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 Dani Carver, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Dani Carver is a senior at the University of New Mexico majoring in elementary education. She plays intramural volleyball at the university. She is also a member of the National PTA's Youth Involvement Committee.
(CNN) - As a former high school athlete, the recent rumblings surrounding new school lunches have resonated with me, but perhaps not for the reasons one may think. Decades of research show a direct link between healthy eating and performance in sports. For too long, we have accepted that student-athletes just need calories – any calories. That is simply not true. Athletes need nutritious offerings to do their best, whether that is in the classroom or on the field.
That’s why I support the changes and updates to the school lunch program made this year as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. A provision of the law, which took effect this year, requires schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to serve meals with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk, and portion sizes appropriate for age groups.
One of the criticisms of the new meals is that they are not meeting the needs of student-athletes. That’s a real concern for some students. But when we look deeper at the issue, the facts may be surprising.
(CNN) The goal of new USDA rules on school lunches is to make students healthy, but for many, the rules are also making them hungry.
Students have been complaining about the new rules for school lunches all over social media.
In this video from CNN affiliate KXJB, three athletes at Milnor School in North Dakota - Wyatt Mund, Andrew Martinson, and Colin Yagow– take their complaint all the way to first lady Michelle Obama, who championed the new school lunch guidelines. Their music video is titled "First Lady that I Used to Know," a parody of the Gotye hit song.
Principal Ned Clooten appreciates the intent of the new lunch rules and says that there are a lot of changes that are very good in the school lunch program.
"But the number of calories that we're providing some high school students just isn't enough," says Clooten. He supports the students who made the video.
The athletes hope their voices will be heard and bring about change in their school cafeteria.
by Matt Abshire, CNN
(CNN) A fresh fruit and vegetable bar isn't exactly a common option you'll find in school cafeterias, but Rene Sellgren is helping initiate a new program to provide that very idea.
Sellgren is the chef at Spokane School District's Community School in Washington. She is leading the charge into a new scratch cooking project aimed at creating lunches from the fresh produce students have grown in a campus-run garden.
In short, the students pick the produce, and she creates a menu around what they bring in.
"What we're really doing is getting away from cans and bags and already prepared food, and using whole food that we actually do all the cooking instead of it coming frozen or in a can," said Sellgren in an interview with KXLY.
The project is part of a wider initiative by the nonprofit organization Empire Health Foundation to help school districts create healthier, fresher lunch menus for students while minimizing costs. And the idea seems to be paying off. Both students and administrators are excited about the new program that feeds while teaching healthy habits. (KXLY video)
By the Schools of Thought Editors
(CNN) New federal guidelines are requiring school lunches to be healthier, but many kids say something is missing: Quantity, and more importantly, taste.
In this video from CNN affiliate WDIV, a student's pictures of unappetizing school lunches have led to a brown bag movement in his school.
CNN Student News asked its audience of middle- and high-school students and teachers if they've noticed changes in their school lunches this year, and if those changes were for the better or worse. Here's a sampling of their responses:
Jonas: I have seen a huge difference in my school's food this year. I don't have enough food to eat and as an athlete, I need all the energy I can get. I feel sluggish and tired. I feel I was better off with the old food. Don't get me wrong, people do need to change their eating habits, but the government doesn't have to tell us how to eat.
Maddie: I completely agree with limiting school lunch calories. People are consuming calories, but not working them off. This can cause obesity... and I cringe at the percentage of American obesity be 2030.
Alivia: At our school we have to take fruit and milk even if we don't eat or drink them and just throw them away. This is partially a waste because some people just throw them away, but on the other hand it is good to tempt kids to try fruit and get that in their system for the day.
Ryan: Our school lunches have changed for the worse. Do they really think that one piece of pizza and an orange plus milk would feed us? Well it didn't feed me; I would still be hungry right after lunch was over, so now I bring my own lunch. That way I won't be starving at my football practice.
Mr. Hartrick's 2nd period class: We think that school food is not enough to eat because sometimes the school food is not very appetizing and some children will throw their food away and be hungry later. Most students bring their lunches nowadays because they don't like the food that the school serves. In a way the school is losing money because less kids are getting school food.
By Amy Roberts and Caitlin Stark, CNN Library
(CNN) - It’s back to school time. Starting dates around the U.S. vary by state and district: Some schools started on different dates in August, while others start this week. As we embark on the 2012-2013 academic year, here’s a numerical snapshot of education in the U.S.
54.7 million – Number of students enrolled in elementary and secondary schools, both public and private, in the U.S. in 2011.
3.7 million – Elementary and secondary school teachers working in U.S. schools in 2011.
$11,467 – The estimated average amount a typical public school will spend on each student in 2012-2013.
31.8 million – Number of children who received free or reduced price lunches through the National School Lunch Program in 2011.
Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:
New York Times: Amid Million Dollar PTAs, a School Fights to Keep Its Library
In response to an article on New York City PTAs that raise a million dollars, KJ Dell'Antonia says that one city school had trouble raising $40,000 to save its library. The school doesn't quite make the cut for Title I funds which would have saved the library outright, and Dell'Antonia wonders why parents should have to shoulder that financial burden.
U.S. News: College Financial Aid Packages May Become Clearer in 2013
Ten colleges and universities have pledged to release more detailed information about financial aid offers to prospective students. Students will be given financial information that includes how much the school will cost per year, the differences in the type of aid offered, and how much a monthly loan payment could be.
Food Safety News: Nearly Every State Opts Out of 'Pink Slime' for School Lunch
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that only three states have ordered Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB), which critics call "pink slime," for their school lunch programs. Ground beef without LFTB costs about 3% more. The USDA and the beef industry say that LFTB is safe, but one beef producer isn't surprised that states have cut their orders for the product.
Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:
Al.com: Atlanta newspaper's report on school cheating left out key details, USA professor says
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution conducted a nationwide study on cheating on America's high-stakes tests. Mobile, Alabama's school district, which was mentioned in the report for statistically improbable test scores, says the AJC's data doesn't tell the whole story.
Wired: Flipping the Classroom Requires More Than Video
In a flipped classroom, students watch online video lectures at home, then work on "homework" in class. The article points out that the content still needs to be relevant to a student in order to facilitate learning.
Larry Cuban: Connecting School Reform to Online Instruction in K-12 Classrooms: The Next New Thing
Studies show that achievement through online learning isn't where it needs to be. Larry Cuban says, "If you want to understand what happens to technological innovations when they are adopted and end up in classrooms, know what occurred to major school reforms that succeeded and failed."
SunSentinel: Students asked to sign honesty pledge before FCAT
Last year, Florida school officials invalidated thousands of students' scores on the state's standardized test, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. The students' answer sheets were flagged when they were too similar to other students' answers. Students are being asked to take an honesty pledge before taking this year's FCATs.
KansasCity.com: Schools take on hunger, even after school
About 10% of Kansas City, Missouri's elementary students are receiving a third daily meal in their after school programs. School officials fear that the district's cafeterias are providing the only source of nutrients for some lower-income students.
Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:
CBSDFW.com: Dallas ISD Cutting Contracts Of 250+ Teachers
Dallas Independent School District did not renew contracts for more than 250 of its teachers. The district says it is now evaluating teacher effectiveness and removing underperforming educators, but the president of the local teacher association says the district may just be trying to address its budget issues.
NOLA.com: Louisiana House panel clears school charter, voucher bill as teachers pack Capitol
In a rare appearance before a legislative committee on Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal made his case for education reforms that include increased school choice, tying teacher pay and retention to student performance, and reorganizing the state's pre-K programs. Several districts canceled classes this week to allow teachers to travel to the Capitol to express their views.
Obama Foodorama: After Firestorm Of 'Pink Slime' Criticism, USDA Alters School Lunch Policy For Ground Beef
The meat industry calls it "Lean Finely Textured Beef Product" and critics call it "pink slime." After a large outcry through an online petition, questions from federal lawmakers, and feedback from school districts, the U.S Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday that it will provide schools the option to order beef products with or without the controversial product.
Indystar.com: Indiana's education schools make new efforts to better teach teachers
Next year, Indiana and other states will begin assigning letter grades to teacher-preparation programs that are based on the evaluations of teachers-in-training, which in turn will be based on student performance on standardized tests.
The Washington Post: The 10 most read Irish authors
An online research tool for students reveals this list of most-read Irish novelists, poets and playwrights.