(CNN) - The Indian government has encouraged more children to attend school by offering free lunches to students. Most are prepared in individual kitchens; they rely on rice provided by the government and other foods that cost only a few cents per student. After dozens of children were sickened or killed by pesticides in school lunch, CNN's Sumnima Udas visited an Indian school kitchen to see how the meals are made, and why they continue to draw more students to classrooms.
Editor's note: Jeff Bridges has worked for more than 30 years on issues concerning childhood hunger here and abroad. He founded the End Hunger Network in 1983 to organize the entertainment industry around this cause. Since 2010, Jeff has been the national spokesperson for Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry® campaign to end childhood hunger in America.
(CNN) - When I was growing up, I had everything I needed. My wonderful parents, Dorothy and Lloyd, made sure we had nutritious food and they taught us where food came from.
I have been blessed in many ways, and my wife, Sue, and I have been fortunate enough to pass that on to our own four daughters. We've never had to worry about how we'd feed our family.
Other families in America are not as fortunate as I have been.
Few Americans realize that the majority of low-income children in this country get most of their nutrition at school. Whether it's the free breakfast, reduced-priced lunch or after-school snacks, these federally funded meal programs provide a critical safety net for families struggling to put food on the table.
However, there is a huge gap in the number of children who could be getting these meals and the number actually accessing them.
By Brittany Brady, CNN
(CNN) - In addition to the studies of Odysseus and Homer, school kids across the nation could get an additional Greek fix from in their yogurt, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture kicks off its National Greek Yogurt Pilot Program.
Arizona, Idaho, New York and Tennessee will be the first four states to participate in the project, which is a part of the National School Lunch Program for the 2013 – 2014 school year. The USDA announced in January that it would begin the pilot program to test the cost-effectiveness of including Greek yogurt in school meal programs.
Greek yogurt offers higher nutritional benefits than traditional yogurt with less sugar, carbohydrates, sodium and lactose, as well as an increase in protein per ounce. The ballooning demand for the dairy option has created a $2 billion industry.
New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, was particularly happy that his state, the largest producer of yogurt in the nation in 2012, had been chosen as part of the pilot.
“It is a win-win for the state, exposing our students to a nutritional product and expanding the marketplace for Greek yogurt producers and suppliers in New York State,” he said in a press release Tuesday.
Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. Today's contributor, Emilie Dayan, writes a weekly SFA blog series called "Sustainable South" about food and the environment, nutrition, food access, food justice, agricultural issues and food politics.
By Southern Foodways Alliance
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about urban agriculture and the solution it provides for sustainable and healthy living. The Jones Valley Teaching Farm (JVTF) in Birmingham, Alabama, however, is much more than an urban farm. Their vision is to educate 10,000 Birmingham children annually.
The project started in 2007 as the Jones Valley Urban Farm, when the organization transformed three and a half acres of vacant downtown property into an agricultural oasis. The mission was to make the downtown Birmingham community a healthier place. Soon, the farm’s educational programs proved to be the most relevant of all the organization’s initiatives. As a result, the leadership shifted the focus of the farm and changed the name.
Today, it is the Jones Valley Teaching Farm, and it is a place where young minds blossom. By connecting young people to their food, and helping them understand where it comes from, the JVTF believes that future generations will be empowered to eat smarter, think healthier, and live better.
By Brittany Brady, CNN
(CNN) - Asked which school meals were their favorites, students at a public school in the New York borough of Queens don't say chicken fingers or meatballs. Instead, they name rice and kidney beans, black bean quesadillas or tofu with Chinese noodles.
"Whoever thought they would hear a third-grader saying that they liked tofu and Chinese noodles?" asked Dennis Walcott, New York City schools chancellor.
Walcott was at the Active Learning Elementary School this week to celebrate its move to all-vegetarian meals five days a week. The school of nearly 400 students, from pre-kindergarten to third grade, was founded five years ago on the principle that a healthy lifestyle leads to strong academic achievement.
"We decided on a vision where health and nutrition would be a part of educating the whole child," school principal Bob Groff said.
The school's focus on healthier meals began three years ago when Groff noticed a majority of students were bringing their own vegetarian meals. The school went meatless three days a week about a year and a half ago. It also tested meals on a small group of students, gathering feedback and changing the menu accordingly.
Active Learning's student body may be more accustomed to vegetarian diets than most, with 85% of the students being Asian and another 10% Hispanic, said Margie Feinberg, spokeswoman for the New York Department of Education.
"Rice was a staple of many of their home foods," Groff said of the students.
By Ben Brumfield, CNN
(CNN) - Sorry, kid. No money, no lunch.
Students at an Attleboro, Massachusetts, middle school went hungry this week, if they had a negative balance on their pre-paid lunch cards.
Five cents of debt was enough for cafeteria employees at the Coehlo Middle School to instruct kids at least one day this week to dump out the food they would have normally eaten, CNN affiliate WJAR in Rhode Island reported.
About 25 children left the lunchroom with empty stomachs, said Whitson's Culinary Group in a statement. The company runs the school's cafeteria.
Parents were appalled. So was the principal. So was Whitson's.
"I told them this is bullying; that's neglect, child abuse," said parent Jo-An Blanchard.
Principal Andrew Boles apologized and blamed the culinary company. "My expectation is that every child, every adult, every parent, every student, every teacher is respected in this building, and that didn't happen yesterday because of Whitson's," he told WJAR.
By Kat Kinsman, CNN
(CNN) - Breakfast might not just be the most important meal of a child's day – it might be one of most important meals of their life. A new study released Wednesday by non-profit group Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign shows the positive effect that school breakfast can have on a child's performance in class and on standardized tests, and what this can mean for their future.
Eleven million low-income students eat a school-provided breakfast. Share Our Strength partnered with professional services firm Deloitte to analyze third party studies and publicly available data to assess the impact of existing school breakfast plans on students' academic performance. They found some rather eye-opening statistics.
Students who ate school breakfast attended an average of 1.5 more days of school than their meal-skipping peers, and their math scores averaged 17.5% higher. The report, which was funded in part by Kellogg's, went on to share that these students with increased attendance and scores were 20% more likely to continue on and graduate high school. High school graduates earn on average $10,090 more annually that their non-diploma-holding counterparts and are significantly less likely to experience hunger in adulthood.
By Ruchi Gupta, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Children should not die in schools. Children should not die from eating common foods. A minuscule speck of a peanut, not even visible, should not take a young child's life in minutes.
And yet this has happened in the past two years - to 13-year-old Kaitlyn in Chicago and to 7-year-old Ammaria in Virginia. As the holidays approach and celebratory treats are brought into schools from home, we must ensure children with food allergies are safe.
Congress can contribute to that by rapidly passing the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. This bill would provide states with incentives to require elementary schools and secondary schools to maintain, and permit school personnel to administer, epinephrine - a form of adrenaline that eases hives and breathing difficulties and when injected, prevents rapid death.FULL STORY
by John Martin, CNN
(CNN) - Less than half of the children in America who are eligible for a free or reduced breakfast take advantage of the USDA-provided meal. A program called "Breakfast in the Classroom" is trying to get more lower-income students to eat breakfast. The program, managed by a group of organizations known collectively as the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom, brings food to the students in class after the morning bell. That way, students don't come to school early just to eat, and they aren't rushing to get to class, skipping breakfast on the way. The program was launched in five school districts around the country and expanding to include ten more this school year.
Research suggests that there are educational benefits to eating breakfast at school, even over students who eat the meal at home. These include better attendance, behavior and higher standardized test scores.
Knox County Schools in Tennessee, which opened its doors to students on August 14, is a newcomer to the in-classroom meal program .
Jon Dickl, the director of school nutrition for Knox County, told CNN that there are several advantages to eating breakfast in class. "The students are in their seats ready to learn as soon as the bell rings," Dickl said. "It reduces tardiness and discipline issues and provides an opportunity for teachers to develop relationships," he continued.