Recess optional?

Readers have commented about scheduling school lunch in relation to recess and how it’s better to have recess before lunch…. Um… Tell me again what this “recess” is that you speak of? My school doesn’t have recess. The kids get gym once a week. That’s it. (Revised: the preschoolers get recess but not in the winter.)

It bothers me because kids really have the need to move. And kids want to be outside even in the cold: they want to run around. With ADHD diagnoses increasing every year, it makes you wonder if we are requiring them to sit for too long.

I love watching kids run around, going wild, hair flowing in the breeze, playing tag, laughing and smiling. Being kids. I love seeing their pink cheeks after gym class. That’s increased blood flow to their brains!

Recess in not optional. Recess needs to be required.

Once I was testing a student He has test anxiety. His eyes were wide, he was fidgeting with his shirt, and his hands were trembling. We started the test and he started tanking right away. So I stopped it and said to him, “Let’s do some jumping jacks!” He was confused at first, but when I did a few jumping jacks, he did some too. He had the biggest smile on his face. We sat down again and I could see that he had less tension in his body. We returned to the testing and his scores went up. A little common sense goes a long way.

Day 34: pizza

Today’s menu: pizza, carrots, fruit cup, ranch dressing, milk

Pizza again. Not as good as the “french bread” pizza. Cheese pizza was the only choice today. Meat was not on the menu at all. I’m wondering if it’s because of Lent.

There is a vegetarian (or non-meat) option every day. If you want that food item, most days you have to request it specifically because it is not set out. I bet the lunch ladies recognize who are the regular vegetarians.

When kids are lining up for lunch, the preschoolers are in line first. They are pretty excited and often have trouble juggling their lunch ticket and getting a tray. Aides are present to help. It’s evident on their faces how “big” they feel and what a thrill it is just to be in line.

Farm to School

What is Farm to School?

What can I do?
Contact your representative and encourage him/her to co-sponsor the Farm-to-School Improvements Act of 2010.

How can I learn more?   is a great place to start.

Find your state (just scroll down on their site) and see what has already been started.

Who is involved in the movement and how can I meet them?
Taking Root: 5th Annual Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Detroit, MI

(I think I need to go! The field trips sound especially cool.)

Why is it important?
I snipped this excerpt from their information about the state of Illinois:

Why do we need an Illinois Farm to School program? Illinois is home to 1.6 million elementary school age children Over 60% of Illinois Children are overweight or obese and Chicago youth are on average 5% more at risk compared to the rest of the state. Because of the health implications of being overweight, the current generation of youth in this country are the first in American history whose life expectancy is projected to be less that that of their parents. One thousand five hundred miles is the average travel distance for food items now consumed in the State, and agricultural products sold for human consumption compromise less than 0.2% of Illinois farm sales. Length of food transit also constitutes food security issues. Encouraging Illinois farmers to work toward local food networks can create billions of dollars of new food sales to benefit Illinois farmers, businesses, and consumers and add to the revenues of the state government. In order to encourage Illinois farmers to grow more food for human consumption, an infrastructure must be created to support this effort, which must include guaranteed markets, as would be the case with an Illinois Farm to School program.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Although reading the above makes me a little depressed, I am also even more excited about how important this is and what we can do to make change.


(TMI alert — I revealed this in an upcoming interview so that’s why I’m posting it a little ahead of time)

I haven’t told you another thing: Two years ago a gastroenterologist diagnosed me with IBS (he ran lots of tests so no need to suggest additional ones). It certainly wasn’t a shock; something was up and my whole family has digestive issues. I control it with my normal diet just fine (avoiding caffeine, excessive fiber, eating fresh food, etc). And then…

….I started this project. I think the processed foods have caused a small increase in digestive issues. Nothing major, but every weekend I eat a plain diet to give my body a break.

Keep in mind there is an emotional component of IBS. I’m a little stressed out so that upsets my system sometimes too. That’s why it’s so hard for me to pinpoint what exactly causes problems.

I got a referral to a new gastro and I’m hoping to get some additional answers. I’ll keep you guys updated. I’m really doing fine, but I just want to get another opinion.

Day 33: chicken teriyaki (!)

Today’s menu: chicken teriyaki, rice (!) with peas (!) and egg bits (!), corn, two slices bread, butter, peach fruit cup

I love Japanese food. So when I stabbed the plastic covering with my spork, I was surprised that the aroma smelled like teriyaki. But upon biting into the chicken, it did not taste like teriyaki sauce.

I was also thrilled that I got rice! I think rice is underutilized in school lunches. If you had a wheat problem, then you could have avoided it with this meal.

Health update

I went to the doctor today. I have gained one pound in two months. But keep in mind that I’m no angel outside of work. For example, we just had Valentine’s Day and I ate a lot  some chocolates.

I also want to let you know that in December I did have blood taken, I did a sugar fast, and the basic stats were run. At that time I was normal. I did have low HDL (the good cholesterol), but my overall cholesterol is fantastic.

Why did I do that? Well, I have awesome insurance that gives healthy adults a yearly discount if I get a physical and basic blood work done (thereby proving my health status). I love the policy because it’s common sense. Plus it’s a great way to discover a problem before it turns into something. Preventative versus reactive. It’s way cheaper to give discounts up front than pay for a major problem five years down the road.

When those tests were run, I hadn’t even fully come up with the idea of the blog so it’s really fortuitous. Whenever this project ends, I’ll be able to compare pre- and post-data.

That being said I haven’t been feeling myself recently. I’m having more stomachaches and that’s why I visited the doctor. I’m looking into it and I’ll keep you updated.

Day 32: bagel dog

Today’s menu: bagel dog (turkey), tater tots, apple, milk

That’s what I had for lunch today…

A dear friend of mine had a family member who owned an apple orchard. Many years ago she saw me eating an apple at lunch. She told me, “Never eat around the stem because when they spray, the pesticide collects in the top.” It wasn’t soon after that I started eating only organic apples.

In fact, apples are one of the fruits that an informed consumer should buy organic. (See 10 Fruits and Vegetables to Buy Organic) Of course I don’t have a choice in this project. I try to sample every food, but I find it really hard to take a bite of the apple.

Day 31: rib-b-que

Today’s menu: rib-b-que (“all beef patty” with bbq sauce), whole wheat bun, peach fruit cup, beans, milk

I have eaten more beef over the past two months than I ate the whole year of 2009. In fact, I never purchase beef at the grocery store. It does not appeal to me. The only times I eat beef are when I order it when we’re at a restaurant (very rarely — maybe in a Chinese stir fry dish) or if it is served at a friend’s house. My husband basically refuses to eat beef. We eat a lot of chicken, turkey, and fish that I prepare at home. I wasn’t raised eating a lot of red meat.

I have enjoyed a bison burger occasionally over the past couple years. Bison burgers are similar to beef in taste, but are far more lean (in both fat and calories — I looked it up). Actually, I believe bison is better tasting. The best thing about consuming bison is that you are helping support the prosperity of buffalo as a native animal here in the US. Is a pipe dream to think that bison meat could be served at schools? (vegetarian and vegan readers – sorry!)

I think somebody is trying to be creative with the “rib-b-que” meat (the illusion of variety), but the kids aren’t fooled. I asked one of my students “What did you have for lunch today?” and he replied, “A hamburger.”