
Alexi Groumoutis
Local Foods Coordinator
Southern Iowa RC&D

Community Partnerships Making a Difference
Teresa Wiemerslage
Regional Program Coordinator
ISU Extension and Outreach – Northeast Iowa
NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative


Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/143301306

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server

Mac®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.5 or newer

Mobile attendees
Required: iPhone®, iPad®, Android™ phone or Android tablet




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Registration Open for Iowa Local Food Conference

Posted: February 8, 2013
Producers, consumers, business owners and anyone interested in developing Iowa's local food system are invited to register for an upcoming conference, "Road Map for Resilience: Empowering Iowa's Local Food Economy."

The conference, sponsored jointly by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, will take place on March 19-20, 2013 at the ISU Scheman Building.

John O'Sullivan, director of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, will give the keynote address. O'Sullivan is a leader of the North Carolina 10% Campaign, which has received national recognition for its progress toward the goal of keeping ten percent of North Carolina's food purchases within the state.

The campaign has demonstrated to people quite clearly that there is a serious market for local food," O'Sullivan said.  

Lynn Heuss, Leopold Center program assistant and conference organizer, said she intends the conference to forge partnerships that will spark a similar statewide campaign in Iowa.

"The conference is open to everyone, from moms who want access to healthier food for their kids, to restaurant and franchise owners, to production farmers and community supported agriculture operators," Heuss said. "Food impacts everyone and we want to have as many voices at the table as possible."  

Breakout sessions in the mornings and afternoons will be led by three nationally-recognized experts: Anupama Joshi, executive director of the National Farm to School Network; Diane Endicott of Good Natured Family Farms; and Susan Futrell, who works at a Boston nonprofit food hub called Red Tomato and the University of Iowa.

Participants will learn the latest about business management, beginning and minority farmers and food incentives such as Farm to School and Farm to Institution. Each session will include four "storytellers" who will share insights from Local Food and Farm Initiative- and Leopold Center-funded projects on local foods.

The conference also will include vendor exhibits and guided networking opportunities. ISU will provide locally produced options for a Continental breakfast and lunch.  

Register online at http://www.aep.iastate.edu/roadmap/ .  The registration fee, which includes meals, is $75. Students can register for $25 (early) or $40 at the door.  The NE Iowa Food & Farm Coalition will reimburse any registration fees for any NE Iowa farmers to wish to attend.   Please contact Teresa Wiemerslage for details, wiemer@iastate.edu.

Contact Lynn Heuss for more information at (515) 201-9405 or leheuss@iastate.edu.
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Iowa's Food Deserts

Posted: January 19, 2013
Here in Iowa, we live in one of the top food producers in the nation. Yet, some Iowans still have trouble accessing healthy foods. Iowa Public Radio Host Ben Kieffer talks with experts across the Iowa about people who live in areas with low access to healthy food…areas often referred to as "food deserts". We find out why people in these areas have trouble accessing healthy food, and what efforts are being done to help these residents.

Features Dr. Helen Jensen, ISU Dept of Economics; Doris Montgomery, Iowa Department of Public Health; and Linda Gobberdiel, past president of the Iowa Food Systems Council.


Click here to listen to the interview.
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Convergence Partnership Awards $1.85 Million in Grants

Posted: January 17, 2013
The Convergence Partnership, a collaboration of funders, is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2012-2015 Innovation Fund grants. Thirteen foundations were awarded a total of $1.85 million for their innovative solutions to building healthy, equitable communities.

The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque (CFGD) has been awarded a $50,000 Convergence Innovation Fund grant in partnership with the Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative.  The three-year grant will fund planning for and creation of a food hub, which will allow local food producers to market, process and distribute healthy food to vulnerable children and their families. The food hub will focus on pilot projects to address barriers to get more local food into schools, stores and institutions.

The awards support new or expanded local and regional projects and initiatives that help ensure all people can live, work, and play in healthy communities. The grants provide as much as $200,000 over three years to each foundation with a required $2 match for every $1 they were awarded.

"Local foundations know their regions best," said Judith Bell, president of PolicyLink and the Convergence Partnership's program director. "By investing in their leadership to effectively support policies and environments that advance health and equity in their most vulnerable populations, the Convergence Partnership can create sustainable, long-term impacts in communities across America."

The first round of the Innovation Fund, which took place from 2010 to 2012, successfully supported local foundations to take risks in their grantmaking, focus on equity, expand their relationship to the communities served, explore policy and environmental change work, enter into new partnerships, and make changes in the way they do their work to better engage with community leaders, particularly in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, and to advance equity. It is expected that similar exciting impacts will take place in the locales where the 2012-2015 awardees work.

Awardees included:
A.H. Zeppa Family Foundation (Duluth, MN)
Blue Grass Community Foundation (Lexington, KY)
Brooklyn Community Foundation (New York, NY)
Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque (Dubuque, IA)
Con Alma Health Foundation (Santa Fe, NM)
The Denver Foundation (Denver, CO)
Endeavor Foundation (Springdale, AR)
Foundation for Louisiana (Baton Rouge, LA)
Headwaters Foundation for Justice (Minneapolis, MN)
Incarnate Word Foundation (St. Louis, MO)
The San Francisco Foundation (San Francisco, CA)
The Seattle Foundation (Seattle, WA)
Sierra Health Foundation (Sacramento, CA)

To find out more about the individual winners, please visit www.ConvergencePartnership.org/InnovationFund.
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FoodCorps Recruitment Begins

Posted: January 17, 2013
Applications Open for Third Class of School Food Changemakers

FoodCorps, a national organization that addresses childhood obesity and food insecurity in underserved communities, opens applications for its third annual class of service members. The selected emerging leaders will dedicate one year of full-time public service in school food systems – expanding hands-on nutrition education programs, building and tending school gardens, and bringing high quality local foods into school cafeterias.

In its first two years FoodCorps gained national attention by attracting more than 1,000 applicants each year for its 50-80 positions, and by providing an innovative, grassroots, scalable approach to solving our national obesity epidemic. Since 1980, the percentage of American children who are overweight or obese has doubled. With one in four U.S. children struggling with hunger and one in three obese or overweight, FoodCorps addresses the root cause of both: access to healthy food. Each year since its inception, FoodCorps has expanded its reach and grown its ranks.

The first two FoodCorps classes have brought important progress to the schools they serve—from making local beef and lentils staples in Montana cafeterias, to getting Mississippi students excited to harvest bushels of kale; from building or revitalizing hundreds of school and community gardens, to engaging thousands of volunteers and parents in their efforts.

"I have learned that you have to really get to know the people— to have conversations and build relationships.  I like that with FoodCorps we don't have an ‘agenda'.  Rather we operate under three pillars that aren't telling us how, who or what.  This is helpful because every community is different.  We want to showcase to the rest of the world that a communities' ideas work,", said service member Mauricio Rosas-Alvarez who came to Des Moines two years ago for service with the inaugural class of FoodCorps members.

For its third class, FoodCorps seeks up to 130 men and women with a passion for serving their country as AmeriCorps service members. In addition to the 12 states where it currently operates—Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina and Oregon— FoodCorps plans to expand to California, Hawai'i and New Jersey in 2013.

"The placements FoodCorps offers are as diverse as the country we serve," said Executive Director Curt Ellis, "From urban Detroit to rural Arkansas to our new sites in Hawai'i, you can find a place in FoodCorps that feels like home—or one that launches you on a new adventure."

"We are seeking passionate, resourceful, creative and has a strong commitment to creating a healthier generation of Iowa kids and to local food systems," said FoodCorps Host Site Supervisor Hannah Lewis.

Applications are due March 24. Emerging leaders interested in getting more information should go to http://foodcorps.org/become-a-service-member.

FoodCorps is a nationwide team of leaders that connects kids to real food and helps them grow up healthy. FoodCorps places these leaders in limited-resource communities for a year of public service where they conduct hands-on food education, build and tend school gardens, and facilitate getting high-quality local food into public school cafeterias. Funding for FoodCorps is provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, AmeriCorps, and a diverse array of private and public donors.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) serves as the Iowa FoodCorps Host Site. NCAT has been helping people by championing small-scale, local and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities and protect natural resources. In partnership with businesses, organizations, individuals and agricultural producers since 1976. NCAT is working to advance solutions that will ensure the next generation inherits a world that has clean air and water, energy production that is efficient and renewable, and healthy foods grown with sustainable practices.

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Cresco selected for Iowan's Fit for Life program

Posted: January 15, 2013
How are you doing on your New Year's Resolution? If you're like many people, you may be working on becoming more fit and healthy. Well, here's a way you can kick start your Resolution while also making a difference in your community!

The City of Cresco has been selected as one of 10 communities from across the state to participate in the Iowan's Fit for Life program sponsored by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). As part of the program, the community will participate in a workshop to identify existing options for nutrition and physical activity in our homes, businesses, schools and neighborhoods. Ultimately, the goal is to identify community health-related projects that improve access to, or use of, these assets for all community members. Once the project ideas are approved by the IDPH as supporting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommended strategies for obesity prevention, the community will be awarded $10,000 to implement the projects.

A Steering Committee has been formed to guide the program and to make project decisions based on community input. The Steering Committee invites all community residents to an "asset mapping" workshop to be held at the Hawkeye REC meeting room on Monday, Jan. 28 and will be facilitated by staff from Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission. The workshop will begin at 5:30 p.m. and refreshments, compliments of Kerian Water Store, Fareway and A&W, will be served.

Please join us for the workshop and provide your valuable ideas for helping Cresco become "Fit for Life."
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Iowa FFA chapters awarded $1,500 ‘Planting A Seed' Grants

Posted: January 11, 2013
Eight Iowa FFA chapters have been awarded $1,500 "Planting A Seed" grants by the Iowa Food & Family Project (Iowa FFP) to conduct activities that increase agricultural awareness in their communities and interest among youth in food production and life sciences.

The program is sponsored by DuPont Pioneer in cooperation with the Iowa FFA Foundation.

Grant recipients are: Boone A& M FFA; Charles City FFA; Clay-Central/Everly FFA, Everly; LaPorte Dysart FFA, LaPorte City; Nevada FFA; Starmont FFA, Arlington; Tri-Star FFA, Guttenberg; and West Liberty FFA.

The chapters will use grant funding to conduct programs this spring to promote interest in ag-related careers and the roles that science and technology play in providing wholesome food using less land and fewer inputs. They'll be recognized in April at the Iowa FFA State Leadership Conference in Ames. The chapter determined to have conducted the most innovative and successful activity will be presented a $2,000 Award of Excellence to be used for general chapter activities.

"A growing population presents challenges and tremendous opportunities for Iowa's agricultural  community," said Todd Frazier, DuPont Pioneer business director. "By nurturing the next generation of farmers, agronomists, researchers and scientists, we can leverage Iowa's rich agricultural legacy to meet the challenge."

Aaron Putze, director of communications for the Iowa Soybean Association and Iowa FFP coordinator, says grant program judges were impressed with the number and quality of applications.

"The selection process was robust given that 54 chapters submitted applications," he said. "The tremendous response to this program is an indication of the growing interest there is in FFA, food production and ag-related careers. We look forward to working with grant recipients to implement their successful programs."

Activities to be conducted by grant recipients are:

Boone A&M FFA: Distribute "Planting a Seed" kits to grade-school students to take home and grow a vegetable plant. The goal is to encourage students to transplant their plants to a home garden to experience agriculture and produce healthy food at home.

Charles City FFA: Create a portable kiosk that includes information on agricultural careers in Charles City, Floyd County and throughout Iowa.  The kiosk will include a video focusing on former Charles City FFA members who have gone on to successful agricultural careers.

Clay Central/Everly FFA: Teach children how to grow their own food through a multi-phase approach beginning with the MavPack program. FFA members will include a variety of Iowa-produced foods in MavPacks distributed to students for use on weekends and school vacations. The chapter also wants to establish a garden and to develop students' horticulture skills and teach healthy eating habits.

LaPorte-Dysart FFA: Create a community orchard that will also serve as an outdoor horticulture laboratory for the Union Community School and the local Master Gardner program. Elementary and high school students will apply classroom knowledge to maintaining the space including planting, weeding and harvesting crops from the orchard. Fruit produced at the orchard will be marketed to the school's food service and sold locally.

Nevada FFA: Highlight local renewable fuels industry-leading businesses with an Iowa High School Renewable Energy Conference. The conference will be open to Iowa high school students and emphasize the growing role of agricultural processing in today's economy and explain how it adds value to grains and provides jobs.

Starmont FFA: Teach students in first through sixth grades and their families about how food is raised and the important role played by Iowa farmers. FFA members will meet with the elementary students once or twice a month, offering lessons about the production of beef, pork, poultry, lamb, corn and soybeans.

Tri-Star FFA: Take a current school garden project and grow it into a food-producing farming experience.  With an expanded garden, Tri-Star FFA will encourage elementary students to exercise and eat healthy food while developing an appreciation for agriculture and a hands-on understanding of the life sciences.


West Liberty FFA: The chapter grows jalapeño peppers and Roma tomatoes that are sold to a local restaurant for use in its homemade salsa. The chapter will increase productivity by building earthen boxes to grow fresh produce in the winter inside their greenhouse. FFA members will prepare educational materials for presentations and marketing the products to El Patio Restaurant, create informational tents in English and Spanish that will be placed on tables at the restaurant promoting agricultural facts and careers.

The Iowa Food & Family Project (www.iowafoodandfamily.com) unites Iowans in conversations about good food and the farmers who grow it through personal engagement and advocacy. It involves more than 30 partners including the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation, Iowa Beef Industry Council, Machine Shed Restaurant, Iowa Pork Producers Association and Farm Credit Services of America. The Iowa FFP proudly serves as Presenting Sponsor of the Iowa Games and supporter of Live Healthy Iowa. It is funded in part by the soybean checkoff.

The Iowa FFA Foundation (www.iowaffafoundation.org) builds partnerships with individuals and businesses to provide support for agricultural education. It serves as an advocate to stimulate, promote and strengthen the young people of Iowa, who will ultimately lead the next generation of agriculture, by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success.

Source: http://www.iowafoodandfamily.com
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Growers find lots to learn about at Great Lakes Expo

Posted: January 3, 2013
A trip to the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo in Grand Rapids in early December was a learning experience for participants.

Windridge Implements in Decorah, Elkader and Cresco, along with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative and the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition sponsored the bus trip.

David Zimmerman and his family have a greenhouse business and raise fruits and vegetables near Alta Vista. He made the trip with his 16-year-old son, Luke.

The best session Zimmerman attended was on year-round high tunnel use by Chris Blanchard with Rock Spring Farm and Flying Rutabaga Works, north of Decorah. He said Blanchard talked about how he grows spinach all winter.

Luke liked a session on vine crops. A speaker talked about research on whether more bees will increase pumpkin yields. Other information related to planting a rye cover crop in the fall.

Gordon Murray-John owns Gordon's Garden at Maynard and sells vegetables to Grown Locally and at the Oelwein and Independence farmers markets. He raises potatoes, garlic onions, cucumbers, red, white, and gold beets and greens.

Murray-John got information on hydroponics at the trade show. One product, a Hydro Stacker, allows plants to be grown in towers.

"I think I'll give that a whirl because it will allow me to grow more plants per foot in my high tunnel," Murray-John said.

He also found unique varieties of really large carrots.

"The trip was well worth it," Murray-John said. "I've got a lot of reading material."

Al Peake, who owns Peake Orchard at Waukon with his family, got to taste two new apple varieties. He has planted Crimson Crisp in his orchard but never had a chance to taste it until the expo. He also tried and liked Crimson Topaz.

"It was pretty snappy," he said. "Being a small orchard, we like to have apples that offer a unique flavor."

Both Crimson Crisp and Crimson Topaz are scab immune and potentially could be grown organically, which would provide a new niche and fit well with his son, Jeremy's organic dairy operation.

Peake purchased a filter for his apple cooler that takes ethylene gas out of the air allowing for longer storage.

"I say thanks to Eric (Nordschow, general manager of Windridge Implements) and everyone who subsidized the trip," Peake said. "It was a great opportunity."

Brian Nordschow grows three acres of table and wine grapes at his Prairie View Vineyard near Decorah. He sells table grapes to Luther College through Grown Locally and wine grapes to Four Daughters Winery in Spring Valley, Minn. The winery recently won the Governor's Cup at the International Cold Climate Grape Competition.

Brian, who sells farm equipment at Windridge Implements, said what he found most interesting was the machines that people come up with to do various things.

Anna Herzmann of Monona is sales and marketing manager for Kymar Acres at Waukon. She, her parents, and her sister and brother-in-law work together selling produce, eggs, starter vegetables, bedding plants, potted herbs, jams, baked goods, crafts and candy at farmers markets in Waukon and Decorah. They have an on-farm store that is open for spring plant sales.

"I went to a session on farm to institution marketing of local food, and I found it interesting that Michigan farmers faced the same growing pains northeast Iowa growers did in dealing with local food production and distribution," Herzmann said.

She appreciates the work by the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition and Iowa State University Extension to assist growers in building infrastructure.

"I was talking to a lady after the session who was having a hard time finding the information needed to write a standard operating procedure for her farm, and I'm going to send her what we have in Iowa," Herzmann said.

Verlys Huntley and her husband, Wayne, grow fruits and vegetables at Emmons, Minn.

Albert Lea farmers market is their primary market, but this year they went to the Mason City market to sell apples. They also raise strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, sweet corn, onions, radishes, spinach and lettuce. She also makes jam.

Huntley got information on drip tape irrigation for her strawberries and went to sessions on apples and farm markets.

"I thought the expo was great," Huntley said. "I really enjoyed some of the workshops and the exhibits."

Monica Ortner of Harmony, Minn., grows apples, berries and vegetables and makes jams and jellies that she sells at the farmers market in Cresco.

"I got a lot of information," Ortner said. "It was fun to see what other areas are working with, what their problems are and how it relates to us. I learned about pruning and trellising raspberries. I got information on different fertilizers, and enjoyed trying all the samples."

Sheryl Ehlke of St. Ansgar grows fruits and vegetables for farmers markets in Albert Lea and Mason City. She also sells jams, jellies and crafts.

"I enjoyed the trade show," Ehlke said. "I got a lot of seed catalogs from companies I didn't know about before. I liked the raspberry seminar the best and learning about new varieties."

Shirley and Tim Abbott of Decorah liked looking at all the equipment at the trade show and spending time with like-minded people who enjoy agricultural things.

Tim takes care of the livestock at Seed Savers Exchange in addition to growing corn and soybeans on his own farm and Shirley gardens.

Read more about the Expo Trip on the NE Iowa Food & Fitness blog. 


Source:  Jean Caspers-Simmet, www.agrinews.com, 12/27/12. 
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Luther College café introduces new coffee roasted locally in small batches

Posted: December 20, 2012
A new, locally roasted coffee joins the menu this week at Sunnyside Café in Luther College's Center for the Arts.

K'uun single origin coffee, roasted by Bean Masters Inc. of Calmar, replaces Starbucks coffee at Sunnyside. Fernando and Barbara Vaquero own and operate Bean Masters, roasting coffee beans to-order in small batches. The company received the largest small-business grant awarded by Winneshiek County Development in 2011 and now provides custom-roasted coffee to individuals and businesses throughout northeast Iowa.

Sunnyside Cafe offers freshly baked Luther bagels, grab-and-go foods, a full-service espresso bar and the café's famous cinnamon rolls. Sunnyside opens Wednesday, Aug. 29, 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Starting Wednesday, Sept. 3, Sunnyside opens earlier each day, operating Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. The café is closed during January Term and semester breaks.

No changes have been made in coffee brands offered at other dining facilities on the Luther College campus. Marty's CyberCafé serves Starbucks, Oneota Market serves Seattle's Best and the cafeteria serves Aspretto.

A grand opening to celebrate the addition of Bean Masters coffee at Sunnyside will be announced in September.

Source: www.decorahnewspapers.com, December 2012.
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U.S. loosens rules aimed at healthier school meals

Posted: December 11, 2012
U.S. regulators are relaxing school meal rules aimed at reining in calories and portion sizes after some students, parents and lawmakers complained that new stricter policies left many children hungry.

Under the adjustment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it would suspend daily and weekly maximum amounts for grains and meat or meat alternatives. That means school districts this year can serve larger portions of those items without penalty.

USDA officials said they were loosening the regulations after some schools found it difficult to buy alternative portion sizes of such foods from suppliers. Some also said they had inventory to use up that does not meet the new guidelines.

"We understand that this is a year of transition," Cynthia Long, head of USDA's Child Nutrition Division, wrote in a memo on Friday to state and regional school food officials.

The School Nutrition Association, which represents school food directors, said the change gives them more time to design healthier menus that will suit students' tastes.

"School nutrition professionals have faced significant menu planning, operating, financial challenges and more as a result of the new meal pattern requirements," it said in a statement.

USDA's move follows complaints from some students that the revised meals left them hungry.

Despite such complaints, most health experts continue to back the overhaul, which was adopted in January as part of a 2010 law aimed at improving school breakfasts and lunches.

The modified meals, which aim to limit fat and salt as well as curb portion sizes and boost fruits and vegetables servings, took effect at the start of the 2012 school year in late August and early September. Schools that adopt the changes get more money back from the federal government, in part to offset the higher prices of healthier foods.

For example, under the guidelines half of breads and other grain-based foods offered must contain whole grains until the start of the 2014 school year, when all such foods must be whole-grain.

Such changes take aim at rising U.S. childhood obesity and were championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. More than one-third of American youth are too heavy, statistics show.

Schools are a top focus because they provide meals to many low-income students, who are often the most at-risk for being overweight or obese. In 2011, more than 31 million children received free or low-cost school lunches and more than 10 million received free or discounted breakfasts, according to USDA.

'MINOR CHANGE'

Margo Wootan, a nutrition policy expert at Center for Science in the Public Interest, welcomed the change to give struggling schools more options this year without having Congress interfere with the fundamental law.

"Nutritionally, this change is minor and doesn't undermine the overall nutrition standards," said Wootan, whose health advocacy group backed the 2010 law.

Erik Olson, head of food programs at Pew Charitable Trusts' health group, said calorie limits remain intact but schools will "have much more flexibility about how they present meals that kids will want to eat," calling it "a fairly modest readjustment."

Democrats and Republicans in Congress praised the change, saying parents and students in their states worried about strict limits. Several lawmakers had called on the USDA last month to reconsider, saying the guidelines did not account for various student's height, weight, gender or physical activity levels.

Senator John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican who had pressed USDA along with Democratic Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, on Saturday called for more permanent action. USDA's Long said the agency would consider extending the change.

"It may be difficult for all students to get adequate protein to feel full throughout the school day," Hoeven said in a statement. "Protein is an important nutrient for growing children."

Source:  Reuters, Susan Heavey, December 10, 2012
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